Driving the New Range Rover Sport SVR and P400e through Rural England

Sometimes you have to go back to a product’s roots to truly appreciate how special it is. I was reminded of this on a recent visit to the United Kingdom, where Land Rover was born. I was there to drive two of the most technologically advanced Range Rovers ever created. One was a plug-in hybrid Range Rover Sport, the company’s first; the other was a new souped-up Sport SVR, as fast as most sports cars.

The two new Range Rovers were fabulous, but my attention was arrested on another model entirely—a very old and beaten Series 1 Land Rover, which was rotating atop a pedestal. On my tour of the English countryside, I’d stopped at the Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works facility in Coventry. Opened only last year, Classic Works is both a showroom and a huge garage devoted to classic Jaguars and Land Rovers. (Both brands are now owned by Tata Motors.)

The Classic Works facility is new, but its products are not. You can bring your vintage Jaguar or Land Rover there to be either completely restored or serviced. Even better, you can buy a fully restored classic directly from the company.

The Range Rover Sport SVR explores with a supercharged five-liter V-8 that allows a zero-to-60-mph acceleration time of 4.3 seconds.  Photo: Courtesy Jaguar Land Rover.

The Series 1 that I was fascinated by was one of the first Land Rovers ever made, a prototype shown in 1948 at a European auto show. It spent decades rotting in an English field until the company found and rescued it. The paint is mostly gone, the sides dented, and the grille a mess, but it still speaks clearly to the brand’s mix of bold design and genuine utility.

The back garage and front showroom are stuffed with vintage gems like an original 1970s-era two-door Range Rover, several Series 1s, and all kinds of Defenders. The mix serves to remind that this is Land Rover’s 70th anniversary. Even over that much time, the vehicles remain remarkably focused.

Granted, that original 1970 Range Rover in the showroom is a far cry from the 2019 models in the parking lot. The former is painted in Bahama Gold, has only two doors, and is powered by a carbureted V-8 that makes all of 132 hp.

Yet the basic shape and components are still recognizable in the 575 hp Range Rover Sport SVR—with a partly naked carbon-fiber hood—and the 398 hp Range Rover Sport Plug-in Hybrid. Despite a span of almost 50 years, a Range Rover is still a Range Rover.

The plug-in Range Rover P400e.

The plug-in P400e starts at about $80,000.  Photo: Courtesy Jaguar Land Rover.

Reluctantly leaving the Classic Works, I got behind the wheel of the plug-in Range Rover Sport. Officially known as the P400e, it uses a conventional supercharged four-liter gasoline engine working in tandem with an electric motor. The electric range is modest at only 31 miles. That works fine if your daily commute is short, but it is also an eye to the near future when some city centers (like London) will likely only allow hybrid or electric vehicles inside certain neighborhoods.

My concern that the P400e will feel slow or laborious is soon allayed. It won’t break speed records (zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds), but it indeed drives and handles like a Range Rover Sport. I even got to take it off-road on a very muddy track and crossed a shallow lake, both located in an old forest outside an English palace from the 1700s. The vehicle has an updated interior, with twin digital touch screens. Pricing for the Sport plug-in will start at around $80,000.

To be honest, I got a bigger charge out of the Range Rover Sport SVR, a product from the company’s Special Vehicle Operations team. It starts at around $115,000 and gets a supercharged five-liter V-8. The engine, good for 575 hp, allows a zero-to-60-mph acceleration time of 4.3 seconds. The Sport SVR easily owns these roads.

The interior of the Range Rover Sport SVR.

The Range Rover Sport SVR’s refined interior for the roughest of roads.  Photo: Courtesy Jaguar Land Rover.

A note about these roads . . . they are narrow. Many are bordered by stone walls. And, of course, everyone drives on the left side. My circuitous route took me around the West Midlands and famous villages such as Stratford-upon-Avon, and also the Cotswolds’ gorgeous rolling hills.

