M-M-M-Maybach is back and better than ever!
Story and photos by: Evan ‘Evo’ Yates
Back when the Maybach was at the height of its popularity, I honestly never understood the appeal. At the time I thought the S-Class Mercedes looked just as good (or better) and when it came to ultra-luxury sedans, the Phantom left the Maybach in the dust. And even though Rick Ross’s crew (Maybach Music Group) gave the nameplate a bit of a revival in the Hip Hop community, the dated styling was no match for its competitors or simply the market itself. Regardless, the Maybach name is certainly synonymous with high-end automobiles, which is why it was a brilliant move from Mercedes to bring it back in some capacity.
Exterior: For starters, the designo Diamond White Metallic paint is perfect for a vehicle of this caliber. It exudes just enough opulence while not trying to do too much. The mirror-style window tint also compliments the color but I probably would opt-out of the chrome pillar option, as they’re not necessary to pull off the aesthetic. Everything about the exterior is gorgeous and refined and simply screams luxury. On this particular model, the rear door is longer than a standard S-Class but not ridiculously lengthened like the former Maybach 62, which, to me, looked too stretched. Even though most people I encountered turned up their nose at the wheels, I actually applauded Mercedes for going ‘retro’ on the rolling gear with the 20-inch Maybach Forged Wheels that are reminiscent of ‘90s Benzes. Although, for $3900 I would probably just buy a nice set of forged, brushed 22s and call it a day. The only negative feedback I received about the exterior was that it had Mercedes and Maybach badging which apparently to non-car people is quite confusing (Really?). I assume for some people it’s hard to wrap their heads around the fact that this car truly is both a Mercedes and a Maybach. What that being said, the only thing I’d change about the exterior for 2017 would be to but the double-M back on the nose of the car to not confuse anyone or bruise any potential egos (and you could probably charge $30k more in doing so.)
Interior: Inside is where the money’s at – both literally and figuratively. The rear seating area is quite remarkable as our test vehicle had the Executive Rear Seat Package with folding tables, heated/cooled beverage holders and of course, the reclining seats. A couple options I would NOT need are the $3200 champagne flutes and the $1100 mini-fridge – although they made for great Instagram pictures! When seated in what I like to call the ‘CEO Position’ – the rear seat on the passenger side – you have everything you would ever need from an ultra-luxury vehicle. Virtually everything in the vehicle can be controlled from the rear including the front passenger seat and how far it goes forward. Talk about boss moves! And even though most people would prefer to be driven in a car such as this, I found that the front cabin is just as nice in the front and the experience with the gauges, dials, buttons and ambient lighting makes for an engaging time as a driver. Furthermore, if I were to own a car such as this I would actually get a kick out of people experiencing the rear cabin of the car as I did with countless friends and family members the week I had the Maybach. Needless to say, if you want to stunt, hire a driver for the weekend but during the week you can certainly drive this to and from your plush office. To top it all off, the blue ambient lighting really made the interior cabin feel exclusive and made even a trip to the grocery store an experience. I literally want this in every car I own from now on!
A/V: The electronic system incorporated in the new 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 is mind-blowing but at times, overwhelming. With so many options and things to control, there are simply a lot of menus to toggle through. I honestly didn’t mess with many of the features because I was too busy enjoying the overall experience. As with any electronics, spending 30 minutes parked in your driveway will ultimately aid you in learning what you need to know. The Night View Assist PLUS system was really awesome but I couldn’t really think of a time when I would need to use it. The back-up camera system is hands-down the best I’ve used in years, as it’s one of the only systems I’ve ever reviewed that I was able to rely on 100% without using mirrors or turning around. This was certainly helpful as the size of the vehicle makes it quite cumbersome to park in certain situations.
Performance: It’s nothing but smooth sailing behind the wheel of the Maybach. Even though at times the car feels a bit heavy due to its massive size, acceleration is effortless thanks to the bi-turbo V12 under the hood and 7-speed automatic transmission. This car is also the best I’ve ever experience in terms of dealing with road hazards, humps and speed bumps as they’re all diminished into minor afterthoughts.
