7 lessons from 2,300 miles in Cadillac’s new partial self-driving car

DETROIT -- J. Geils band is playing Detroit Breakdown on the Bose audio, but it’s all good. I’ve got Cadillac’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system under the hood and 1,100 miles of highway ahead of me between the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes.Boogie on, self-driving Caddy.This is my second experience with the Super Cruise, but the earlier drive was much shorter.Before the engineers and lawyers jump all over me: “Self-driving” is a slight overstatement, but it’s hard not to be excited by Super Cruise’s performance and potential.The 2018 Cadillac CT6 doesn't quite drive itself, but it comes closer than you can imagine, and I enjoyed the results more than I could have expected. Over the course of 2,300 miles in a recent drive from Detroit to New Orleans and back, Super Cruise showed it’s a major step toward fully autonomous vehicles that require no human intervention. Its radars, cameras and electronically controlled brakes, acceleration and steering allowed the 2018 Cadillac CT6 luxury sedan to virtually drive itself for nearly 90% of the trip.This is not a dream “someday, cars will drive themselves” feature. Super Cruise is available now. It’s standard on the top-of-the-line $84,295 CT6 Platinum and a $5,000 option on the $65,295 CT6 Premium Luxury.Expect Cadillac to add Super Cruise to other vehicles quickly, and GM to roll the feature out across its three other brands.Super Cruise works on restricted access highways in the U.S. and Canada. Essentially, it steers the car from the time you leave the entrance ramp until you’re ready to exit the highway.Super Cruise accelerates and brakes to keep pace with other vehicles or hold any speed you set up to 85 miles per hour. The driver has to touch the steering wheel briefly to change lanes, and take full control in some construction zones and on surface roads with cross traffic, stop lights, etc. A facial recognition system watches to makes Continue Reading

Short Report: The all-wheel-drive 2017 Dodge Challenger GT is a winter road warrior

Full Car Details More Reviews Storms had rolled through the area earlier in the week, not the typical snow showers often seen in midwinter New England, but rain; not enough to wash away the compressed accumulation on the sparsely traveled back roads, just enough to create a fresh layer of ice. These were far from the ideal conditions for a leisurely drive in a powerful muscle car, yet there I was, cruising over frozen snow and sand in a Dodge Challenger, hoping that a particularly slick spot wouldn’t send my drive partner and me careening into one of the trees lining the narrow roadway. But a love for performance driving, after all, is not weather contingent—few things have that luxury in the American Northeast and Midwest. Fortunately, this particular vehicle was not the rear-wheel-powered speed machine that has so endeared the Challenger to driving enthusiasts since its 2008 resurrection. No, my vehicle during this precarious journey was the 2017 Challenger GT, the first muscle car to offer all-wheel-drive. Inspired by the success of Dodge’s all-wheel-drive Charger and developed from the adaptive drivetrain platform used in the law enforcement-oriented Charger Pursuit, the Challenger GT boasts vehicle dynamic control and electric stability systems that inspire confidence, even in slippery driving conditions. Meanwhile, the default two-wheel-drive mode keeps the Challenger’s signature speed and straightaway power alive and well. Dodge flew a few dozen automotive journalists and me up to Portland, Maine and put us up in a nice hotel while we put the new Challenger GT to the test, doing things that would register somewhere between ill-advised and suicidal with an average muscle car, including drifting around (and sometimes into) massive snow banks, whipping through a frosty go-kart course and, yes, cruising those treacherous country roads. But, of course, Continue Reading