These are the areas where Land Rover first cut its teeth, and even today you’re as likely to see a Land Rover product driving around as you are a Porsche 911 in Los Angeles. They are everywhere.

It must be said that there’s something to clambering into the driver’s seat on the right side rather than the left. They were originally designed for right-hand drive, after all. Another thing: You are also acutely aware of its size. The villages were not designed for SUVs.

But, you want to fit in. Whether it’s driving across a muddy farmer’s field or to a charming inn that is centuries old, the Range Rover Sport is the vehicle to do it in. You’ll be like a local.

Driven to Give: Lexus Lends Support to Arizona Youth

After two decades on the market, the Lexus RX is still the best-selling luxury SUV in the United States. Today, we are driving the new RX 350L (starting at $47,670), a longer version of the popular crossover, which is scheduled to arrive in dealerships later this year. Although the wheelbase stays the same, the RX L is 4.3 inches longer than the standard RX and is fitted with a third row. It can be configured to seat six when equipped with second-row captain’s chairs, or seven with a traditional second-row bench.

The deep red hue of our Lexus RX L glimmers in the Arizona sun. Here on the outskirts of Scottsdale, where nearly everything is some shade of beige, the iridescent crimson pops against an otherwise monochromatic landscape. But we don’t have much time to admire the scenery; we’re on a shopping mission to bring back a plethora of toys and sports equipment to the local Boys & Girls Club. And the clock is ticking.

At a local sporting goods store, we load up our cart with items on a list that Lexus has provided: footballs, basketballs, soccer equipment, and games. Our assignment is one of many philanthropic programs sponsored by Lexus, which include charity golf tournaments, a fund-matching program for its dealers, and an Eco Challenge, which awards grants and scholarships to students who create unique environmental projects to benefit their communities.

A few participants in the Lexus Mission: LUV event to assist the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Phoenix.  Photo: Courtesy Lexus.

Out in the parking lot, our red RX 350L awaits. The power liftgate opens automatically with the wave of a hand over the oval Lexus emblem on the back (unlike some other models, which require a wave of the foot under the back of the car). Power-operated, third-row seats lower automatically with the push of a button. Second-row seats fold down manually, with a bit of coaxing. Our treasure trove fits easily in the cargo hold, which offers up to 58.48 cubic feet of space with the second and third rows folded.

On the drive back from our shopping spree, the RX L proves just as comfortable as it is practical. Leather-wrapped front seats are fitted with heat and ventilation—the latter of which we have cranked full blast on this 85-degree day. Our car is equipped with the Luxury package, which includes gray-toned wood and aluminum interior trim. Our back-seat passenger praises the roominess and support of her second-row captain’s chair, which we kept in place. The 12.3-inch central display, as well as the controls on the instrument panel, are placed high up, keeping the driver’s eyes closer to the road.

The Lexus RX 350L carries a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 290 hp and churns out 263 ft lbs of torque.

The Lexus RX 350L carries a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 290 hp and churns out 263 ft lbs of torque.  Photo: Courtesy Lexus.

Power comes from the same 3.5-liter V-6 used in the standard RX; its 290 hp and 263 ft lbs of torque are enough to pass giant lollygagging pickup trucks off the line and on the interstate. Although we can feel the car’s extra length on tight corners, the RX L remains easy to drive and stays relatively quiet, even when a late-afternoon crosswind whips up along the highway. The RX 350L comes in both front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive configurations. A 450hL hybrid version (from $50,620) pairs the V-6 gasoline engine with an electric motor for a total output of 308 hp, and all-wheel drive comes standard. Safety features on all models include Lane Keeping Assist and radar-based adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic braking are optional.

Soon, we pull off the highway and onto a dirt road leading up to our meeting point, where our Matador Red Mica RX 350L joins fellow participants in a more subdued palette of RX L models, ranging from soft greys to deep metallic browns. We present our goodies to leaders from the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Phoenix, where more than 27,000 young people attend after-school and summer programs. At this point, we bid our RX 350L farewell, watching it glisten one last time under the intense Southwestern sun, having enjoyed our drive and knowing it played a vital role in making many lives a bit better.

