SUV Spotlight: Range Rover Sport SVR

Range Rover SR 7

Range Rover Sport SVR ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

While the Range Rover Sport SVR isn’t new for 2016, I felt as the fastest Land Rover ever produced, it deserved its turn in the Automobheels “SUV Spotlight”.   This baby did the infamous Nurburgring in a cool 8 minutes and 14 seconds, giving it one of the fastest times ever recorded by a SUV in standard production.

Range Rover SVR 7

Range Rover Sport SVR ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

Many car consumers like to take a look at the inside of a vehicle. They are interested only in the creature comforts it can offer.  Does it have heated seats?  Does it have a sunroof?  Does it have navigation and streaming audio?  Does it have programmable seats and mirrors?  While I am a fan of all of these features, first and foremost, I want to know what lurks beneath the hood.  I don’t care how many features a car has, if it is gutless, I want no part of it.

Range Rover SVR 6

Range Rover Sport SVR ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

The SVR delivers on everything.  Her contoured hood houses a beast of an engine, the range-topping 5.0-litre supercharge V8, producing 550PS and 680Nm.  The accompanying ZF 8HP70 8-speed automatic  transmission and four-wheel-drive chassis help keep the beast in line, no matter what the weather conditions.  She’ll do 0-60mhp in 4.5 seconds and maxes out at an electronically controlled top speed of 162mph.  Working in tandem with the powerful engine, the transmission shift strategy is constantly monitoring the acceleration, brake inputs, lateral cornering forces, kick down requests and gradient severity to choose one of the 25 pre-determined programs to ensure the SVR seamlessly adapts to the driver’s behind the wheel behavior and road conditions.  The transmission also allows for driver control by offering paddle shifters along with the standard gear lever.  Drivers can easily swap between automatic and manual mode.

Range Rover SVR Interior

Range Rover Sport SVR Interior ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

Some would say given the amount of attention given to the engine, the refinement and luxury might have been slightly overlooked.  Not so, it delivers again on all fronts.  The SVR has received several enhancements to its exterior.  The front bumper has been fitted with beefy looking trapezoidal air intakes, while the hood receives Range Rover script, revised vents and a new grill.  Further contouring the vehicle, the side has been fitted with new, distinctive moldings, while the back has been given a high level spoiler and SVR-unique quad exhaust pipes.  At first glance one might think these revisions were for visual effect only.  However, Land Rover made no adjustments that do not serve a specific purpose.  The larger air intakes on the front allow for more airflow to the charge air coolers that channel air into the engine, the new front bumper’s NVH comb is fitted to ensure wind noise is reduced, along with front-end lift, allowing the front tires to retain a high level of grip, and the rear spoiler reduces lift and balances the new front bumper.

Range Rover SVR Interior2

Range Rover Sport SVR ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

The SVR is available in seven colors, including the SVR exclusive Estoril Blue.  A contrasting Santorini black roof comes standard and works with the body-color side moldings, giving it an intimidating look and feel. Throw in the comfy, yet distinctive leather sport seats and the interior gives the driver the ultimate high-performance vehicle experience.  The interior is available in four rich colors with standard aluminum trim detail.  Carbon fibre trim for the door panels, center console, dashboard and steering wheel is optional.

Range Rover Sport SVR

Range Rover Sport SVR ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

“The Range Rover Sport SVR is the ultimate in premium performance,” said Land Rover Design Director and Chief Creative Officer, Gerry McGovern. “Crafted by Land Rover’s ‘Special Vehicle Operations’, its performance-focused design revisions clearly differentiate the most powerful Land Rover ever produced from existing derivatives with its ground-hugging, assertive stance and additional road presence. This striking evolution retains the trademark DNA for which the Range Rover Sport is so widely acclaimed.”

With a base MSRP of $111,350, the price does limit the amount of consumers able to take advantage of the enviable performance, engineering and style this SUV delivers.  However, for those of you who do have over a hundred grand to drop on a mode of transportation, little else will get you where you want to go as quickly or as fiercely.  Happy Driving.

SUV Spotlight: Mercedes GLS

The new Mercedes-Benz GLS

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS ©Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes has been busy redesigning its popular G-Class SUV into the new Mercedes GLS.  Like its predecessor, the GL, the GLS is poised to become the “S-Class among SUVs” according to the German automaker.  The only full seven-seater within the premium European SUV segment, the GLS has an ample interior which provides the magic combination of luxury, comfortability, and safety.