Floss Factor: At a modest $205k, this vehicle is an absolute STEAL. Seriously, it costs half what the former Maybachs cost but much more plush and updated. For those in the market for an uber-luxurious sedan, it’s a no-brainer. About the only thing the 2016 doesn’t have compared to the former models is those silly curtains and I’ll take the automatic sunshades over those any day.
Power: 523 hp, 612 lb-ft
0-60: 5.0 sec (estimated)
Gas Cash: 15 MPG (combined)
A reminder that automotive performance isn’t just about mind-bending lap times.
Story and exterior photos by: Will Sabel Courtney
Let’s take a moment and raise a glass to Lexus. Sure, they earned their reputation building luxury vehicles for folks who think of cars as “commuting appliances,” but there’s a wee bit o’madness in their hearts. It’s that gleeful, evil wildness that led them to build the original IS F and the LFA supercar, two projects that fit in with the rest of the Lexus portfolio about as well as the Hulk would in the Rockettes.
And in this era when almost every other luxury car maker is plugging forced-induction motors into their high-performance cars…Lexus outfits the RC F with a 467 horsepower, 5.0 liter, naturally-aspirated V8.
Granted, it’s probably born somewhat of necessity. The RC F’s motor is the same basic engine first seen in the IS F back in 2007, though it’s gained 51 horses and 18 pound-feet since then. Regardless of its age, the engine’s a sweetheart; it revs gleefully all the way up to its 7,300 rpm redline and pushes the RC F from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds on the way to a 168 mph top speed.
Those numbers set it up pretty evenly with its number-one competitor, the BMW M4, but the two feel damn different off the line. The Bimmer is down 42 horses, but up 17 pound feet; more to the point, the M4’s max torque or 406 lb-ft comes on at 1,850 rpm, and holds there all the way to 5,500 rpm. The RC F doesn’t reach max torque until 4,800 rpm. Considering most of us spend the majority of our drive time with the engine turning somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000 rpm, the M4 will feel far, far faster in everyday life. The Lexus’s engine is old-school sports car; its V8 wants to be wrung out, ridden hard and put away wet. It may not feel as fast as its prime competitors’ torquey turbocharged/supercharged engines…but it feels more fun.
The rev-happy engine gives the eight-speed transmission a chance to shine a bit, too. Lexus was the first carmaker to drop an eight-speed auto on the buying public with the old IS F, and while octogear trannies can seem excessive in cars with locomotive-like torque (that means you, Bentley Mulsanne), it does a fine job keeping the RC F’s V8 in its sweet spot. Plus, manual mode actually does what it promises—gives the driver complete manual control over the gearbox. Ram it up to redline, it’ll bounce off the limiter; floor it in eighth at fifty mph, it’ll lug slowly up to speed instead of kicking down five or six gears.
Different modes are kind of the RC F’s stock-in-trade, though; in addition to the transmission’s manual mode, the Drive Mode Select controller offers four different settings for the throttle, steering and climate control (seriously, in Eco Mode), and the Torque Vectoring Differential ponies up a choice between Normal, Slalom and Track modes for the rear LSD. Add in Winter Mode (a separate button, for reasons unbeknownst to me) and traction and stability control, you’re looking at 144 permutations—which is kind of gross in more ways than one. Adjustability is nice—to be honest, the wide variety of buttons controlling all this made me feel like a fighter jock—but it’s hard not to be nostalgic for the days when the only buttons to push were the ESP and the radio.
While we’re on the subject…about that radio. The good news is, it’s an improved version of the Entune system used in the Lexus IS. The bad news is…it’s not that improved. Lexus tossed out the mouse-like joystick for a touch-sensitive track pad like the one on your laptop. Trouble is a) it doesn’t work as well as the one on your laptop, and b) you’re generally not trying to use your laptop while piloting two tons of steel, aluminum and gasoline down a crowded road at 70 miles an hour. The system becomes more intuitive with time, but I still wound up trying to avoid it as much as possible. Lexus either needs to adopt a click wheel like the rest of the luxury car world, or develop some way to read the driver’s mind. (Which would probably result in a lot of accidental detours to strip clubs, so…maybe Lexus should take a pass on that.)
The rest of the interior makes up for the trying touchpad, though. It shares a lot of of its look with the IS, but where the aggressive, future-forward guts seem a little much in a four-door sedan with a Camry engine, they work damn well in a V8-powered sports car. Just be sure you try the seats out before you buy one; they look great, but their curves and contours didn’t quite agree with my near-Brobdignagian body. I don’t know why you’d buy a car without sitting in the seats first, but hey, people can be weird.
