SUV Spotlight: Ford Explorer

2017 Ford E XLT Sport

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package ©Ford Motor Company

As promised, February is the month of SUVs on  I will be reviewing all types of SUVs. Everything from the practical and affordable to the super luxurious and pricey.

First up, Ford Explorer, the best selling SUV in the world over the past 25 years.  That’s quite a claim, and quite a bit of time in the world spotlight, however, with the new 2017 Explorer XLT Sport Appearance package, they prove why they deserve it.

2017 Ford E XLT Sport Rear

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package ©Ford Motor Company

With SUV sales expected to grow over the next decade, Ford is ramping up options for the 160 million boomers and millennials who will be lining up to buy this type of vehicle.  “As members of the 80-million-strong millennial age group enter their prime child-rearing years, a leading indicator of more SUV sales, nearly 80 million aging baby boomers continue to prefer their SUVs,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford Motor Company vice president of Marketing, Sales and Service. “It’s a demographic double whammy and it all points to one thing – more SUVs for the foreseeable future.”  Along with that growing demand, Ford has also tapped in to the fact that SUV consumers want unique and customized, which is why they are offering the new trim for 2017.  They want their consumers to have more choice and more options when buying their new vehicle.  “In the market right now, across all our SUVs, customers are looking for unique colors, wheels and interior appointments,” said Omar Odeh, Explorer brand marketing manager. “We’ve worked closely with Ford Design to deliver a unique look that will resonate with customers.”

2017 Ford E XLT Sport Interior

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package Interior ©Ford Motor Company

Enter the new Explorer XLT Sport Appearance, with multiple updates to the both the interior and exterior including:

  • 20-inch Magnetic Gray wheels
  • Magnetic Gray grille
  • Magnetic Gray mirror caps
  • Magnetic Gray rear appliqué
  • Ebony Black body side cladding
  • Black roof rack
  • Explorer hood badge
  • Dark Earth Gray leather for front seats, including outer bolsters by premium leather maker Salerno; Dark Earth Gray Miko® suede for seat back uppers and inserts with Umber scrim, and door trim inserts; Umber contrast stitching
  • Explorer logo floor mats

The new trim also comes equipped with the stellar standard features expected from Ford, including a 3.5L V6 engine, Intelligent Access with push-button start, 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, Sync®3, LED fog lamps and more.

2017 Ford E XLT Sport Rim

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package 20-inch Magnetic Gray Wheels ©Ford Motor Company

“Our Sport Appearance philosophy is rooted in the fact that we know exterior appearance is the No. 1 consideration in SUV purchase decisions,” said Odeh. “The XLT Sport Appearance Package is a dramatic offering that gives customers another attractive option.”  Add to the sporty appearance the EcoBoost® engine available in every nameplate at Ford, and consumers not only decrease fuel emissions, but look good while doing it.

With the introduction of the XLT Sport Appearance Package option, Ford has positioned itself well to capture the growing SUV market in the next year.  They are actively taking into consideration consumer trends and demands and making it available to their customers.  The new XLT Sport Appearance Package model looks to have it all: a stylish and sporty interior, some decent power under the hood, and one mean looking exterior.  I can’t wait to take this baby for spin when it’s available.




Super Bowl 50 Car Commercials

If you aren’t a Denver Broncos or Carolina Panthers fan, then you’re probably a lot like me.  You watched the Super Bowl purely for the commercials because you didn’t give a crap about who actually won.  With so much pressure on advertisers to turn out great material, this year did not disappoint.  As usual, the car companies delivered quite a few entertaining spots during the best few hours of ad space for the year.

Numerous celebrities made appearances in this year’s car ads.  Hyundai knocked it out of the park with Ryan Reynolds.  Watching those girls cruise through Ryanville almost made me consider buying a Hyundai.  Kevin Hart’s performance as an overzealous dad relying on his Hyundai Genesis’ trusty Blue Link Car Finder app to protect his teenage daughter’s virtue was also genius, and has me hoping the Bavarians catch up with this tech by the time I have a teenage daughter roaming the streets.  Kia joined Hyundai in the celebrity endorsement ring, casting the always brilliant Christopher Walken as the “Walken Closet” who pushes a boring consumer to live a little in the all-new Optima.

Animals also got screen time this year.  Subaru tapped in to utter cuteness featuring two dogs out on a dinner date who become disgruntled when their Subi gets taken for a joyride by a clever feline.  And who could ignore a herd of sheep singing Queen?  Honda definitely came up with a creative and memorable way to showcase their new Ridgeline with stereo speakers in the truck bed.