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS ©Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz hasn’t missed a step in the GLS design.  Offering 4 trims, the GLS d 350 4M, GLS 450 4M, GLS 550 4M, and AMG GLS 63, there seems to be something for every Mercedes SUV consumer.  Each GLS boasts a new dynamic exterior and luxurious interior.  The designers have placed the focus on redesigning the front end of the car, while modernizing the rear.  Inside the car, consumers will find a brand new instrument panel which includes a media display, new 3-spoke steering wheel configuration and a center console complete with  touchpad.  This new generation also includes more efficiencies, an additional DYNAMIC SELECT transmission mode, an improved air suspension system, a nine-speed 9G-TRONIC auto transmission, state of the art assistance system and the most recent telematics, including internet access and remote start capability.

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS ©Mercedes-Benz

If all of that isn’t enough to get you going, look no further than under the hood.  The AMG GLS 63 boasts a 577 hp 5.5 liter AMG V8 which delivers a whopping 561 lb.-ft. of torque, perfect for drag racing fellow suburbanites, or that urgent soccer mom grocery run.  The Sport+ mode will definitely help you feel the need for speed while the OFF-ROAD mode will help navigate the vacation wilds.

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS Interior ©Mercedes-Benz

And how can one take advantage of all that power without accounting for proper safety?  Mercedes has taken care of that as well.  The standard driver assistance systems include COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS, Crosswind Assist and ATTENTION ASSIST.  Also available, are the PRE-SAFE® Brake with pedestrian detection, BAS PLUS with Cross-Traffic Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and sadly, Speed Limit Assist.  This SUV will practically drive for you with all the safety features.  As a member of the Mercedes family you also have access to Standard Services including automatic emergency call, Accident Recovery and breakdown assistance.  There’s a reason you pay more to drive a Benz and features like these are it, but they are worth every penny in my opinion.

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS Interior ©Mercedes-Benz

Finally, there is not a roomier SUV available in the European SUV class.  There is ample elbow and head room available in all three of the seat rows inside the vehicle.  With many adjustment options, the center row makes the interior configuration flexible by way of a cargo position for optimum use of space.

With all of its sporty and luxurious finishings, the 2017 Mercedes GLS is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the SUV class, but only for those with deep pockets.  While MSRP was not available at press time, one can only assume it will be quite high, which begs the question: How much is a sporty exterior, a luxurious, spacious interior, and a badass engine under the hood worth?  For some the answer would be it’s priceless.  For those, the Mercedes GLS is the perfect fit.

The Wrong Side of the Road

©Thomas Van de Weerd

©Thomas Van de Weerd

Last month while visiting the UK, my husband and I rented a Peugeot 308, and did some exploring of the English countryside.  This meant I once again got the chance to tackle driving on the left side of the road.  If you haven’t had this experience before, let me tell you, it’s pretty strange.  You wouldn’t think at first that it would feel so different, but it certainly does.  My husband is from Australia so he’s used to this weird set up.  After a few minutes back on the right side of the car, he was set.  I, however, took some time to adjust.

2015 Peugeot 308  Photo Courtesy of Peugeotpress.co.uk

2015 Peugeot 308
Photo Courtesy of Peugeotpress.co.uk

I’m typically what some would call an aggressive driver.  I make quick decisions, am confident in my driving ability, and also tend to have a lead foot.  That all goes out the window when switching sides.  I feel like I’m an eight year old trying to drive my grandfather’s truck on the farm again.  Not only is it a constant challenge to know which direction to yield or which way to look, the instruments are also reversed, which means you flick the turn signal and your windshield wipers start going.

©Chris Downer

©Chris Downer

After about 20 minutes behind the wheel, I do start to get a bit of my confidence back.  I try to follow the car directly in front of me and hug the right side of my lane to keep from drifting left, which is what inevitably happens to us Yanks.  What really challenges me though are the roundabouts.  My husband thinks they’re the best, because they are the intersection method of choice in Australia, and he’s used to them.  I find them to be terrifying death traps.  People fly around them entering and exiting at perilous speeds.  Add in the fact that you’re giving way to the right instead of the left, and they become my personal hell.  I’m fairly confident I lost at least 5 years of my life at the roundabouts in England.

©Gerald England

©Gerald England

Then there’s the speed at which people drive once you leave the city and get out into the country.  At one point I was doing a solid 90 mph (MILES, not kilometers mind you) and people were running me off the road.  Literally.  In England, the fast lane is truly the fast lane.  If you’re not going with the flow of traffic, you’d best be getting over to the left.  However, that was annoying for me because once you change lanes to the left, the speed dramatically decreases.  People go from doing 100 mph to 60 mph, which even for my cautious driving was too slow.  There doesn’t seem to be a happy medium.