From the outside, the RC F looks incredible, especially in the Electric Superman blue of my test car. It’s unabashedly Japanese, a starfighter that’d be deployed against Godzilla in the 22nd Century. It’s not conventionally pretty—there are too many angles and facets for that—but it’s eye-catching and distinct. (Besides, it’s basically impossible to make a car with those front-engined sports car proportions look ugly, which is a plus.) If you’re an introvert…yeah, this ain’t the car for you.
The RC F feels that way from behind the wheel, too. Some sports cars are all speed and no drama, designed to cover the maximum amount of ground in the minimum amount of time—whether you have fun or not. The RC F isn’t one of those cars. It’s a goofy, tail-happy, rip-roaring hoonage machine. That Torque Vectoring Differential button might as well be called “Dial-a-Drift.” Considering drifting’s deep roots in Japan, it’s not that surprising that this car would take to the power slide so well…but it is pretty refreshing, especially coming from the people who make most of their money selling the Lexus RX.
Actually, that’s exactly what the RC F is: Refreshing. It’s a cool drink of water, a reminder that automotive performance isn’t (and shouldn’t be) just about mind-bending lap times and monstrous horsepower numbers. There’s a place for that, sure, but most of us who love to drive just want a car that’s fun. And that’s the RC F. It’s a car with a playful spirit.
So here’s to you, Lexus. Job well done.
Price as Tested: $75,000 (approx.)
0-60: 4.4 secs
Power: 467 hp, 389 lb-ft
Gas Cash: 16 city, 25 why
Miles Driven: 350
Everything you need, nothing you don’t.
Story By: Will Sabel Courtney
*European model shown.*
Press cars normally show up laden down with as many froo-froo features as your average cruise ship. Which, admittedly, makes sense—auto makers like to show off their new cars at their best, so they give journalists the chance to monkey around with all the cool new features setting their car apart. And we journalists certainly aren’t going to complain—not if it means we get to play with bazillion-watt Burmeister stereos, ventilate our butts with cooled seats, and see how well adaptive suspensions handle speed bumps at 35 miles an hour.
But most people don’t buy cars with every option on the checklist. They pick out the options they need, weed out the stuff they don’t, and pick a car thusly equipped. (Okay, most people actually go to the dealership and say, “I like that one that’s $400 a month, do you have it in blue?” But let’s pretend.) Which means the cars journalists drive can become…well, less than representative of the versions most people are driving home.
So kudos to BMW for sliding this minimally-optioned 2 Series into the fleet. Assuming, as BMW does, you count the xDrive AWD system as a trim level, my 228i showed up with four options: Valencia Orange paint ($500), heated seats ($500), brushed aluminum trim (also $500), and the Track Handling Package ($2,200), which teams up M Sport brakes, sport steering and the adaptive M suspension. Add in $950 for destination, and this little Bimmer scoots out the door at $38,600.
And I wouldn’t spend a penny more.
You could, mind you. Check every box, you could jack this little BMW’s sticker up to $52,000 or more. But all the inherent goodness, all that makes the 2 Series special, it’s all right there at $38K. I didn’t miss the xenon headlamps, the navigation system (the car still comes with a screen, you just can’t pull up a map on it), the rearview camera, or the satellite radio. I didn’t even miss having real leather; the SensaTec (not to be confused with SansaTec, which is what the eldest Stark daughter uses to check her Facebook page) feels as soft as the leather in most entry-level cars, and it’ll wear better over the years.
I didn’t even miss having a bigger engine. Granted, the M235i is one hell of a Bavarian star fighter, but it seems almost laughable to cram 320 horses and 330 lb-ft of straight-six into a car whose size and shape remind me of nothing so much as the Honda Civic coupe I had in high school. The 228i’s turbocharged four may have a bit of a direct injection clatter at idle, but punch the gas, and the littlest 2 Series takes off like it forgot it was supposed to be the wimpy one in the family.
