Category Archives: Performance Car

Officer Matt, Pulls Over To Test New Autos

5/16/2019 – 2019 Spring Brake  –  Bear Mountain State Park, Bear Mountain, New York.

Automotive Rally Tents

Upon arrival, approximately 50 different vehicles were grouped by manufacturer. Prior to arrival, I surveyed the list of cars and formulated a plan that would maximize my time to test drive as many vehicles as I could by 1530.

 

 

Officer Matt and the 2019 Acura NSXThe first vehicle driven was Acura’s NSX. Luckily, my teammate had secured a reservation to be the first test driver of this $190K Supercar. By far the most anticipated drive of the day and the NSX did not disappoint.  The sheer power of the car and its ability to stick to the road like glue was absolutely amazing, producing goosebumps on my arms and chills down my spine. The fit and finish were very luxurious. The seats and steering wheel felt as if they were designed specifically for me. The exterior was a statement of beauty with artfully designed curves and creases precisely where they needed to be placed as if Michelangelo himself designed the shell. Everywhere you drove, heads turned to look and listen.

 

2019 GMC Sierra Denali Pickup Truck climing a gravel hill
2019 GMC Sierra Denali Pickup Truck is almost too pretty to take offroad.

The rest of the day was spent testing vehicles ranging from compact sedans to full-size trucks. A notable appearance was the GMC Sierra Denali 1500. As luxurious and useful as a truck could be, it fell short when compared to similar trucks in its class due to the lack of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist. The “revolutionary” new tailgate was cumbersome to use after spending ten minutes trying to figure it out.

 

Red 2019 Acura TLX A-Spec
2019 Acura TLX A-Spec made on the same production line as the NSX.

Another vehicle that got my attention was the Acura TLX A-Spec with SH-AWD. This upscale sport sedan had never even registered on my radar as a vehicle that would impress me. Boy, was I ever wrong, as soon as I stepped into the vehicle, the interior design was subtle yet sporty and luxurious all at the same time. Every button and switch was placed exactly where it needed to be. The operating system was incredibly easy to figure out. The sound system was incredible when compared to other

2019 Acura TLX A-Spec Dash
Acura TLX Interior every button and switch was placed exactly where it needed to be.

higher-end luxury vehicles. The mix of leather and suede on the heated and cooled seats, perfectly proportioned. Outside, the pearl coat of burgundy paint complemented the aggressive exterior styling cues perfectly. To finish off, the exterior was a gorgeous set of black rims. I kept finding myself wandering back to the TLX throughout the day, admiring it. At a price of just around $44K for a fully optioned top of the line, model forced me to see how affordable and attainable the Acura really is. I found myself smiling not only while behind the wheel, and even now, each time I think of it.

 

Genesis G90 Parked in front of a rock face
Genesis G90 a worthy competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series.

 

Genesis G90 rear seat controls provide access to the entire entertainment system, climate control, navigation, and audio system.
Genesis G90 rear seat controls provide access to the entire entertainment system, climate control, navigation, and audio system.

The final vehicle that commanded my attention was the Genesis G90. A worthy competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series. Sliding into the rear seat is like entering a private jet. The G90 is a vehicle to be driven around in, not just drive.  Rear seat controls provide access to the entire entertainment system, climate control, navigation, and audio system.  With heated and cooled rear seats, the only thing missing was a massage function. The rear passenger seat had a single button that would turn the seat into a fully functioning lounger, sliding the front seat all the way forward and down towards the dash to allow the rear occupant to stretch out. Feeling as if you were enveloped in an incredibly soft sofa and could easily take a nap.

 

 

Genesis G90 Dash view from rear seat.
Genesis G90 provides a multitude of driving assistance options, and they are phenomenal.

The G90 driver experience was just as luxurious, minus the rear passenger lounge seat. With a quick and responsive engine propelling the car forward from a dead stop to 60mph with barely an effort, and with minimal noise. Genesis provides a multitude of driving assistance options, and they are phenomenal. The lane keep assist and nearly autonomous driving assistant made driving even on twisty mountain roads a breeze.