Finally, auto makers turned to sentiment to drive home their messaging.  For the 2017 R8 V10, Audi featured a former space commander and his son in a tear-jerking storyline in which the commander gets to relive his youth at the helm of a rocket via a joyride in the R8 V10.  Automotive accessories company WeatherTech tugged at American heart strings by driving home an all-American made message.  And finally, Jeep took viewers on a journey spanning 75 years of the company’s history and reminded us all of its patriotic beginning.

I also found humor in the Toyota Prius “Heck on Wheels” and “The Longest Chase” ads.  Let’s be honest, a car chase in a Prius is highly unlikely, but the tongue and cheek way it’s portrayed in the ad is brilliant.  Toyota obviously knows their audience.  I also love the new #GoPriusGo.  Very clever.

For a look at all of this year’s Super Bowl car ads in one place, check out the link below to AutoWeek’s web page and read more about each ad.


The Minivan: A Do or a HUGE Don’t?

2015 Dodge Grand Caravan.  Photo Credit Chrysler Media

2015 Dodge Grand Caravan. Photo Credit Chrysler Media

Growing up I remember desperately wanting my parents to get a minivan.  All my friends parents’ had them.  They seemed so cool.  As time went on however, I began to see just how uncool they were.  Nothing screams “parent” or “slow driver” more than the dreaded minivan.  I also remember having conversations with friends post-college, fervently vowing none of us would ever drive minivans.  We would pack our future children into SUVs and who cared if they were comfortable?  SUVs were much cooler and ambiguous.  After all, anyone can drive a SUV, not just those saddled with carpool duties, football practices and dance classes, right?

2015 Dodge Grand Caravan Interior.  Photo Credit Chrysler Media

2015 Dodge Grand Caravan Interior. Photo Credit Chrysler Media

I thought I was completely set in my ways.  Then I rented a minivan for a road trip to Vegas.  And that’s when it happened.  My inner third grader came rushing back and suddenly minivans were no longer so terrible.

My Vegas road trip consisted of 5 adults and 5 suitcases.  Now, theoretically, we could have all squeezed into my 328i and technically fit.  But who wants to “squeeze in” for the painful 4-9 hour (depending on traffic) Vegas drive from LA?  SUVs provide almost no added interior room other than additional cargo space in back for luggage.  That’s when we decided to go with a minivan.  And it must be said, it was the BEST decision ever.

2015 Toyota Sienna.  Photo Credit Toyota

2015 Toyota Sienna. Photo Credit Toyota

Here’s what I loved about the minivan experience:

1. The Room.  The minivan had so much space, each of us had ample room to keep snacks, drinks, luggage, magazines, you name it, all within close proximity.  Not only that, no one was sitting on top of one another.  The middle row had comfortable bucket seats and my sister-in-law got the entire back row to herself.  Brilliant.

2.  The Ride.  Minivans have definitely taken a step forward since I was in the third grade.  The ride was so smooth, I barely felt the road.  I mean, it’s no BMW, but for a vehicle that size, I was definitely impressed.  There are too many potholes to count on the road to Vegas and we barely felt one.

3. The Gadgets.  My husband and I took driving duty, while the rest of our passengers, dubbed “The Kids” for the trip, put on a DVD and the drive time passed quite quickly for them.  The van was also kitted out with several modern conveniences such as blue tooth, media streaming, navigation, and reverse camera.  All of the features we have all come to rely on.  I mean really, who can be bothered to drive without a reverse camera?  It’s too difficult once you’ve had one.

4. The Gas Mileage.  I would think a minivan would suck through fuel like a kid with a Slurpee.  Nope.  The Dodge Grand Caravan we rented got arguably better gas mileage than my Beemer.  Granted, the engine doesn’t quite have the same get up and go as the BMW, but it’s got enough power to accelerate at a decent rate without sounding like it’s going to explode. The Grand Caravan engine, the Pentastar V-6, boasts best-in-class 283 hp and 260lb.-ft. of torque.  It also provides 3,600-lbs. of towing. The fuel efficient engine also does an average of 25 mpg, or 500 miles per tank of gas.  Definitely a win for the pocketbook.

5. The Doors.  Being able to open the side doors and the lift gate with a simple push of a button is amazing.  We traveled with all adult passengers and it was amazing.  I can’t imagine how much easier it is for parents with three children in tow and the double-wide stroller to contend with.

