What’s The Drive Driving? Week of Oct. 30, 2015
Subways are overrated. Let’s take the Lambo.
Wherein we show you what our writers and editors are pushing around the block—or around the world.
2015 Volvo XC90 T6
With Mercedes, BMW and Audi SUVs hogging every other driveway in the world’s wealthier enclaves, the Volvo XC90 has what it takes to break up the boring German dominance: a sturdy, tasteful silhouette, a seven-passenger interior straight out of a Scandinavian home furnishings catalog and enough safety oversight to form its own regulatory agency. It’s also a leading contender, in my mind, for the 2016 North American Truck of the Year, an award for which I’m on the voting jury. Where powerful V6s rule the midsize SUV class, the Volvo boosts itself into competitiveness with both a supercharger and turbocharger on its “Twin Engine” 2-liter four-cylinder, good for 316 horses and 295 pound-feet of torque. To really one-up the Deutsche family haulers, the roughly $70,000 T8 version adds plug-in hybrid capability to the Twin Engine, with 400 hp and 472 lb-ft. Roll up to the local farmer’s market in this socially responsible Swede, and you’ll shrivel your neighbors’ nuts.—Lawrence Ulrich, chief auto critic
2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
It's unfair to call the GT3 RS a street car. With the right set of hands at the wheel, it will turn a lap at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in under 7 minutes 30 seconds. It has a 500-hp 4-liter 6-cylinder screamer, and is lighter, wider, faster and smarter than any 911 on the road today. It is maximum motorsport, all the time.
It is also a car endowed with special powers. Like most automotive journalists, I'm not a very talented driver [beg to differ—JS]. So this week, when I drove it around the track at Road Atlanta in a torrential downpour, following the lead of three-time Le Mans winner Hurley Haywood, I quickly reached the limit of my talents. The car, however, seemed to take over. Down into the esses, through a lake at 90 mph, it kept me alive. Down the back straight, blinded by spray, I hit 140 mph and said a prayer. Diving over the blind crest, aimed somewhere at Tennessee, I praised the talents of Andreas Preuninger, the man who built this magical creature out of carbon fiber, magnesium and steel.
The best part is, the GT3 RS costs only $175,000. Now if I can just find my checkbook...—Mike Guy, editor
2015 Cadillac Escalade
When I was 16, I almost failed my license test because I palmed the wheel during the parallel-parking section. In his "I could've failed you" speech, the crotchety old tester told me to break the habit, and soon.
Still palm the wheel. Can't argue with results. Or, for that matter, with the Escalade’s preternaturally good parking sensors that guided me to this glorious finish on my Brooklyn block—one tender beep and gently vibrated buttock at a time.
Beyond its confounding levels of maneuverability, the Escalade feels like the most stout, solidly built product in the GM portfolio. Not one piece of open-pore wood creaks, not one door closes without a life-affirming whomp. Let polite society look on aghast at a three-ton SUV whose leather alone likely weighs as much as a Lotus 7; the Escalade is a breed apart.
And at roughly 90 grand as tested, it had better be. —Jonathan Schultz, deputy editor
2015 Ford Transit 150 LR
It’s pretty tough to make this rolling box look sexy. But, sexy it is. Here’s why.
The moment you climb into this van, you get the impulse to divorce yourself from every single thing in your life and hit the road, stopping at a Target to buy a blowup bed and a case of Slim Jims. This vehicle is the size of a Manhattan studio, and only a fraction of the price (MSRP starts at about $31K). And, it has wheels and a motor. If you’re sleeping in your vehicle, you can go anywhere. Powder Highway in British Columbia, here we come! The road doesn’t stop until the money runs out.
Having driven a few vans to far off places, I can say that none matches the Transit in terms of capability. It’s huge, but it feels torque-rich and quick on its toes, and since you’re sitting over the front axle, it’s remarkably easy to corner in tight spaces, park, etc. By the numbers: 3.5-liter V6, six-speed manumatic. Back in the day, a van like this was treacherous in reverse. Now, the dashboard rearview camera solves that issue. Fuel economy is not this beast’s strong point (14 mpg city/19 mpg highway), but it does have a 26-gallon tank so you can haul ass for hours without stopping. We would’ve loved to utilize the automatic rain-sensing windshield wiper, but living in California, rain isn’t exactly in the picture.
Enough of this typing! Driving to do.—A.J. Baime, editor-at-large