2017 Audi A4 will offer 6-speed manual transmission with standard all-wheel drive

Don’t write the eulogy for the Audi stick shift just yet. Sad as it may be for driving purists, manual transmissions are disappearing from vehicle spec sheets left and right, and the German luxury brand is no exception: upcoming versions of its performance-oriented S4, as well as the A5 and S5 Sportbacks, will all 86 the stick. But fear not, three peddle enthusiasts; Audi is not just keeping human-operated gearboxes alive, it’s using the technology to attract performance-minded buyers to its all-new A4, promoting it as the only entry-level luxury sedan with both a manual transmission and all-wheel drive capabilities. While the manual transmission has been dropped from many nameplates in the interest of saving money, Audi has actually invested in it. Healthy doses of lightweight magnesium, open gear wheels, hollow shafts and a smaller clutch help Audi trim more than 35 pounds off its 2016 transmission and give the 2017 A4 an improved power-to-weight ratio. Audi also cut almost nine pounds from its Quattro all-wheel drive platform. Lighter machinery paired with an updated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine help the A4 kick out 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, both sizeable steps up from last year’s 220-hp, 258 lb.-ft. of torque outputs. In addition to the standard Quattro all-wheel drive system, the 2017 A4’s manual variant offers an exclusive Sport plus package that includes cast aluminum 18-inch wheels, Daytona Gray paint, S line leather interior, sports seats, stainless steel pedal caps and a flat-bottom steering wheel. Dynamic steering and a sport adaptive suspension that drops ride height by about an inch, both of which were limited to the S4 in the past, also are available in the manual A4. The A4 is a well-respected entry-level luxury sedan, but Audi has its work cut out for it in a competitive segment. It trails the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3-Series, Acura TLX and Lexus IS Continue Reading

Fun-der the radar: 7 of the most unexpectedly fun-to-drive cars and SUVs for sale in 2016

Automotive enthusiasts are a lucky bunch in 2016. From punchy micro hatchbacks like the hilariously fun Ford Fiesta ST to rip-roaring halo cars like the Mercedes-AMG GT, there’s a lot to be thankful for in the world of fun cars this year. But not every fun car comes with a garish paint job, big wheels, or an ‘SS’ badge. For your driving enjoyment, we’ve compiled a list of our seven favorite fun-to-drive cars that often fly under the radar. GET YOUR ENGINES REVVING WITH THE DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. ‘LIKE’ US HERE. Buick Regal GS If you had said 10 years ago that one of the most fun-to-drive compact luxury cars would wear a Buick badge, we’d have looked at you like you had three heads. But, lo-and-behold, a tossable European sports sedan for a reasonable price wears the triple shield, and is fully worth your attention. Sporting a punchy 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, the Regal GS makes a respectable 259 hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Oh, and did we mention it’s available with all-wheel-drive? BMW be damned, this Buick could be the perfect all-season sports sedan for you. Cadillac CTS Yeah, you read that right. Cadillac, makers of some of the largest and most luxurious American cars the world has ever seen (and likely builders of one of your grandparents' automobiles) has become a new standard in fun-to-drive luxury cars. With an advanced chassis, available magnetic ride suspension, and a punchy turbocharged powertrain or smooth V6, the CTS is the chief example of Cadillac's sporting intentions, and many (ourselves included) have said that it's even more fun than a BMW 5 Series. It seems Cadillac has out-BMW-ed the Germans for the time being, so enjoy it while it lasts. BUYER'S GUIDE: 2016 CADILLAC CTS Ford Edge Sport Sometimes the name "Sport" - when added to a crossover, Continue Reading

Crazy camping cars – BMW electrics to all-wheel-drive Lamborghinis

What does it take to go camping these days? Die-hard campers swear by nothing more than a tent and a swath of multi-tools, while some outdoor enthusiasts prefer hauling everything they own atop a camper. When a clean toilet and the occasional connection to a 4G network are seen as luxury amenities, it’s vital that your choice of camping vehicle be well thought-out. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. 'LIKE US HERE.' Whether your camp site is in the hinterlands, or in your very own backyard (stocked with scary stories and a bag of marshmallows), consider these choices for a most memorable experience: All-in-one glamping: 2015 Airstream Interstate Grand Tour Who says that all camping trips must conform to be down-and-dirty affairs? After spending a limited amount of time with the Airstream Interstate Grand Tour, we can confirm that there is plenty of joy in stylishly arriving, parking, and relaxing. Although the Interstate shares fun-to-drive attributes with the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, upon which it’s based, the real pleasure is luxuriating in the rear compartment. A full kitchen offers a world of possibilities at the camp site, as does an airplane-size bathroom with a working shower. Rent or buy one, and instantly become the darling of the van contingent at every campsite. Vital Stats: 2015 Airstream Interstate Grand Tour Price: $155,060 (excluding destination fee, includes donor Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500) Powertrain: Rear-wheel drive, 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine, 188-hp, 325 lb.-ft. of torque, 5-speed automatic transmission Best camping feature: Enhancing the greater outdoors, from within. Haul any trailer: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado diesel If your idea of camping involves tailgating and long nights staring at the stars, there are few pickup trucks that do it better than the Chevrolet Colorado diesel. The standard Colorado – and its sibling, the Continue Reading