All in all, the minivan was an excellent experience.  I’ve had a couple of friends over the years who have deviated from the college pact and have gotten minivans as family cars, and they all say the same thing.  They absolutely love them.  They can’t get over how easy it is to transport their families.  They use the push button remote to open the side doors and their kids easily climb in and sit in their booster seats.

To answer my initial question, is the minivan a do or a don’t?  I wouldn’t go out and buy a minivan at this stage in my blissfully childless life.  However, once we become a family of 4-5, I just might be found at the dealership picking up my new minivan, with all possible features, the biggest engine available and pimped out rims, of course.  No need to trade style and speed for functionality completely, no matter how many children you have.

2011 LA Auto Show

This year’s LA Auto Show, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, once again did not disappoint.  While many of this year’s booths looked the same, there were a few standouts among the crowd, including the much anticipated unveiling of the Mario Kart.

Collins Reiter was on the scene and found several cars that auto show attendees will be giving thanks for over the holiday weekend.

Super Mario Kart Press Event

Super Mario Kart Press Event

The most anticipated unveiling at this year’s show was the specially designed, life-sized Mario Karts.  Designed by West Coast Customs, in conjunction with Nintendo, the two karts were unveiled as part of the release of the new Mario Kart 7 for Nintendo 3DS, slated to hit stores December 4.  The display featured two karts, the first, Mario’s Standard Kart, complete with a Super Glider and the second, Luigi’s Bumble V Kart with Propeller.  After the press conference unveiling, booth attendants were on hand to give the crowd a test play of the all new Mario Kart 7 prior to its release.

Writer Collins Reiter in the Fiat 500 Abarth Gucci Special Edition

Writer Collins Reiter in the Fiat 500 Abarth Gucci Special Edition

The second booth that caught my eye was Fiat.  Ever since the Fiat 500 Abarth was released and the J.Lo commercials hit the airwaves, this little car has been popping up all over LA roads.  The Fiat is powered by a 1.4L 16v Multi Air Turbo engine complete with Abarth induction and dual exhaust system.  It boasts a standard 5 speed transmission, 2 Mode electric power steering, and 4 wheel ABS.  With 160hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, this small car packs a punch.  While I love the exterior design, once inside, it felt very claustrophobic.  The back seat is non-existent, and even with a convertible top, I felt my head would hit the roof should the top go up.  Clearly this car is meant to give the Mini Cooper a run for it’s money, but the Mini has an incomparable amount of space on the interior, still making it the clear compact car of choice in my opinion.

2012 Hyundai Azera

2012 Hyundai Azera

The all-new Azera's luxurious interior

The all-new Azera’s luxurious interior

This year Hyundai unveiled two new models for 2012, the newly designed Azera and the highly anticipated Veloster.

Boasting sleeker lines and a fiercer grill, the Azera is now the fifth Hyundai to adopt their signature Fluidic Sculpture design, meant to create the appearance of constant motion.  The 2012 Azera is powered by the new Lambda II 3.3L GDI engine and six-speed automatic transmission.  With 293 hp and a best-in-class 23 mpg, it provides stiff competition for cars in its class.  The car also comes equipped with nine standard airbags, an impact-reducing front seat system, spacious head and leg room, standard 18 inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlights with LED accents and standard leather interior.  The final feature that makes this car so special is the fuel economy strategy Hyundai is rolling out.  Weighing in at a mere 3,605 pounds, the Azera is up to 400 pounds lighter than other vehicles in its class, making it more fuel efficient.

2012 Hyundai Veloster

2012 Hyundai Veloster

Equally as impressive was the 2012 Veloster.  While lacking in engine power (the 1.6L 4 cylinder engine only produces 138 hp and 123lb-ft of torque), it more than makes up for it with style.  Sleek and sophisticated, it looks mean on the outside.  It boasts a true third door, giving easy access to the more than roomy backseat, dual centered chrome-tipped exhaust, 18-inch alloy wheels with painted inserts, a rear hatch, panorama sunroof and LED headlights.  The interior is just as sleek with navigation system and XM Satellite radio displayed on a 7-inch multimedia touchscreen.  The screen also comes equipped with a 115V power outlet and connections for video or flash drive, making it possible to play video games while parked.  The car features proximity key entry, push button start, steering-wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, bluetooth hands free calling, and remote engine start.  With a base price of just over $17,000, it makes this compact car worth taking  a second look at.  Although, based on the horsepower, I’d have to take it for a test run before driving one off the lot.  If you feel the need for speed like I do, best to wait until they release the turbo version, rumored to have 203 hp, in 2013.