Q&A: Bentley’s Design Director on Where the Future May Steer Luxury Cars

The ultra-luxury automotive world is in the midst of a sort of transition we’ve never seen before. With the convergence of electric-propulsion technology and rapid-fire developments in autonomy, many designers are keeping their ideas on a slow simmer—somewhere between the current reality and the one we’re all told is coming. A few, however, have a clear vision of how this direction will likely change things, at least for the top-tier market. We recently sat down with Bentley’s design director, Stefan Sielaff, for a little perspective.

With advancements in technology, how do you see the definition of automotive luxury changing moving forward?

Digitalization is going to happen; this is a fact—we already live in this digital world right now. But as a counter-piece, there is also this demand for something handmade, something with a human touch, with a soul, a kind of artisan mastership that’s representative of a love for detail. And we’re in a great position at Bentley to continue to do those things. But in the end, it will be this yin and yang, the balance of the digital with the artisan and the things we do so well.

Stefan Sielaff, Bentley’s design director.  Photo: Courtesy Bentley Motors.

How will that translate to coming design we might see from Bentley?

Well, for example, we don’t need high bonnets—I mean why? Another thing is the dash-to-axle ratio, which in traditional cars was expressed with a long, longitudinal motor, and this is very typical for Bentley. But do we need this in the future? I personally don’t think so. I think we can express a Bentley by changing the design criteria quite a bit but also showing in the same moment that this is a different architecture, a different product. I think we should differentiate between the combustion world and the electric world. And it has to do with proportions and then the details.

Bentley’s forthcoming electric vehicle will be on an all-new architecture. Is that liberating for the design process?

I personally think that to do a paradigm shift, it can’t be on an existing architecture because then it would only be half of the story. It has to be all new. You have to follow the function in this case, or the technological innovation, and then I think you can do a fantastic design statement. It frees you up on the one hand, but it also makes you very careful because you can’t do damage to the brand. It has to be a Bentley in the end.

Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6E Concept.

The Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6E Concept.  Photo: Courtesy Bentley Motors.

Where will technology and electric range be when Bentley’s electric vehicle arrives?

Well, I’m not a technical prophet, but things are developing rather fast. Battery sizes are getting smaller, and the range is getting bigger. And the question is, really, if we are always talking about long distances. Grand touring is really rather rare these days. You go to the airport, you take a plane, and there you go.

It also has to do with the momentum of time. Things that consume our time are almost forbidden. So grand touring in this kind of climate isn’t really a big story anymore. So for me, luxury can be something you experience in a short-distance trip, where you close your doors in this cocoon, where the air quality is better, where the environment is better. “My car is my castle.” It’s a very British attitude.

Do you see a new direction in materials?

Yes, I think so. We all want to be sporty; we want to look younger than we are. Maybe you eat everything organic, sustainable, vegan, animal-free—and yet we’re using 15 hides of leather for our cars. This is obviously the extreme, and things change bit by bit, but some people will want a car that better aligns with their belief system.

The Bentley Bentayga Hybrid.

The Bentley Bentayga Hybrid.  Photo: Courtesy Bentley Motors.

How else might the future of high-end car design change?

In the long run, I don’t think we’ll need all of these sleek, aerodynamic forms. As you know, you only need aerodynamics from a certain speed onward. And this has to do with consumption. The question is how speedy will we drive—or be driven—in the future?

That could mean a dramatic change. We’re getting a bit more philosophical on the subject, but it could mean that you express the brand to a very small extent in the exterior. Not like today, where you have to fall in love with the exterior.

There could also be social reasons for showing the luxury inside rather than on the outside. It’s difficult to say. Just imagine Marie Antoinette sitting in her golden carriage one day before the French Revolution started. And this can happen, again, very quickly, especially with society changing.