One thing I did miss, though? A stick shift. I’ve gotten used to cars coming sans manual in this day and age, but little sports coupes just feel incomplete without a good old-fashioned stick. (BMW offers one on the 228i, but opting for that means going rear-wheel-drive.) Still, the eight-speed automatic is about as good as torque converter autos get—quiet and economical in normal operation, but smart and fast-acting in sport mode. And if you wanna shift for yourself, the paddles behind the wheel work just fine.
Other than that, though, it’s hard to think of a more well-rounded sports coupe at this price point. It runs from 0-60 in the fives and gets 35 miles to the gallon on the highway. It has a comfortable, well-made interior—something increasingly rare in sub-$40K sports cars. It’s got all-wheel-drive traction—no substitute for snow tires in true winter weather, but always a plus for grip—but still has that old-school BMW fun-to-drive flavor that’s occasionally lacking in modern-day Bimmers. And it drives like the car you always wanted when you were beginning to love to drive: sopping up bumps but constantly telling you about the road below; holding the line predictably through turns; fast enough to be fun, but not so fast as to overwhelm. Simply put—it’s a blast.
The back seat’s small, but that makes sense—it’s a small car, small cars have small interiors, QED. The rear’s still big enough to fit a pair of people in a pinch—or a ton of luggage for the two people in front. The front seats have no such problem, though; let them eat up all the rear legroom, and they’ll accommodate even the lankiest bodies with ease.
The plus size of its small size, though? The 2 Series is damn easy to park. Like I said, I didn’t miss the rearview camera; the car’s small enough to slide into just about any space on the street. And going small doesn’t mean sacrificing style, either. If anything, the 2 Series’s taut, tiny proportions harken back to some of the most iconic BMWs in history—the 2002, the E30 3 Series, and so forth. Don’t let that soccer mom in the X5 make you insecure; you’re the one in the real Bimmer.
At the end of the day, the 228i is all about balance, baby. Not just in the corners (though it has that in spades), but in life. It’s got the grip of an SUV with the zip of a sports coupe. It’s got the looks of a luxury car and the price of a regular car. It’s the kind of car you buy if you’re unmarried, love to drive, and love a good brand, but need something that can handle long trips and any weather.
Hey, that’s me.
Price as Tested: $38,600
0-60: 5.2 secs (est)
Power: 240 hp, 255 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 23 city, 35 hwy
Miles Driven: 250
Automatic for the (pony) people.
Story and Exterior Photography by: Will Sabel Courtney
To borrow a phrase from the Vine community, America’s muscle car game has been on fleek the last few years. Power outputs are higher than ever—see: Hellcat, Challenger; GT500, Shelby; ZL1, Camaro. Handling has reached honest-to-God sports car levels. Refinement, quality and fit & finish have become something muscle cars owners can be proud of, instead of having to make excuses for.
The best part, though? Because of all this competition, each new muscle car rockets to the head of the class. It has to. Their rabid fans would lose respect if their new Whatever wasn’t better than the old OtherBrand’s muscle car.
And that’d mean millions of dollars down the drain. Not just car sales; every one of these cars is a brand all its own—a brand that can be slapped on hats, jackets, ties, shirts, keychains, temporary tattoos, retainer cases, condoms, etc.
Car companies can’t afford to make new muscle cars anything less than the best they can be. That means more than just slapping a V8 into an inexpensive car and calling it a day; it means building performance cars that stick like Elmer’s in the turns, haul ass in a straight line, and are still docile enough to drive down to Trader Joe’s— all at a reasonable price.
So it’s not really surprising that the 2015 Ford Mustang GT is so damn good.
Yeah, it looks amazing—but in a way unlike any Mustang since the Don Draper days. Whereas every Mustang since 1973 has either been a little too boxy (second-gen), waaaay too boxy (third-gen), instantly dated (fourth-gen) or a little too retro (fifth-gen), the 2015 Mustang has a timeless appeal. The front fascia is an angry maw, one that’s obviously modern and obviously Mustang. The long, sweeping profile brings to mind V12 Ferraris—the 250, the 456, the 550 Maranello. And the rear three-quarter is the sort of view that leads to long, lingering glances…that in turn lead to distractedly tripping over a curb.
It’s hard edged and trim, not swole and exaggerated—an MMA fighter to the Camaro’s WWE wrestler or the Challenger’s body builder. It looks more expensive than it is—especially considering you can buy this car for $25,000.