2013 Escape Titanium

2013 Ford Escape Titanium

Leaving the Hyundai booth, I found myself heading over to Ford, not expecting to be that impressed.  Instead, I was blown away.  Ford has stepped up their game recently, and it was evident at the booth this year.  The first model that caught my eye was the redesigned 2013 Escape Titanium.  Gone is the boxy body and truck-like feel, and in it’s place is a sleek, sophisticated and well-designed small SUV.  Available at dealerships in the spring of 2012, this model comes equipped with the latest SYNC with MyFordTouch driver connect technology, and a standard Personal Safety System.  Parking assist makes it easier to parallel park, while the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) assists with navigating lane changes and exiting parking spaces.  It also comes with a hands-free power liftgate, making it easy to load your cargo without having to set it down and fumble for your keys, a feature everyone can appreciate.  Add to that a 2.0L EcoBoost engine which combines direct fuel injection and turbocharging, and you get a great looking ride that provides style and enviable fuel economy.

Ford Raptor 1 Ford Raptor 2

Next, I found myself drawn to the 2012 F-150 SVT Raptor.  For the show, Ford set up a mechanical lift and split the body of the car from the chassis to show auto show attendees just what this truck packs under its beautiful exterior.  The engine, a 6.2L V8, delivers a whopping 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque.  At 11 mpg city and 16 mpg highway, it’s hardly an economical buy, but those looking to own this gorgeous beast  are hardly concerned with saving money on fuel.  Beyond the engine under the hood, the SVT Raptor boasts a new Torsen front axle and off-road front end camera system.  The Torsen system adds grip to the front end of the truck.  This allows it to literally pull itself up over obstacles by shifting torque from the wheel that has zero traction to the wheel that has traction.  The front end camera is activated through the LCD productivity screen and gives the driver a clearer view of what’s in front of them while off-roading.  All this coupled with an interior that makes you feel as if you’re relaxing in a living room, and you’ve got all the ingredients for both an off-road adventure and smooth highway driving experience.

Doking 1

The final car to make an impression was the Doking, an electric prototype car built in Croatia.  The Doking first garnered attention in Frankfurt at the 64th annual International Motor Show in September of this year.  The car was upgraded from concept to prototype for the event.  The LA Auto Show marks its US debut.  This tiny car is powered by a synchronous motor with permanent magnets (45kW).  There are two available models, the XD2 and XD4.  The XD2 comes equipped with 2 motors and 90kW/120PS of power, while the XD4 has 4 motors and 180 kW/240 PS.  The acceleration on the XD4 isn’t bad either, coming in at 0-100km, or 62.5 miles, in just 4.2 seconds.  Top speed for the car is 140 km or 87.5 miles per hour.  Not impressive, until you see just how small this car is and how fast it would feel driving it at that speed. The Doking Spec Frame (DSF) aluminum chassis provide safety and stability and the central location of the battery creates a low center of gravity and ideal ratio of mass, improving performance.  What I found most interesting about this car was the seating arrangement.  The driver sits in the  center of the car with two passenger seats on either side, positioned slightly back from the driver seat.  In my mind this is the perfect James Bond car.  He sits in the center with two hot Bond Girls on either side.  What more could a driver ask for while saving the planet from dirty exhaust?

Jaguar XKR-S Convertible Unveiling

Writer Collins Reiter at the Jaguar Launch Party in Beverly Hills, November 2011

Writer Collins Reiter at the Jaguar Launch Party in Beverly Hills, November 2011

This year Jaguar launched one of the most highly anticipated cars at the LA Auto Show, the all new XKR-S convertible.  Prior to the show opening, a select few gathered at Two Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to witness the official unveiling of the sexy new addition to the Jaguar fleet.  GoTryke contributor Collins Reiter attended the star-studded event and later caught up with Tim Philippo, Product Manager for Jaguar North America, at the auto show.

It was business as usual at the Jaguar Launch party in Beverly Hills.  Press mingled with celebrities, sipping cocktails and wine, enjoying various appetizer offerings.  Guests admired the Jaguar C-X16 concept car, and Land Rover’s DC100 and DC100 Sport elegantly on display.  Then, as the lights dimmed and the pulsating sound of Coldplay’s “Paradise” was heard, amidst smoke and flashing lights, the all new Jaguar XKR-S convertible made it’s debut and a hushed silence fell over the crowd.  Arguably the most stunning car in Jaguar’s line-up, this new model is everything consumers and enthusiasts have to come to expect in a Jag.  The perfect balance between luxury and ultimate performance.  Beneath the elegant lines lies a 550hp supercharged AJ-V8 Genii petrol engine that’ll do 0-60 in 4.2 seconds and top out at 186 mph.  Open this engine up with the top down, and that’s a lot of wind in your hair.