 

 

Rear of the Genesis G90
Classic Design makes the Genesis G90 a worthy competitor.

At the cost of almost $20,000 to $30,000 below what one would pay for a comparable S Class or 7 Series. The only reason I can think of why wouldn’t you want a G90 before one of its competitors would be the brand badge bragging rights. Perhaps it was wise of Genesis to distance their flagship vehicle from the Hyundai line, creating a new image to compete with Mercedes and BMW.

 

Reflecting on a day driving more than 25 vehicles, this was my first automotive journalist rally,  and for me, it was a resounding success.

Words by Corporal Matthew Rihl,
Photos by William West Hopper
Corporal Matthew Rihl is a Field Training Officer and member of the Honor Guard with a local Virginia police department in Virginia.
Corporal Matthew Rihl is a Field Training Officer and member of the Honor Guard with a local Virginia police department.
Corporal Matthew Rihl has served the public for 15-years with a local county police department in Virginia. In addition, he is also a Field Training Officer and a member of the Honor Guard. Officer Matt is a vital member of the LGBT Fallen Heroes Fund, which its sole purpose is to honor surviving partners and family members of LGBT police, fire, EMS and the military who have been killed in the line of duty during a special ceremony during National Police Memorial Week every year in Washington, DC.

 

Spring Brake is put on by the International Motor Press Association for professional automotive journalist members, offering them the chance to experience many different vehicles in one day. Membership and an entry fee are required to participate. Neither Matthew nor William were compensated for their time or reviews of any automobiles.
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Today and Tomorrow: Mini’s Future Is Passionate Owners and a Strong Racing Heritage

Mini Electric Concept
Mini Electric Concept – photo from Mini PR

Mini, the brand that has been an icon of everything that is quintessentially and vibrantly British and youthful, is poised to celebrate 60 in 2019. And doing so by being plugged in to their passionate customers who love driving and winning races.

Mini quickly became the car of choice for rock stars, film personalities as well as royals an common folk alike when it was first introduced in 1959. The little cars caught they eye of racing legend John Cooper whose name has become synonymous with the brand. Who then took the brand on to win many races in the 1960’s. Today not much has changed,

What Makes a Mini?

MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri speaks to auto journalists in NYC in November of 2018, prior to the LA Auto Show.
MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri speaks to auto journalists in NYC in November of 2018, prior to the LA Auto Show.

At a recent meeting of automotive journalists in New York City, MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri shared the five essential elements of what makes a Mini.

Emotional: Mini is not a rational purchase, you buy a Mini for the fun of it.

Excitable: The mini makes people excited and has since it was first introduced as an answer to expensive fuel prices.

Fun to drive: Known for go kart-like handling, Khatri stated that the Countryman is no-doubt the best driving SUV on the market.

Personable: 70% of owners name their Mini and make them an important part of the family.

Customization: Even the banner on the outside of the UK factory says 1 in 800K. Mini has always offered customers a high level of customization for their cars.

Customer Loyalty

Mini Line upMini takes its owners and enthusiasts very seriously, involving them in events like Mini Takes The States, a two-week long driving adventure in the USA each year. This is a chance for members of the Mini Corporate Staff, parts of the racing team, and everyday owners of the vehicles get a chance to enjoy time driving the cars together, as well as getting feedback on new and experimental products.

Racing is Heritage

Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport talks about winning races with stock Minis.
Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport talks about winning races with stock Minis.

Mini has taken racing seriously since 1960 when John Cooper first raced one of their cars. Mini has both a Professional race team in the USA, LAP Motorsports as well as supporting owners of its cars  by sponsoring them to take it to the track at SCCA and other ametur events that often lead drivers into a full-time racing career. As Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport found out after taking delivery right off the dealership floor of a couple of JCWorks cars his team would drive to win. He stated “Mini’s street cars are race cars.”