BMW’s 340i xDrive is an annoyingly great all-wheel-drive luxury sedan

Full Car Details More Reviews I love rooting for the underdog, always have. When I was a kid, growing up in Wisconsin (in the pre-Brett Favre era), my other favorite footballs teams included the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, and New Orleans Saints. Want to know why? It’s because they all stunk, each one was routinely as god-awful as my beloved and beleaguered 1980s Packers. Oh, and for the record, guess which formerly bad football teams I kind of can’t stand right now? (The Saints get a pass, pun intended. Who dat’ say dey gonna hate dem Saints?) BE SURE TO FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS AUTOS TEAM ON FACEBOOK So now here I am, with the Tom Brady of luxury sport sedans, the 2016 BMW 340i xDrive Sedan. The 3 Series has been the standard bearer of its segment for so long, it’s hard to remember a time when this Bavarian-built sedan wasn’t the target all other automakers were chasing. Mercedes-Benz and Audi certainly haven’t been asleep at the wheel. And Cadillac is definitely taking some enormous strides to regain its iconic, but dust-covered, “standard of the world” title from long ago. In the meantime, BMW keeps refining, updating and improving the 3 Series, the sedan with a bulls-eye on its back. By and large, the changes are always for the better – though let’s ignore bizarre niche models, like the hunchbacked Gran Turismo variant. Unless you’re saving up for the wild M3 sport sedan, the 340i model is the most powerful version of the ‘regular’ 3 Series range. Powered by a turbocharged inline-6 cylinder engine, coupled to an 8-speed automatic gearbox, this powertrain delivers 320-horsepower and a stout 330 lb.-ft. of torque at a low 1,380 rpm. This means there is no perceptible turbo lag, no hesitation from the engine whatsoever as speed and revs climb. Fitting the 340i with Continue Reading

Surmount the snow with 7 of the best used all-wheel-drive winter cars for under $10,000

Whether this is your first snowy winter or your umpteenth, all-wheel-drive makes the necessary treks through the powder a whole lot easier. But if you’re not in the market for a brand new car, fret not! We’ve found 7 of the best used all-wheel-drive cars for under $10,000 that will soldier on for thousands more traction-filled miles. Grab a mug of cocoa and cozy up to the first in our 4-part series of the best winter-friendly used cars, SUVs, luxury vehicles, and trucks. 2002-2006 Subaru WRX It’s no surprise that we kick off our list with the holy grail of fun, affordable, all-wheel-drive cars. Since its introduction to the U.S. market in 2002, the Subaru WRX has been the go-to choice for rally fans, speed enthusiasts on a budget, and snowy fun-seekers around the country. Used examples will go for thousands more miles with proper care, so don’t be scared of any examples you find that boast well over 100,000 on the odometer. With the famous 2.0-liter turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder under the hood and a 5-speed manual (or 4-speed automatic, if you must), over 200-horsepower, and fuel economy to match many modern small cars, the WRX sedan and wagon make a strong case for being the ultimate winter ride. 2006-2013 Suzuki SX4 Hatchback That’s right, a Suzuki! I bet you didn’t know that for the last 7 years, before the company’s recent departure from the U.S. car market, Suzuki offered one of the most capable and affordable all-wheel-drive cars. The SX4 was available with all-wheel-drive in hatchback form only, and had the guts and capability to match Subarus and Toyotas of the time. With a 6-speed manual or a CVT, you could make the most of the SX4’s 140-horsepower 4-cylinder. Okay, it was no speed demon – but that’s why we kicked things off with the spry WRX. Models less than 3 years old with fewer than 60,000 miles Continue Reading