Not to be upstaged by a flashy arrival, the C-X16 Concept also garnered quite a bit of attention at the event.  The C-X16 is a sneak peak at the future of Jaguar, not only in design, but in sustainable technology.  The supercharged 3.0L petrol V-6 engine prods 380PS (280KW) and 332 lb.-ft. of torque.  Top speed is 186 mph and it goes from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds.  The hybrid powertrain is a combination of a V6 engine and a performance-boosting electric motor, which helps reduce fuel consumption and enables the car to have zero tailpipe emissions at up to 50 mph.

2012 Jaguar XKR-S Convertible

2012 Jaguar XKR-S Convertible

Two days after the event, sitting in the cockpit of the XKR, I spoke with Tim Philippo, Product Manager for Jaguar North America, about their sports car fleet, the possibility of a Jaguar SUV and what’s next for the dynamic luxury brand.

Tim, who has been with Jaguar for three years now, expressed what an exciting time it is to be with the brand right now, particularly given the new sports options.  The XK line offers three levels of coupe, with the XKR-S tipping the scales at 550hp.  The best part about a Jag is the incredible versatility. “It’s a car that you can drive to work Monday through Friday, but then take it to your local racetrack for a day and lay down a wicked lap time,” Tim stated.  That’s only the beginning of what Jaguar intends to do in the future.

With the C-X75 last year, they made a concept hybrid supercar they now plan to put into limited production with an estimated price tag of a whopping $1 million.  With it’s all wheel drive, projected 0-60 in under 3 seconds and a top speed of over 200mph, Jaguar is confident it can not only deliver on it’s specifications, but command the price tag.  As Tim put it, “We’re aiming for the fastest, most sustainable supercar in the world.”

He also stated, “We have a long history of moving the design game forward in the automotive world.”  While other car companies resort to gimmicks and feature options, Jaguar has no wasted lines and no wasted space.  The company philosophy is to get the proportions right and you get a car that ages well, that can still make an impact at a show 10-50 years down the road.  In fact, he shared the Museum of Modern Art in New York City has a 1963 E Type Jaguar in their permanent collection, which solidifies the impact it has as a timeless and elegant design.

While Ian Callum and team focus on the design, Tim’s main focus is the consumer.  “What I do on the product side is I try to make sure the product delivers what customers are looking for and deliver a unique Jaguar experience,” he said.  That unique experience includes everything from a base 385hp engine, to soft grain leather interior made from the hides of cows raised in Italy away from barbed wire to preserve the quality of the leather, to an interior that generally appeals to all five senses.  Jaguar strives to put a lot of content in their cars.  Every car has a high level of standard equipment.  Not only is the performance under the hood critical, but a luxurious ride as well.  A lot of technology is put into the suspension of the cars.  Adaptive Dynamic reads the road surface 500 times per second and adjusts the dampers to suit the conditions.  When the car is in Dynamic mode, it firms up the suspension, and sharpens the steering, aiding the driver in engaging with the car while on the racetrack.  “One of the great things about driving a Jaguar is it gives you confidence when you drive it.  You feel connected,” Tim pointed out.

This observation prompted me to ask if Jaguar was planning to follow in the footsteps of Porsche and Maserati with a Jaguar brand SUV.  His answer was direct and to the point. “Yes, we actually have about 7 or 8 of them and they are parked right over there,” he said indicating to the Land Rover and Range Rover models on the auto show floor.  Land Rover and Jaguar are the same brand.  Tim was quick to acknowledge they are Jaguar’s SUV.  By keeping Jaguar in the sports car and sedan segments, “It allows them to stay true to who they are and do what they do best and allows us to stay true to who we are,” he said.

My final question to Tim was what’s next?  What can consumers expect from Jaguar?  Will the C-X16 go into production?  His answer was simple. “We can’t comment too much on future product, but I can say that when we do a concept car, it’s usually not a flight of fancy.  It usually is we’re exploring something…but we put it out there to try to gauge public reaction to it.”  He further commented by saying, “We have a lot of engineers and researchers working on what does sustainable performance look like for Jaguar and C-X16 is really kind of a post in the ground for us, as to this is what we think the future of the sustainable sports car is going to be.”