Perocarpi shared that the best kept secret in the automotive sector is how good the JCWorks factory cars are. That in the short preparation time his race shop had to prepare a couple of Mini’s to get out on the track, he found out they needed little tuning, just roll cages.  Though on their first race, how officials made them remove the stock Brembo brakes from their JCWorks Mini and replace them with brakes from a Mini SE, and they still won the race. Not unlike the middle 1960’s when John Cooper’s Motorsports Team’s Mini was disqualified for having double filament light bulbs.

What’s Next?

Mini made up a prototype of a classic powered by all electric
Mini made up a prototype of a classic powered by all electric. (photo by Mini PR)

Electrification, while the rest of the industry was busy looking at hybrids back in the late 2000’s, Mini in 2009 leased an exclusive Mini-E edition of 500 Mini-E cars to the USA and 40 to the UK. Using that experience, Mini’s owner group, BMW, took this real-world experience and developed the 2012 BMW 1-Series Active-e and the I3 as well as BMW’s I8 super car.

Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager with Mini shared that the Mini Countryman PHEV and BMW’s I8 shared similar powertrain components, just inverted, Mini’s PHEV Countryman has the 3-cyl in the front and the

Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager spoke of the heritage of Mini and the passion of the owners.
Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager spoke of the heritage of Mini and the passion of the owners.

electric motors in the back, with the I8 has the ICE (internal combustion engine) in the back and electric motors in the front, both with AWD when needed.

Expect to see a third generation Mini SE EV, built on BMW’s electric architecture, in production and on sale in 2020.  And yes there already is a John Cooper Works GP Concept out there so expect to see the JCW Performance being powered by electricity as well.

 

 

Special Editions

 

Mini is about to release the JCWorks Black Knight Edition at the LA Auto Show in November 2018.
Mini is about to release the JCWorks Black Knight Edition at the LA Auto Show in November 2018. (photo from Mini PR)

Mini developed to be an urban brand does not take its heritage nor future technology for granted. You will find  that they will continue to build fun to drive vehicles after 60 years and plan to do so in the future. Plus Mini is still offering a manual transmission on their internal combustion powered products, a rarity in today’s automatic world.Mini has found special edition limited production vehicles to be part of its success. The latest, a Black Knight Edition, will be debuting at the 2018 LA Auto Show. A JCW 3-door hard top with- custom trim, handles and black color combination of which 150 examples will make it to the USA, arriving in first quarter 2019. An International Orange and Starlight Edition will join the Black Knight.

And they will never take their customers for granted, continuing with a successful enthusiast programs along with racecar driver training.

 

Words and Images (except where noted) by William West Hopper

 

We are looking forward to the World Car Awards

With the New York International Auto Show on the horizon, one of my personal favorite events each year is the World Car Award. This year held on March 28th.

2018 will be the 14th year for the annual awards and the for the fifth consecutive year based on Prime Research’s 2017 media report. The World Car Awards were inaugurated in 2003 and launched in 2004.

2018 marks the 12th year of World Car’s partnership with NYIAS, and the fifth consecutive year that the World Car Awards have retained their ranking as the No.1 automotive awards program in the world in terms of media reach. While the awards and ceremony are a recognition of automotive excellence is on an international scale and intended to complement and not compete with other national and regional Car of the Year celebrations.

The awards are administered by a not-for-profit association, under the guidance of a Steering Committee of pre-eminent automotive journalists from Asia, Europe, and North America. Peter Lyon (chair – Japan), Jens Meiners (vice-chair – Germany), Mike Rutherford (vice-chair – UK), Tim Stevens (director – USA), Siddarth Patankar (director – India) and Gerry Malloy (director – Canada and president, WCOTY Association).