The New BMW X2 and M5 Prove the Thrill of Driving Is Still Alive

It’s an unusually cold day at the Thermal Club, a private racetrack deep in the heart of Southern California’s Coachella Valley. Hidden amongst date palm farms, about an hour’s drive from Palm Springs, the club is also the site of the BMW Performance Center West, a factory-run driving school and delivery center modeled after the original in Spartanburg, N.C.

I take a deep breath from the passenger’s seat as Bill Auberlen hurdles down the front straight of the Palm Circuit in a brand-new M5. It’s the first time for both of us in the latest generation of the car—known to enthusiasts by its internal code, the F90—which was significantly updated late last year. We were in the middle of a conversation, but my train of thought goes out the window and I stop mid-sentence as he brakes hard into the next turn.

“Man, this car is really something,” Auberlen says as our back tires break loose around the apex. He catches it effortlessly and keeps going. As a longtime BMW factory racing driver and brand ambassador, Auberlen would be hard-pressed to bite the hand that feeds him. But one can tell when looking at his face—between my frantic glances out the windshield—that he really means it.

The M5’s power train pairs a 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 with an eight-speed automatic transmission.  Photo: Courtesy BMW.

My turn to drive isn’t nearly as heart-racing, but after the first corner, it’s clear the new M5 marks a return to that stick-it-to-you, driver’s kind of car. A perfectly balanced chassis, for which BMW is famous, keeps everything perfectly in control. The precision of the electric steering, with just the right amount of feedback, eradicates any pining for the hydraulic systems of yore. Even the eight-speed automatic transmission feels superior to the old dual-clutch gearbox. And then there’s the engine, the 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 that makes good use of every one of its 600 horses and 553 ft lbs of torque. For the first time ever, the M5 comes with all-wheel drive, although it is rear-wheel biased in normal driving and can be switched permanently into rear-wheel drive for even more sliding in the corners. All of these improvements come at a premium, however, as the new M5 starts at $103,995, a significant jump from the outgoing model.

When my knees stop quivering from an hour of track driving, I hop into the all-new BMW X2 for a street drive. Introduced this year at the Detroit auto show, the X2 is the brand’s coupe-like, subcompact crossover, built on a platform shared with the BMW X1. Along with the larger X4 and X6, the X2 sports a sleeker roofline while still offering a higher ride height and increased cargo space over a traditional car.

The BMW X2 on a rural road.

The 228 hp X2, BMW’s coupe-like crossover.  Photo: Courtesy BMW.

Going from a 600 hp track hero to a 228 hp crossover may sound like a letdown, but the X2 proved true to BMW’s reputation for being an enthusiast’s vehicle. Once we escaped the town of Thermal’s flat, straight streets and drove into the undulating terrain of Painted Canyon, we put the chassis and steering to the test and found them perfectly tight and capable, especially in Sport mode. Even with its comparatively modest two-liter, twin-turbocharged four-cylinder engine, we kept up just fine with the M3s on the twisty parts of the desert roads. The X2’s only downfall was its considerable wind and road noise at higher speeds.

Despite criticism from those who bemoan BMW’s dizzying number of model choices, the marque seems to be finding its way back to its roots as a true driver’s car. While the company still continues to pursue advanced technology and expand its offerings of electrified vehicles (as every car company must do to survive into the future), it’s reassuring that BMW hasn’t yet abandoned those who really, really love to drive.

Q&A: Lewis Hamilton Gives Us the Lowdown on Life Outside of Racing

Motorsport legend Lewis Hamilton rarely slows down. So when he recently gave us a few minutes, we made the most of it.

What do you do when you’re not racing?

I’m involved in the fashion world, so I go to a lot of fashion shows. And the music side, as well. Every spare day that I have, I fill it with work. I just like being busy.

Speaking of fashion, why did you choose a velvet houndstooth jacket instead of the more conservative look the photographer suggested for our photoshoot?