This Mustang is, as they say, a looker.
The only downside is the tall nose (due to pedestrian impact standards in Europe, presumably) that’s basically as high as the base of the windshield, so it doesn’t seem to taper up to the driver—and you wind up with a view rather like a supertanker’s captain. Other than that, though, it’d hard to see any way to improve on this ‘Stang’s looks.
The interior’s a solid step above the previous-generation car’s guts—which were admittedly Hertz-spec, even in the priciest models. The curse of hard-touch plastic still hangs on, but at least on the 2015 car, it’s mostly relegated to places you’re not going to touch very often. Instead, Ford used hefty dose of metal—both real aluminum trim and plastic stuff that does a fair imitation,.The metal and metal-ish bits—the row of toggle-like switches tucked below the HVAC, the radio knobs (yay for real knobs!) [That’s what she said -Ed.] the temperature controls—all look spectacular.
And the seats…well, to say they’re an upgrade over previous Mustang thrones is like saying a Herman Miller chair is a step up from a milk crate. Used to be, you the Mustang’s Recaros were a required option unless you wanted to wind up putting your chiropractor’s kid through Yale. Nowadays? The stock seats are so good, I’d say stick with them unless your ‘Stang’s gonna spend a good chunk of its life on the track. (But don't plan on putting anyone larger than a Munchkin in the back seats—like a Porsche 911's rear chairs, they're best used for luggage and small pets.)
Now, odds are good anyone speccing their Mustang the way mine came—stock suspension, all-season tires and an automatic transmission—isn’t planning on logging a lot of track time. But even equipped as such, the 2015 Mustang turned out to be a solid performer. It’s well-planted and balanced, taking turns gracefully and with minimal body roll but without sacrificing ride quality. Some of the credit goes to the Mustang’s new independent rear suspension, which smooths things out considerably—especially compared to the previous-generation car, whose live rear axle gave it a tendency to pogo-stick around on bumpy pavement. (Which was kind of fun, IMHO, but I digress.)
The 5.0 liter Coyote V8 is largely a carryover from the last Mustang, but don’t hold that against it—it’s still plenty potent. Five liters (actually 4.951 liters, but rounding is Ford’s friend) is small for a naturally-aspirated V8, especially in this class—the Challenger uses 5.7, 6.1 and 6.4 liter Hemis, while the Camaro SS’s V8 displaces 6.2—but the Coyote makes up for its small size by revving higher and more willingly than its crosstown competitors.
The engine feels more sports car than muscle car, but it’s willing and able. Instead of giving your ass a brutal low-end torque shove, it builds speed progressively—a refreshing change in this day and age, when the big displacement engines, turbos, diesels and electrics make it seem like torque is king.
And the six-speed automatic is actually really, really good. Sport and Track modes hold gears and downshift snappily and willingly, even matching revs on downshifts. The paddles are on the small side, but work just fine. In manual mode, the transmission won’t kick down when you floor it, and it’ll bounce off the limiter instead of upshifting—in other words, Manual Mode is an honest-to-god manual mode. Audi could learn a thing or two from Ford’s shift logic.
In fact, any car company trying to sell a reasonably-priced fun car could probably learn something from the 2015 Mustang, because the new Mustang is one of the best sub-$50K performance cars on sale—full stop. The Camaro SS 1LE performs a wee bit better, but it’s held back by its Sherman tank visibility and lower-rent interior (two things the new Camaro coming this fall will hopefully correct).
The all-new Mustang, in fact, is more than a muscle car–it’s an honest-to-God sports car. And the car world is a helluva lot better for it.
Price As Tested: $43,385
0-60: 4.5 secs
Power: 435 hp, 400 lb-ft
Gas Cash: 16 city, 25 why
Miles Driven: 300
Screw those vegetable juice-drinking morons.
Story by: Will Sabel Courtney
Back in the 1970s, some mad men came up with the idea of guilting people into drinking virgin Bloody Marys from a can using the tagline, “I coulda had a V8!” Not surprisingly, the automotive community latched onto this tagline like a harpoon onto a right whale. If you had a nickel for every time car writers alone used that phrase in the last 40 years, you’d probably be able to buy a big-block crate motor.
Here to disprove that slogan-turned-joke-turned-cliche: The Jaguar F-Type S.