 

Automobiles Nominated for the
World Car Awards


2018 World Car of the Year:

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– Mazda CX-5
– Range Rover Velar
– Volvo XC60


2018 World Urban Car:

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 – Ford Fiesta
– Suzuki Swift
– Volkswagen Polo


2018 World Luxury Car:

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– Audi A8
– Porsche Cayenne
– Porsche Panamera


2018 World Performance Car:

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-BMW M5
– Honda Civic Type R
– Lexus LC 500


2018 World Green Car:

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– BMW 530e iPerformance
– Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
– Nissan LEAF


2018 World Car Design of the Year:

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– Lexus LC 500
– Range Rover Velar
– Volvo XC60


The Road to the World Car began in Frankfurt on September 19, 2017, and was followed by the first-ever Tokyo Test Drive conducted at the BMW Tokyo Bay facility in October giving jurors yet another opportunity to evaluate contenders that might not be available in their home markets. Then, the fourth annual “L.A. Test Drives” took place across a six-day period in November with a record number of 35 jurors participating. At the Geneva show in March, they close in on the end of the Road to World Car journey which will end on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, when World Car opens the New York International Auto Show and also declares all winners in all categories.

New York International Auto Show

Owned and operated by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, the New York Auto Show is an awesome combination of new ideas, technological innovation, exceptional concept cars and nearly 1,000 of the latest new cars and trucks.  Over one million visitors are expected to visit the show this year to see what is truly possible from the automotive industry.

 

Information for this post is from the World Car Awards Press Release. Photos are from the various automotive media sites. Collated and edited by William West Hopper.

Jaguar Redefines Marketing, A Movie Featuring You As The Star Along With The Car

Jaguar offers a full line of vehicles from sports cars to sedans to an SUV.
Jaguar offers a full line of vehicles from sports cars to sedans to an SUV.

Jaguar is taking to a big stage to let consumers know that their brand, an iconic heritage one, offers a modern line of cars that are very different from just a few years ago. This stage is not one of repetitive prime-time television ads, nor is it annoying pop up ads on your digital device. What Jaguar has done is put you in charge of their promotion, using the digital magic of the social share of a short video.

 

Jaguar features the iconic "The Leaper" mascot of the brand since 1938,
Jaguar features the iconic “The Leaper” mascot of the brand since 1938,

And here is where Jaguar got smart, they know that since this movie features you, you will share it on your social media channels. You become a star of a classic British Spy film, the talented British spy, the only thing you have to do is prove that you can drive. And what better to drive, then the iconic British Automobile, the Jaguar, in this case their new XE.

 

Jaguar worked with Facebook in partnership where you can make one of the scenes your personal Facebook Profile photo, a first for both companies. Jaguar is sure you will share it to your friends. And 85% of those that attend the Art of the Performance Tour do make the video and then share it via their social channels.

The Story Board for Jaguar's short film about you the British Spy and the perfect car.
The Story Board for Jaguar’s short film about you the British Spy and the perfect car.

Automobile companies have used ride and drive events as a way to showcase their cars, once you leave, all you have are memories, and a trinket. Any selfie images would be self-produced, and would not be as compelling as what #TheAudition creates with both you and the Jaguar. The process is simple, you review the story board, the script, practice facial expressions you will use in the scenes, head over to hair and makeup (yes you get made up like a movie star) and then head onto the sound stage where the director gives you the cues and gets you on camera. With rave reviews from the staff, like any star would expect!

Jaguar XE models ready to be taken out on the autocross course.
Jaguar XE models ready to be taken out on the autocross course.

Off you go to drive the cars on the street and an autocross course while they create the film. Stitching you into an already edited film, and you never end up on the cutting room floor. In just a few minutes you receive an email with a link to your film, and of course the Jaguar.com website.

 

Jaguar gives each attendee a key chain with the Jaguar mascot as a memento of The Art of Performance Tour.
Jaguar gives each attendee a key chain with the Jaguar mascot as a memento of The Art of Performance Tour.
Jaguar uses an RFID bracelet to identify visitors for their movie production.
Jaguar uses an RFID bracelet to identify visitors for their movie production.

Take a moment in the lounge to view your film on your own device and enjoy some cucumber sandwiches and proper English tea. While there you have a chance to access the Jaguar.com build site and talk with products specialists who are available to answer questions. One last digital moment is a photo with “the Leaper” Jaguar’s mascot, a Jaguar has taken the simple mass market demonstration event to the next level with the use of technology, what you do not see is the technology that makes it all happen. It starts with an RFID bracelet that you wear throughout the event. This tag identifies you and is attached to everything you do from each of your film scenes, your actual drive experience, to your memento photo and exit survey. This is what makes sure your digital content always has you in it.