I never, ever have anyone tell me what to wear. My image is everything. It’s something I’ve worked on for so long … I don’t wanna have to conform to how people feel I should look.

Tell us more about your love of music.

When I was 14, my dad was in a band, and that inspired me. I played guitar and then started to deejay. I couldn’t be in a band because I was always racing. Then I wanted to studymusic at school, but my dad made me study history.

You spend a lot of time in the States, especially Los Angeles. What attracts you to this place?

The world is fascinated by America because everything is generally bigger and better here. And it’s the central hub of entertainment. Growing up in England watching movies, you just dream of one day going to visit those locations.

There has been a lot of talk lately about women in racing and a debate about whether women should drive in F1. What is your opinion on women’s roles in the sport?

There needs to be more women involved. It’s just dudes everywhere. I mean, across the whole spectrum: engineering, marketing. We don’t have any female racing drivers. I’ve got a great aerodynamicist who is female, and she’s just crazy into cars.

You own a 1966 427 Shelby Cobra and a GT500. What is it that draws you to these muscle cars?

I think it’s the normally aspirated engines. I love the roar. The cars are quite flimsy; the technology is terrible. But when you look at the Cobra, it’s so elegant. They don’t make cars like that today.

What is another classic you’d like to own?

The Ferrari California 250 GT Spyder Short Wheelbase [built from 1960 to 1962].

A 1968 Porsche 908 Racer Leads the Field at the RM Sotheby’s Monterey Sale

During the RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale on August 24 and 25, a 1968 Porsche 908 Works “Short-Tail” Coupe will come with a truly special bonus—instant participation in perhaps the most vaunted of Porsche racing car gatherings: Rennsport Reunion.

“Any Porsche 908 race car is quite rare, with only 31 ever built, but this one is especially so being a factory works car,” says David Swig, a specialist with RM Sotheby’s. “It’s a turnkey, ready-to-race 908. And not only can you run it at vintage events like Le Mans and Daytona, but it’s also already entered at Rennsport VI at Laguna Seca in September.”

The sixth iteration of Rennsport will once again bring together some of the finest examples of Porsche’s racing heritage, a history studded with victories at the top levels of motorsport—often despite the marque being an underdog.

One of only 31 examples built, this 908 has already been entered in the next Porsche Rennsport Reunion.  Photo: Courtesy RM Sotheby’s.

That was particularly true in the early days of Zuffenhausen’s road warriors, where the marque’s mid-1950s 550 Spyder shocked Ferrari and other fire-breathing machines. The 550 often bested Maranello’s 12-cylinder sensations thanks to the small but high-revving Fuhrman four-cam, four-cylinder engine that powered the 1,300-pound car.

That auspicious and successful start rolled into the next decade, as a series of cocooned, low-slung Porsche rockets continued to take podium finishes around the world. The car, crossing the block at the Monterey Convention Center, is a best-of-breed example and is one of more than 100 lots slated for the company’s block.

Chassis No. 908-010 started as a factory-built three-liter, eight-cylinder competitor and was piloted by legendary drivers Vic Elford and Jochen Neerpasch at the 1000 Kilometers of Spa-Francorchamps race in 1968. On the hilly and treacherous course, the 908 might have given the Ford GT40 (driven by Jacky Ickx) a run for its money had the car not slid off the track and hit a telephone pole. The accident left Neerpasch with a concussion and the 908 with major damage.

A 1968 Porsche 908 Racer.

Driven by Vic Elford and Jochen Neerpasch, Chassis No. 908-010 competed at the 1000 Kilometers of Spa-Francorchamps race in 1968.  Photo: Courtesy RM Sotheby’s.

The car’s life after that was a familiar one for old racers. First, the Porsche factory put it in storage, given the damage, before the body and chassis were eventually sold to a Swiss collector. Decades later, the 908 made its way to the U.S., where a full restoration in 1999 saw the vehicle eventually return to its former all-white-with-yellow-nose glory in time for 2004’s Rennsport, where a few drivers—including Elford—signed the underside of the rear engine cover.