Tesla’s ‘D’ adds all-wheel drive, safety features

HAWTHORNE, Calif. — Taking the stage before an adoring crowd, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk played both catch up and leap frog. At an open-to-the-public unveiling Thursday night that included bumping music, free alcohol and test rides on an airport tarmac, Musk unveiled a new version of the luxury electric car maker’s Model S sedan that includes all-wheel drive and self-driving “auto pilot” features. With more than 1,000 Tesla fans in the audience, Musk explained that while the current Model S is a rear-wheel-drive car with one motor, a new version will have two motors — one powering the front wheels and one powering the rear wheels. All-wheel drive helps grip slippery roads and is standard on many luxury sedans. Analysts have said Tesla needed it to boost sales in the Northeast and Midwest, as well as Europe. The company sold 13,850 cars in the U.S. this year through September, down 3 percent from a year ago, according to Autodata Corp. Musk said unlike all-wheel-drive systems on gas-powered cars, Tesla’s system improves the speed, acceleration and mileage by optimizing which motor is used. The dual motor version of the P85 performance sedan will have a top speed of 155 mph, compared with the current 130 mph. It will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds, akin to exotic sports cars. “This car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck,” Musk said at a municipal airport near Los Angeles where another of Musk’s companies — the commercial rocket firm SpaceX — is based. The crowd obliged with cheers and applause. Tesla is also significantly upgrading its safety features through a combination of radar, image-recognition cameras and sonar. The Model S will steer itself back if it wanders from its lane and brake automatically if it is about to hit something. Those features are Continue Reading

Lexus ES 350 shows that Lexus still means luxury, a cut above the Toyota Camry

When Lexus trotted out its initial two-model lineup in 1989, my family happened to have a 1987 Toyota Camry in our garage. The new Lexus ES 250, least expensive of the Lexuses, looked suspiciously like our Camry, almost identical except for wheels and trim. I was skeptical — a Camry with a Lexus badge costs thousands of dollars more? In 2007, Lexus rolled out the fifth-generation ES, now called the Lexus ES 350 to signify its 3.5-liter V6 engine. The ES is still Camry-esque, though the Camry model is hidden deep inside, and what it contributes to the ES is pretty much all good, especially the punchy drivetrain and well-designed chassis. Or do I have that backward? I think engineers now design for the ES 350 and trickle down the improvements to the Camry. This is an industrywide trend; indeed, it’s good news for those of us who can only afford the bleacher seats. For the 2010 model year, Lexus freshened the ES with a new grille, headlights and taillights, two more air bags (for a total of 10) and electronic amenities, including the updated Lexus navigation system that understands conversational spoken commands. Unlike competing models from those Germans and Nissan’s Infiniti, the ES is a front-wheel drive car, not rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. Base ES 350 sticker price is about $35,700, though most units will be equipped to sell in the upper $30,000s to low $40,000s. The only engine available is the 3.5-liter V6 used widely in Toyota and Lexus models with some tuning differences. Fuel consumption during my week in the ES 350, which included a 430-mile run from Austin to the Big Bend, averaged 26.4 mpg. The ES’ ride is soft and comfortable; acceleration is brisk but not exhilarating. It felt heavy and solid, and tire noise was effectively muted. The ES remains a relatively inexpensive, conservative choice for luxury buyers who don’t require a sporty chassis or V8 power, or the cachet that is presumed to come with Continue Reading

Honda needs to bring back these cool cars

We like Honda, a lot. From the economical Civic and family-minded Accord, to the Acura brand’s suave MDX sport-utility and upcoming NSX supercar; when it comes to product, Honda has a lot of great stuff. But from time to time, when we’re feeling especially sentimental, the Daily News Autos team looks back on some of the cars that Honda inexplicably brushed aside. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. ‘LIKE’ US HERE. The legendary little CRX, famed for its frugality and razor-sharp handling, was supposed to be reborn with the similarly petite CR-Z. But with more of a focus on hybrid tech and EPA economy numbers, the CR-Z lacked the sparkle and sizzle of its much loved ancestor. With that being said, allow us to present a wide range of cars that Honda should consider reviving, to help regain the brand’s legendary engineering edge, along with the youthful appeal that made Honda the darling of everyone from suburban families on a budget, to metro-based tuners with a need for speed. S2000 The S2000 was like a Mazda MX-5 Miata, but with much more of a Sega Genesis look and feel to it. The first models were famous for having an insatiable appetite for revs. In other words, you had to ping that digital tachometer all the way to 9,000 rpm to get the most of the S2000’s wild and wonderful little 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. In fact, when it was new, this naturally-aspirated engine had the highest horsepower output in terms of power-per-displacement of any car on the planet. Double wishbone suspension, a rigid chassis, and precise 6-speed manual all made the S2000 convertible a driving delight with unlimited headroom. CRX We’re not going to lie; the Honda CRX is no beauty queen! That truncated tail isn’t everyone’s idea of automotive seduction, but the real charm of the CRX is found inside, specifically from the perspective of the driver’s Continue Reading