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

Flash Drive: The power of technology and the thrill of the drive come together in the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400

Full Car Details More Reviews Technology is a good thing. It enables the advancement of ideas, propels evolution, and pushes forward efforts around innovation. At its best, the pursuit of technology turns the imagination of dreams into real and actual things you and I can use to create a better experience. So it is with the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400. This is an enthusiast’s car, one enhanced with technology to be better, and to go faster, than ever before. To that end, I drove a luxed-up Q50 Red Sport 400 around a short loop of select corners and with plenty of space to run. As with all Red Sport 400s, the all-wheel-drive test vehicle was powered by a sweet 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine making 400 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission, with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. The Q50 Red Sport 400 wears 19-inch alloys with run-flat tires, and sport brakes wearing racy red calipers. Additional features that come as part of the $53,000 sticker price include special exterior and interior design cues, and Red Sport 400 exhaust tips. My ride also came with two optional packages: a Sensory Package featuring the Bose Performance Series 16-speaker surround sound system, and the Nissan Proactive Package featuring electronic helpers like a lane departure prevention system, adaptive front lighting, and distance control assist. All in, the sticker price of my test vehicle was $61,710. That’s a lot. Sound garden And it feels like a lot, as well, when you’re sitting inside the cabin. The seats are comfortable and snug, with quilted bolsters that hold you in place during aggressive driving. Black leather abounds, with chrome trim and with double red stitching throughout, including the shifter. Overall, the materials have a substantial quality feel to them, from the buttons and door panel inserts to the Continue Reading

First Drive: With the redesigned 2017 5 Series, BMW plans for the future while preserving its past

Full Car Details More Reviews Even as it hurtles toward a future of ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles, BMW says that its vehicles will always be about choice, that even when we’re all passengers in self-driven cars the company will always provide its customers with an Ultimate Driving Machine – when he or she wants it to be. As evidence, look no further than the redesigned 2017 BMW 5 Series, which is simultaneously the fastest, most efficient, and most technologically advanced 5 Series in history. This car is clearly designed around its driver, intended to make his or her life simpler, safer, more comfortable, more rewarding, and more enjoyable. At the same time, it dips additional tire treads into the future, adding new autonomous technologies that might not be particularly useful today, but will come in handy tomorrow. When the new 5 Series goes on sale in February of 2017, it will be offered as the 530i (turbocharged 4-cylinder) and 540i (turbocharged 6-cylinder) with or without an xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Prices start at $51,200. By summer, BMW will add a plug-in hybrid called the 530e iPerformance (estimated 15 miles of electric range and almost 70 MPGe), which commands a nominal $200 premium over the standard 530i. A new M550i also arrives mid-year, the latter claimed by the automaker to be “the fastest 5 Series we have ever offered” with an acceleration time of 3.9 seconds to 60 mph. Yeah, that “fastest” claim includes all previous versions of the M5. With recent drives of the Cadillac CT6, Jaguar XF, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo S90 fresh in memory, I headed to San Francisco and its surrounding environs to sample the new 5 Series for a day. Based on this initial experience with BMW’s 2017 5 Series, I’m confident in reporting that it represents a dynamic benchmark within its segment if not a leader in terms of design Continue Reading

Ratings and Review: Buick plugs a hole in its SUV lineup with the China-sourced 2017 Envision

Full Car Details More Reviews Buick is a quilt of cars and crossover SUVs sourced from around the world, a pastiche of vehicles of American, European, and Asian heritage, bound together by common styling themes and components shared with other General Motors models. In other words, Buick reflects the broader market, which could help to explain why the brand is enjoying greater sales combined with younger buyers. More likely, Buick’s success is due to the Encore and Enclave crossover SUVs. One is tiny, a subcompact dressed up with luxury cues. The other is enormous, providing more space for people and cargo than most of its competitors. Buick’s cars – the Verano (cancelled after 2017), the impressive Regal, the excellent but ignored LaCrosse, and the Cascada convertible – are basically DOA. Last year, Buick rolled out a new crossover SUV to keep its momentum going. Arriving late, and in limited quantities, the new Buick Envision plugged a hole in the crossover lineup, offering a larger alternative to the Encore without the substantial girth of the Enclave. For 2017, the Envision lineup expands, the supply pipeline from the Chinese factory now full. A compact crossover SUV with luxury leanings, the Envision is available in standard, Preferred, Essence, Premium, and Premium II trim levels. Depending on the version, buyers have a choice between a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. All-wheel drive is optional with the base engine and standard with the turbocharged engine. Prices start at $34,990 (more than a loaded Honda CR-V Touring costs). My test vehicle, a Premium II model with metallic paint, a Driver Confidence Package, and a power panoramic sunroof, rang up at a frankly ludicrous $49,320. This is an appealing little crossover, but it’s not compelling to the tune of 50 grand. Design: 7.0 rating Continue Reading

First Drive: In the redesigned 2017 CR-V, Honda refines rather than reinvents its recipe for a compact crossover SUV