So what does the future look like for Jag?  Based on Tim’s response it looks a lot like the C-X75 and C-X16 in the sports car arena.  I’m inclined to agree with Tim’s assessment when he said, “…it’s a great future.”

Review: 2011 Audi A8

2011 Audi A8 Photo credit: IFCAR, Wikimedia Commons

2011 Audi A8 Photo credit: IFCAR, Wikimedia Commons

When the all new 2011 Audi A8 was delivered to my care for an entire weekend, I couldn’t wait to take it for a spin, but wait I did.  It took the delivery guy about 45 minutes to go over all of the features of the car, and I didn’t even test drive the model with all the features offered.

At first glance, the most notable difference is the new body style.  The tail lights more closely resemble the A4 and A6, while the front grill, simply put, just looks mean.  The LED lights on the front lamps only add to the car’s imposing stare.  Several people actually got out of my way on the road when they saw the grill in their rearview mirror.

While the outside was a gorgeous site to behold, the interior is what really knocked me out.  Everything in the interior was carefully thought out, placed, and constructed by Audi.  For example, Audi is not a fan of fingerprints, therefore, the material on the steering wheel, gear shift and center console does not show fingerprints.  The central onboard system does not have a touch screen, but rather a central knob that controls everything.  They even designed the arm rest to push forward, allowing the driver to perfectly rest his or her wrist on the gear shift and comfortably navigate through the car’s computer with ease while driving.

The seats come equipped with a heater and air conditioner that senses when the seat has been sufficiently heated or cooled, a rolling massager, and seat adjustment that enables the driver to contour the seat to their specific body.  Dual temperature controls ensure both driver and passenger are comfortable.

The engine also does not disappoint.  With a 4.2 L, 372 HP DOHC V-8 engine, this car is sure to get you where you want to go in rapid fashion.  The new model is more economical in the fuel department, getting around 18mpg around town and 25mpg on the highway.  There are three transmission options available to the driver, the standard automatic, the sport drive automatic, which allows the rpms to rev slightly higher, giving it more power, and the manual paddle shifting option.

Another source of enjoyment was the media capabilities of the car.  It comes with an actual hard drive, which can save around 3,000 songs, rendering your digital music accessory unnecessary.  The car can also download your cell phone’s contact list and store it on the hard drive.  No more fumbling for numbers.  The phone book is also voice activated through the bluetooth system.  The navigation system not only appears on the center screen, but on the drivers console as well, making it easy to follow directions without having to look away from the road or listen to an annoying voice.

After sufficiently oohing and ahhing over the car and it’s features, the real test began. I took to the road.  I took the car on side streets, freeways, through construction zones, over potholes, and railroad tracks.  You name it, I did it.  What I noticed was, no matter how smooth or rough the road, I never felt a bump while driving.  It was like driving on glass.

I took the car up to Mulholland Drive and took turns with a speed limit of 35mph at about 60mph.  The car hugged the road and cornered on rails.  The acceleration was amazing, considering the size of the car.  It responded immediately when I touched the gas peddle.  The braking system was equally impressive.

One feature I desperately wanted to test, but didn’t have the nerve to was the cruise control setting.  The car has a feature that allows it to track the car in front of it.  If the cruise control is set at 75mph, if the car in front of it were to slow down, the car would sense it and slow down to match the speed of the vehicle being followed.  If the car in front of it were to come to a complete stop, without assistance from the driver, the A8 would also come to a complete stop.  While the guy from Audi swore the feature worked, I decided to take his word, just in case.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the car and was loathe to hand over the keys.  There were a few things I was not keen on.  While I loved the sport drive option, I found the manual paddle shifters to be quite tedious.  As a dedicated manual transmission enthusiast, I found it a less than thrilling substitute for the magic of a clutch and gear shift.  The placement of the paddles made it impossible to manually shift through the hair pin turns on Mulholland Dr.  I also found the Navigation system less user friendly than I would have liked.  I’m sure with practice, usage comes with ease, however, trying to figure it out on the fly took me a solid 15 minutes.

Overall I was quite impressed with the new A8.  Audi will very surely be giving BMW and Mercedes a run for their money in the luxury car market.  At around $78,000 sticker price, the model I drove had me thinking people who say money can’t buy happiness, never drove the 2011 A8.  Even when I ran into the typical Los Angeles traffic, instead of the usual road rage, I simply turned on my seat heater and massager, cranked up the splendid Bose speakers, and patiently sat in traffic, a satisfied smile on my face.