 

Jaguar's Sports Car the F-Type and X-E Sedan.
Jaguar’s Sports Car the F-Type and X-E Sedan.

In talking with Kim McCullough Vice President, Marketing for Jaguar land Rover North America LLC, she spoke of how compelling this program has become bringing an event focused younger consumer to the brand with a very good return on investment. Jaguar had doubled their under 35 audience, as well as brought in many buyers new to the brand, looking for vehicles different from the traditional luxury and status cars that have become the mass-market norm. The Audition has exposed 92 million people via social sharing of this personal video where they co-star with the Jaguar in an action packed short film that is classically British, and ends in “Feed My Cat” which is a metaphor for the consumer to connect to the Jaguar brand.  And it turns

 

William West Hopper with the Jaguar Mascot
William West Hopper with the Jaguar Mascot.

Words and Images by William West Hopper

Note: This review was done during the open consumer days of Jaguar’s Art of Performance Tour. Mr. Hopper had the opportunity to spend time with Jaguar employees during this visit and was not given anything that was not available to the general public who attended.

Fun to Drive, Easy to Own, The Hyundai Veloster R-Spec is Both a Performance and and Economy Car.

The Hyundai Veloster R spec, a hot hatch at an economy car price.
The Hyundai Veloster R-Spec, a hot hatch at an economy car price.

This little 6 speed took me back to my 20’s, which made it the perfect car on the eve of my 59th birthday. Driving it, I found myself instinctively down shifting into stops, and apexing around the cloverleaf’s on the highway exits. What better way to start the celebration of almost six decades, than to have a fun sports car to drive, which is exactly what the Hyundai Veloster  is, and not what I was expecting!

Veloster Turbo has a Six Speed with a B&M Racng Sport Shifter.
The Hyundai Veloster Turbo has a Six Speed with a B&M Racng Sport Shifter.

 

 

 

 

Before this summer, I never put much thought into the Hyundai product line, thinking they were uninteresting, cheap, disposable, transportation, for people who did not enjoy driving. That all changed when I got to try out the Elantra during the introduction of the sport line to local journalists in July, and definitely changed after spending a week in the R-Spec Veloster.

 

 

Hyundai Veloster has a 7 inch touch screen in the center stack.
Hyundai Veloster has a 7 inch touch screen in the center stack.

First and foremost, I am impressed by the fit and finish as well as the materials used on the inside of Hyundai’s cars. What we often see on lower priced cars, and some pricier ones, is the use low cost materials, i.e. “cheap plastic.”  Not Hyundai, the Veloster’s dash and door trim were well designed with a hint reminiscing of carbon fiber, and felt like something that should be on a higher-end vehicle. The center display screen for the radio is not only large at seven inches, it is full color, and a touch screen, with adult sized touch points. The screen is a true provider of infotainment, feeding you plenty of information, from the rear view camera, to the Blue Max app showing how fuel efficient a driver you are. The 450 watt Dimension Premium Audio, with 8 speakers provides high end sound through any of the radio channels and the XM Sirius satellite service, and easily connected to an iPod or phone. Steering wheel mounted audio controls make changing the volume or channels effortless.

 

Studded chrome sport pedals are some of the many extras in the Hyundai Veloster R-Spec, a lot of sports car, for very little money.
Studded chrome sport pedals are some of the many extras in the Hyundai Veloster R-Spec, is a lot of sports car, for very little money.

Who would have thought this little Hyundai, would also be a performance car? The Veloster features fancy rubber studded pedals,bolstered front sport seats with matching sporty red seat belts, and a tight B&M Racing® Sport Shifter. And when you release the clutch and hit the gas the twin-scroll turbocharger hitched to the 1.6 dual continuously variable valve timed engine kicks it providing plenty of power, (201 HP with 195 lbs of torque @6k rpms,) mated to the 6-speed manual gearbox, there was an immediate response to getting off the line at any stop light. It is quite clear that the throaty growl of the exhaust is not just piped in performance driving music. Though I do have to admit I stalled it a couple of times, thinking that I was driving an economy car, instead of getting on it, like I would in a performance car. The Veloster wanted me to power it up!