Over the past dozen years, chassis No. 908-010 has appeared at many vintage racing events and concours, invariably scoring trophies and praise. With a value estimated at up to $2.8 million, this 908 is likely destined for another avid collector’s garage, where it will hopefully be prepped to resume its place on the track.

“This won’t be an impulsive buy for someone at that price,” says Swig, noting that its Porsche 904 and 906 ancestors recently sold at auction for roughly $2 million. “Those are great cars, but if someone is in the market for a classic vintage Porsche racer, the 908 turns up the boost nozzle on both the level of driving intensity and skill required, with 350 hp in a super-light car.”

Has Porsche Perfected the Panamera?

When the Panamera arrived on the scene 8 years ago, purists scoffed at the idea of a four-door, front-engine Porsche (mostly the same naysayers who bemoaned the Cayenne SUV’s introduction a few years earlier). Soon, though, the car was outselling large luxury sedans made by Maserati, Bentley, and Aston Martin combined. Porsche knew that, as with its SUVs, there was a market for a sporty, performance-oriented car with room for a family. Now the marque has unveiled its fastest Panamera ever—a plug-in hybrid, no less—along with a new-body-style version that gains even more practicality without sacrificing looks. The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid (from $184,400) takes inspiration—and a boost function—from the 918 Spyder. Porsche calls it the new flagship of the Panamera lineup, with its 4.4-liter, biturbo V-8 engine and 100 kW electric motor that combine to produce 680 hp and 626 ft lbs of torque. All of the components work in symphony to propel the car from zero to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds—a rate of acceleration on par with the newest Aston Martin Vanquish S, the Bentley Continental GT Supersports, and the Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon.

The car is just as much a handful to drive as its name is a mouthful to say. We tested the Turbo S E-Hybrid’s chops at Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, a private racetrack nestled in the forest about an hour northwest of Victoria, British Columbia. Compact and highly technical, the track boasts 19 turns and dramatic elevation changes in just 1.4 miles—a layout better suited to a 911 than a 5,100-pound four-door. The Panamera, however, managed the corners with the help of systems such as PTM (Porsche Traction Management) and PSM (Porsche Stability Management—or, as our driving instructor called it, “Please Save Me”). Over blind crests and around late-apex turns, the car stayed settled. Gear changes were imperceptible, courtesy of a new version of Porsche’s 8-speed, dual-clutch PDK transmission paired with an electric clutch actuator. And the brakes bit hard, with standard carbon-ceramic rotors and lime-green calipers—another tip of the hat to the 918 Spyder.

The Turbo S E-Hybrid’s zero-to-60-mph time is no doubt impressive, but the real pin-you-to-your-seat moments come at higher speeds. The car’s boost technology helps propel it from 62 to 125 mph almost a full second faster than the conventional Panamera Turbo (although we ran out of straightaway to really put it to the test).

Different drive modes take the plug-in hybrid from electric daily commuter to all-out track car. By default, it starts up in pure electric mode, but the gas engine will kick in when you push down hard on the accelerator or when the car is running low on battery reserves. (On electricity alone, the Turbo S E-Hybrid can go about 30 miles.) With a turn of the mode switch on the steering wheel, the driver can also select Hybrid Auto mode, which automatically transitions between gas and electric for optimum efficiency. The E-Charge mode favors the gas engine to help charge the battery, while the Sport and Sport Plus selections use the gas engine continually, with an electric boost when needed.

Porsche is famous for its long list of options that can add tens of thousands of dollars to a sticker price, but the Turbo S E-Hybrid comes standard with the Sport Chrono package, dynamic chassis control, ceramic brakes, Torque Vectoring Plus, Active Suspension Management, and 21-inch turbo design wheels. Also included is auxiliary cabin climate control, which can precool and heat the car via a timer or remotely with its smartphone app (also compatible with the Apple watch). For the most part, the cockpit is identical to those of its Panamera siblings, with the exception of some displays specific to the plug-in variant.