Jaguar will very, very happily sell you an F-Type with a V8 engine. It displaces five liters, comes with a supercharger on top, and cranks out 550 horsepower—this in a car roughly the size of my wallet. It sounds like God gargling. It sends an F-Type coupe from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds, and will smoke-cure the car’s rump with vaporized rubber at the whim of your right ankle. (At least until the 2016 model year, when all V8 F-Types sold here in the States switch to all-wheel-drive.)
But you shouldn’t buy it.
If you want an F-Type, you should buy the V6 S model.
Coupe or roadster, buyer’s choice. Doesn’t matter to me—they’re both excellent.
See, the S is the Goldlocks model in Jaguar’s F-Type model. The base car? Too cold. The R? Too hot. But the S…you get the picture.
Now, I’m usually not the guy to pass on more power—I was once caught saying in complete seriousness that “every car should have at least 500 horsepower”—but when it comes to the F-Type, opting for the mid-level S over the top-dog R means choosing a much more balanced car in more ways than one. A smaller engine in the nose makes the S a bit better in the twisties than the R—there’s less of a sense of fighting the mass inside that Dirk Diggler-esque hood. Granted, being down 170 horsepower makes the S a wee bit slower, but at everyday speeds, the traction control limits the V8’s power so much, S and R are about equal most of the time.
Of course, that changes this year, when the F-Type R gets that AWD system. But as that happens, though, the F-Type S will pick up a new six-speed manual transmission—and while AWD adds a few grand to the price of every F-Type R, the stick will actually save you money compared to the automatic S.
Which brings up the other big advantage of the F-Type S over its eight-cylinder brother: price, price, baby. A 2015 F-Type R Coupe will set you back a minimum of $99,925. The F-Type S Coupe starts at $77,925. Granted, the R comes with a few standard go-fast bits and luxury accouterments that are options on the S, but even if you option an S to parity with its big brother, you’re still looking at more than ten grand in savings.
You don’t lose anything in visual bombast, either; the S and R coupes are more or less identical, apart from a few very, very minor differences…like badging. (Which you could probably correct with five minutes on eBay, a screwdriver and some KrazyGlue, if you’re that insecure.) No matter what spec you pick, the F-Type Coupe sucks in gazes with that rare power reserved solely for beautiful women and sultry sports cars. During my drive back from Vermont, I found myself playing traffic tag with an Acura MDX carrying a family of Massachusetts ski bunnies; the two boys in the back seat were hanging out of the side window like golden labs trying to get a better look at the Jag every time I passed. The final time, they held up a hastily-scribbled sign: I WILL TRADE MY HOUSE FOR YOUR CAR. I declined, though I was surprised to learn they held the deed instead of their parents.
And yeah, I drove the F-Type to Vermont in the middle of winter. I’d say read my lips if you actually could see them right now: You do not need all-wheel-drive to deal with winter. A nice set of snow tires, like the F-Type wore, is all it takes to deal with the blustery months—even in Vermont. The F-Type R’s de rigeur AWD system will be an option on the F-Type S (but only if you opt for the automatic tranny, because reasons). Do not choose it. Take the $7,500 you’ll save, drop a grand on high-quality winter rubber, and spend the rest on lift tickets, hot cocoa and whiskey.
Okay, take a little of it and buy a ski rack for the Jag, because you sure as hell ain’t fitting them inside. The F-Type’s interior is the closest thing it has to an Achilles’ Heel. Cramped is a nice way of describing it; spend four straight hours behind the wheel, and you’ll start coming up with far less polite words. I like to think Jaguar’s engineers built the car that way on purpose, to encourage drivers to stop every so often and stretch because they’re super-concerned about deep vein thrombosis. Either that, or everyone who worked on the car is less than six feet tall.
But if you can deal with the size constraints, the Jaguar F-Type S makes one hell of a case for itself. Save extreme AWD thrust for GT-R fanatics; 380 horsepower, a balanced rear-wheel-drive chassis, and dead-sexy looks make for a pretty ideal sports car in my book.
Plus, if you get desperate, I hear you can trade it for a house in Massachusetts.
0-60: 4.5 secs.
Power: 380 hp, 339 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 19 city, 27 why
Miles Driven: 850