2 doors on the right, 1 on the left, and a hatch in the back. Hyundai Veloster has doors where you will use them.
The Hyundai Veloster R-Spec, a hot hatch at an economy car price.

It is an economy car! Just one that makes you feel like you are driving a HOT Sports hatch.There is the question, is the Veloster a coupe or a sedan? With it’s water drop in the wind shape, with a .32 coefficient of drag, it has an odd configuration of three passenger doors. The Veloster has doors where you need them, two on the right, (sedan-like), one on the left, (coupe-like.) Let’s just call it a sports car, a economy minded performance hatchback.

 

 

Veloster features plenty of trunk space in the lift over hatch, put the rear sets down and you have a cargo hauler.
Veloster features plenty of trunk space in the lift over hatch, put the rear sets down and you have a cargo hauler.
Plenty of leg room, but not headroom, for two rear passengers in the Hyundai Veloster.
Plenty of leg room, but not headroom, for two rear passengers in the Hyundai Veloster.

Inside the Veloster is spacious, not at all claustrophobic, the front has plenty of room for the driver and passenger,  and there is leg room for two passengers in the back seats, though head room is limited. And when the rear seats are not in use, they can easily be put down to extend the already spacious deep trunk. Plenty of safety with  front, front side impact and curtain airbags. A concern I heard was the driver’s visibility out of the rear window, I did not experience any rear visibility issues, and setting the exterior side mirrors correctly, blind spots were minimized.

The rear window in the hatch of the Hyundai Veloster gives a clear view of what is behind you.
The rear window in the hatch of the Hyundai Veloster gives a clear view of what is behind you.

 

Hyundai Veloster R-Spec with a 6 speed manual comes at a $22,425 delivered price, and runs on regular fuel. A Performance Car for economy car money.

 

Hyundai Veloster R-Spec boasts a 1.6 twin scroll Turbo GDI puts out 201 horsepower and 195 lbs of torque.
Hyundai Veloster R-Spec boasts a 1.6 twin scroll Turbo GDI puts out 201 horsepower and 195 lbs of torque.

The base Veloster starts at $18,000 and the top-of-the-line Turbo model with an automatic transmission tops out at $23,800, not including any discounts you may be eligible for. Only two option packages are available, each cost $2,100: Technology, (more gadgets,) and Style (includes a sunroof and more goo-gahs.) There are a number of dealer installed accessories you may want to add to make one your own.

 

 

Sirus XM Radio is just one of the audio options on the Hyundai Veloster R-Spec.
Sirus XM Radio is just one of the audio options on the Hyundai Veloster R-Spec.

 

You will not be in a boring transportation appliance, between enough power and G-forces to push you back into your seat, and a raspy exhaust note, all in a car that drinks regular grade gasoline, and gives you 27 mpg, as we experienced.

 

Red leather bolstered seats & door inserts, and matching seat belts give the Hyundai Veloster R-Spec an sporty look and feel.
Red leather bolstered seats & door inserts, and matching seat belts give the Hyundai Veloster R-Spec an sporty look and feel.

The Veloster will make you feel like a kid again, it did for me! And at a price that takes away any guilt about buying a play toy to make driving fun again. While it will not impress those in their Ferrari’s, McLarens, or AMG’s, you will not be paying the costs for to keep up with that level of ego either. Then when the teen driver in the family is ready, you can let them drive it, and then you will be the coolest Uncle ever!

 

 

Where the real story is for this little sports car is the price tag for the R-Spec we tested, $22,425 delivered (not including tax tags etc), which includes $825 freight and handling

William West Hopper with the fun to drive 2016 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec, that is also inexpensive to own.

William West Hopper with the fun to drive 2016 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec, that is also inexpensive to own and to operate.

Words and photos by William West Hopper

 

Thanks to Hyundai USA for providing us the R-Spec Veloster to test out for a week.