Among the Turbo S E-Hybrid’s siblings are four new Panamera Sport Turismo models (from $96,200). Known to Europeans as shooting brakes, the cars could, theoretically, be called wagons—although the description seems vulgar for such an elegant design. The Sport Turismo looks, in many ways, as a Panamera should have always looked. Its voluminous rear brings its proportions into harmony, complementing the long wheelbase.

Ferdinand Porsche, the marque’s founder, once said, “Design must be functional, and functionality must be translated into visual aesthetics without any reliance on gimmicks that have to be explained.” The Sport Turismo’s functionality is obvious, with increased space and a lower trunk floor for easier loading and unloading. Yet despite Ferdinand’s dictum, the vehicle employs some design cues that are worth explaining. It has a slightly different rear-end design compared to the latest sedan, new extended wheelhouses, and a new integrated roof spoiler—featuring active aerodynamics—with three positions to adjust downforce as necessary.

Adhering to the basic design criteria for all Porsches, the Sport Turismo’s centerline is lowered compared to the fenders, and its narrow waist highlights the hips. The bigger dash-to-axle ratio evokes memories of the 928, a milestone car in Porsche’s history, and the longer roof is supported by a dynamic D-pillar that lightens the mass of the rear overhang. Several elements pay homage to the 911, including rear wheels that hug the ground thanks to elongated, muscular lines in an “anti-wedge” shape. And the rear light hearkens back to the 911 G model, produced from 1974 to 1988.

Under the hood are many of the same engines offered with the sedan, save for the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid’s. We savored the Turbo Sport Turismo model on the winding back roads of Vancouver Island, kicking up dust and listening to that amazing exhaust sound. More open space in the rear of the car usually equates to more noise in the cabin, but in this case, the engineers did a superb job quelling any additional ambient sound.

The Sport Turismo models also offer ample rear headroom and legroom. And unlike the Panamera sedan—which exclusively uses a 2+2 layout—the shooting brake can be equipped with a bench seat to accommodate three rear passengers.

In all, the new Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid and Sport Turismo models are the perfect complements to Porsche’s existing array of cars, offering not only increased utility but also the cool factor of driving something unusual in a world full of staid SUVs. Curmudgeonly purists, you’ve been warned.

By the Numbers: Porsche Panamera

4 Number of Panamera Sport Turismo variants available in the States

198.7 Length of the Panamera Sport Turismo, in inches

20Seconds of additional boost with the Sport Response button on Panameras equipped with the Sport Chrono package

1,455 Watts in the Panamera’s optional Burmester 3D surround-sound system

49 Cubic feet of maximum cargo space in the Sport Turismo

37.4 The Sport Turismo’s turning radius, in feet

110 Additional pounds of downforce created by the Sport Turismo’s roof, which transforms into an adaptive spoiler

192 Top speed of the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, in mph

12:06 Record-breaking lap time, in minutes, set by the Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo in December 2017 for towing a trailer around Germany’s Nürburgring racetrack

We Rally Together 6 Vehicles for Summer with Speed, Agility, and Throttle to Thrill

We understand that the best adventures are facilitated by a set of wheels that’s just as thrilling as the excursion itself. Since summer is nearing, we wanted to offer you the best of the best vehicles that are sure to cater to a variety of ventures—and personalities. To honor the summer-loving style-monger, we chose a Shelby GT500 Mustang for a head-turning cruise in downtown. Those seeking a blood-pumping romp in the mountains or across the desert, can get behind the F450 Ford Super Duty, powered by a 6.7 liter V-9 Turbodiesel engine. And don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the eco-conscious driver with a need for speed, or the outdoor fanatic who wants to fit their life inside a custom sprinter van. Read on to find the perfect vehicle to accelerate your summer travels.