Peugeot 308 Interior  Photo Courtesy of Peugeotpress.co.uk

Peugeot 308 Interior
Photo Courtesy of Peugeotpress.co.uk

All of this driving left me with one burning question.  Why did the Brits decide to go against the grain and drive on the wrong side of the road?  Pretty much everywhere else in the world drives on the right.  Why be different?  I did some research on this topic and what I found out surprised me.  It turns out the Brits didn’t go against the grain, everyone else did.  When roads first popped up, people were encouraged to stay to the left in two-way traffic situations.  This was due to the fact that back in the day, the likelihood of getting robbed or killed while out on the road was high.  Since most people are right-handed, this meant they could easily whip out their sword and defend themselves against attackers on the opposite side of the road.  This gives road rage a whole new meaning in my opinion.  So where did the change occur?  With the French of course.  Pre-revolutionary France kept to the left side of the road.  However, after the revolution, as a form of protest, they moved all transportation to the right.  Some say this was because Napolean was left-handed. Soon after, the rest of Europe followed suit.

What happened here in the States?  Since America was colonized by both British and French, the road systems were split.  However, in the late 1700’s, with freight wagons gaining popularity, America finally went all in on the right side of the road.  This was due to the fact that it was much easier to control the horses from the left rather than on the right.  Thus, our fate was sealed.

I did read in my research that driving on the right side of the car is the safer way to go.  As stated above, most people are right handed which means driving with your left hand on the left side of the car should be awkward, so I guess the joke is on us.  We are actually on the wrong side of the road.

Overall there are a lot of things the Brits get right with their behind the wheel system.  The traffic lights turn yellow before turning green, which makes it easier to honk at people on their cell phones who are oblivious to the fresh green.  People actually adhere to the rules of the fast lane and move out of the way if they want to go slowly.  LA drivers could definitely learn something there.  But there is one thing they have in common with the rest of us.  Once you get anywhere near the city, traffic grinds to a halt.

Porsche Boxster Spyder Premiere: NYC

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

This week Porsche debuted the latest incarnation of the Boxter Spyder at the 2015 New York International Auto Show, just in time for convertible weather. According to the press release, Porsche is characterizing the car as a “pure sports car”.

From a performance perspective, the Boxter Spyder is right on par. They’ve given it a firmer suspension by lowering it 20mm, given it the 911 Carrera S braking system, better steering and a beefier 3.8-liter horizontally opposed six-cyclinder engine that will now deliver 375 hp instead of the 265-315 hp found in the 2014 model.  This lady has also lost some holiday weight and is the lightest and most powerful Boxster to hit the assembly line yet.  She’ll do 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds and top out on the track at 180 mph, which means you’ll definitely feel the wind whipping through your hair.

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

What I find less impressive about this car is the still manual top.  If I’m paying $82,000 for a car, I’d like to be able to push a button and have the top lowered for me.  Another issue for me is that neither air conditioning nor a radio are standard equipment. According to Porsche this ensures the Boxster still retains its “traditional roadster character”.  The car is lighter weight without the aforementioned characteristics, so from a performance perspective, a die hard would happily give up these features.  For me, I need an automatic top, some tunes and cool air to accompany my need for speed.  The saving grace is an audio system and air conditioning are available at no extra charge for those who don’t mind a little extra weight.

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Interior Photo Credit: Porsche

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Interior Photo Credit: Porsche

One thing I do love about this model is it’s only available in a manual transmission.  I know you LA drivers are probably cringing, thinking of battling traffic in a manual. However, I applaud Porsche for this decision.  Real sports cars should be stick shift and they should be driven by people who know how.  As nice as the new dual clutch automatic transmissions are, there is just something about an old-school manual transmission.  YOU are in full control of the car and YOU say when it’s time to shift gears.  For me, that is the ultimate driving experience, and Porsche has taken great care with this model to ensure their consumers get it.

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

I also think this is the most beautifully designed Boxster Spyder to date.  The lines are elegant and refined and Porsche kept it classic by paying tribute to the 718 Spyder of the 60’s with the streamliners that extend along the rear lid behind the headrests.  They also made sure to keep the vehicle’s silhouette in tact with the fins that stretch from the top to the rear and with the front and rear fascias.

Overall, the look and styling of the car make it appealing, as does the faster engine. Porsche continues to keep its cars uniquely “Porsche”, which is perfect considering that’s why most people buy the brand.  If you’re okay with putting the top down with your own two hands, then based on the specs, this could be the car for you.