Dinan’s BMW M550i xDrive Is Family-Friendly (Yet Full of Fury)

Hyperbole is the hallmark of advertising, and the automotive industry is no exception. Take, for example, BMW’s tagline “the Ultimate Driving Machine.” The familiar phrase seems fundamentally outdated when considering the likes of the latest from Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Bugatti. But then I was invited to spend time behind the wheel of a new Dinan BMW M550i xDrive, and the German marque’s motto no longer seemed so far-fetched.

Known to BMW devotees, Alabama-based Dinan has been one of the definitive tuners of the brand, bolstering multiple facets of every car in its charge without compromising the automaker’s engineering and warranty.

“Dinan believes that every driver deserves to get the most from their vehicle,” says Dinan engineer Philip Munoz. “And as North America’s premier tuner of BMW and other European marques, we are dedicated to a single overriding objective: to develop the fastest, best-handling, and most reliable street-legal cars available anywhere. This is what the original Dinan mantra, ‘Performance without Sacrifice,’ is all about.”

The car’s Driving Dynamics Control features three modes—Sport, Eco Pro, and Comfort.  Photo: Courtesy Dinan.

In the case of Dinan’s M550i xDrive, that mantra is manifested impressively. The souped-up BMW 5 Series sedan has been given several enhancement packages, including what Dinan dubs the Dinantronics Performance Tuner–Stage 1. The upgrade integrates computer hardware and software systems that help give the 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 engine a total of 606 hp and the ability to generate 635 ft lbs of torque. That’s another 170 horses and 155 ft lbs of torque compared to the standard model.

“We want the most power we can deliver without sacrificing the reliability or the longevity of the engine,” says Munoz. “In the case of the M550i, the desire was to hit 600 bhp without having a bunch of supplemental parts added to the mix in order to achieve that, which we were able to accomplish.”

The engine in the Dinan BMW M550i xDrive.

Upgrades help the 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 engine make 606 hp and generate 635 ft lbs of torque.  Photo: Courtesy Dinan.

On a sun-soaked stretch of Southern California’s Pacific Coast Highway, I had to fight the urge to flatten the accelerator and submit to the surge of power, but traffic and the inevitable ticket kept temptation in check. Once off the touristy artery, though, I selected Sport mode—one of three, including Eco Pro and Comfort, offered through the car’s Driving Dynamics Control feature—and effortlessly crested Malibu’s Decker Canyon Road while using the paddle shifters to seamlessly transition through the gears of the 8-speed transmission.

Along the way, the engine’s rich song resonated off the flanking cliff band, a soundtrack amplified by Dinan’s new G30 M550i exhaust. The black tips are double-walled and measure 4 inches in diameter, Dinan’s largest to date. In addition, the system’s stainless-steel Dinan High Flow Mid-pipe lightens the load while heightening the harmonics.

Exhaust pies on the Dinan BMW M550i xDrive.

Dinan’s new G30 M550i exhaust system includes double-walled black tips that measure 4 inches in diameter.  Photo: Courtesy Dinan.

Complementing the engine’s chorus is the car’s superbly orchestrated suspension, which has been further refined by Dinan’s performance spring set, along with the tuner’s ride quality and handling kits. These component combinations improve spring stiffness by 15 percent and lessen front and rear compression, which, for me, translated to greater confidence in the corners as I made my descent back to sea level.

During the Saturday and Sunday that the four-door was in my possession, I made sure to share the ride experience with various passengers—each becoming equally enamored with the example. It didn’t hurt that the cabin came with 20-way front seats dressed in Dakota leather, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system, and tony trim that included illuminated cobalt-blue piping along the perimeter.

The Dinan BMW M550i xDrive.

The interior’s impressive instrumentation and driver displays.  Photo: Courtesy Dinan.

When it was time to surrender the sedan, I reassessed my original take on BMW’s tagline. Despite Dinan’s help, the M550i xDrive still can’t be called the ultimate driving machine when considered objectively. However, for me and a few friends that weekend, it certainly was.