Full Car Details More Reviews I’ll let you in on a secret: Honda allowed me to drive its all-new 2017 CR-V nearly a month ago, but they didn’t want me to tell anyone about it. Typically, this is no big deal as automakers often impose blackouts on driving impressions as they want the information to break simultaneously at all news outlets. But that wasn’t the case this time. Instead, Honda was worried that its completely redesigned fifth-generation CR-V was so much better than the outgoing fourth-generation model that consumers wouldn’t desire it anymore. Honda’s concern was genuine, but its actions were far too cautious. The retiring CR-V is one of the automaker’s best-selling vehicles, and is more than capable of holding its ground against its closest competitors. But yes, the redesigned 2017 Honda CR-V is a better compact crossover SUV. You want this new version, not the old one. Completely redesigned to be slightly larger and more spacious The 2017 CR-V is a fresh-sheet design that shares platform architecture with the award-winning Honda Civic. Honda knows that each previous CR-V model has been a hit, so instead of reinventing the wheel (and potentially alienating loyal customers) it chose to tweak, refine and polish what was right with last year’s model and apply each of those improvements to the new one. That said, the new model is roomier, safer, more powerful and more luxurious than the model it replaces — it has gone upscale. Compare the old CR-V with the new CR-V side-by-side and they don’t look all that different. The new one is, unmistakably, a CR-V. A closer look reveals a front fascia with a brighter grille (and LED headlights on premium trims), and a new taillamp design that incorporates the trademark high-mounted lights while wrapping them around the tailgate. The exhaust pipes, which were Continue Reading

First Drive: Rolling over boulders and rocks in the 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon is good, clean, dirty fun

Full Car Details More Reviews Out in the red rock desert of Nevada, only fifty miles from the Las Vegas Strip but a world away, a black raven circled above us mere humans as we negotiated the wilderness in the new 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon. Unbound by gravity or fuel, one raven became two. A mountain goat then mocked our reliance on iron horses to traverse near-verticals, rocks, boulders and rugged terrain. For the local wildlife, that’s child’s play. They dispense with it in seconds. But they’d never survive the B & D, the 1 & 9 or the F train out to Coney Island. So, for all creatures great and small, I’ll call it even. Go ahead and judge by the cover; a six-passenger mountain goat Fiat-Chrysler’s Ram truck division has never been more aptly named than now, with this latest iron horse – iron Clydesdale, more accurately – a 7,000-pound, body-on-frame, rock-crawling, stump-pulling, never-say-die pickup called the Power Wagon. And the numbers beneath the skin, like horsepower, angle of approach, and water fording depth, impress the woodsiest backwoodsmen among us. There’s a major point here not to be missed, though. This book? Ignore your mother. Do judge it by its cover. The Power Wagon’s brawny exterior befits a rock-crawler.Chrome is purged, replaced with a blacked-out grille, a chip-resistant powder-coated front bumper with an integrated winch, and black 8-spoke / 8-lug wheels with a machined surface. Other trim pieces are finished either in black or body color, though the standard two-tone color scheme with black lower body panels can be deleted. The tailgate wears perhaps the largest branding and logo work in the western world. “Power Wagon” logos also run vertically up the sides of the bed, echoing those of the old W-150 truck from the late 1970s. Lastly, running lights atop the Continue Reading

Short Report: TFW turbo – as in the 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo – is a misnomer

It pains me to say this, but the 2017 Sentra SR Turbo is a whole lot of empty hope. When “turbo” is not only part of a vehicle’s name but also slapped onto its rear for all to see, this means it’s going to be fun, right? For the newest member of the Sentra lineup, not so much. The Sentra nameplate has been around for 35 years, with its seventh generation receiving a refresh just last model year, but that doesn’t matter because the model still feels…basic. Nissan sales are on the rise, and the Sentra closed out 2015 with a not-too-shabby 203,509 vehicles, which is an 11 percent increase. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that for all the brand’s momentum, some of its models are left to languish. Competition is fiercer than ever in the compact car segment as consumers are not necessarily looking for a cheap commuter but an affordable bells-and-whistles hauler. And when compared to the rest of the class, the Sentra lags in almost every way that not even an alleged performance-oriented iteration should make it a top choice. Bigger engine, little else The Sentra SR Turbo is the first North American market Sentra to boast a turbocharged engine, which sounds like a great idea (on paper). Utilizing the same 1.6-liter direct injection gasoline engine found in the Juke subcompact SUV, the new Sentra SR Turbo produces 188 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 177 lb.-ft. of torque – a significant increase from the 130 horsepower, 128 lb.-ft. of torque produced in the non-turbocharged 1.8-liter engine of other Sentra models. The Sentra SR Turbo is available with a six-speed manual transmission and Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission, both of which are tuned to the vehicle’s unique power band and torque curve. Enhancements were also made to the suspension, steering and brakes to improve driving feel. These changes include a 10 percent increase in front Continue Reading

Review: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class serves as new benchmark in executive sedan segment

Mercedes-Benz is launching a brand-new 2017 E-Class, preceding redesigns of the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series by about one year, in the process setting the stage for next classic battle in the executive sedan segment. I’ve spent extensive time behind the wheel of the new E-Class, sampling three different versions of the car, and have come to the conclusion that it represents the new benchmark not only among this trio, but also every other luxury sedan selling for about 60 grand. For one thing, it is a benchmark in terms of design. Classic beauty characterizes the new E-Class sedan’s lines, further polishing the styling language that was launched with the current S-Class and refined with the latest C-Class. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. 'LIKE' US HERE. Two styling variations are offered. One version of the car includes the classic chrome grille and the upright star ornament on the hood, while the other version features the sporty "SL-style" grille with an oversized version of the iconic logo in the center. I like the more contemporary latter treatment, but the classic grille perfectly expresses this sedan’s relaxed personality and reflects confidence in the product. Who but Mercedes-Benz could get away with a hood ornament these days? Beautifully sculpted, the interior displays its own retro elements, including a column-mounted gear selector and an analog clock positioned on the center console on all but the most basic versions of the new E-Class. The standard ornamented instrument cluster reminds me of a pince-nez. LEARN MORE ABOUT OTHER MERCEDES-BENZ MODELS IN OUR BUYERS GUIDE HERE. These traditional cues fade from view when optioning the car with the large TFT instrumentation. Owners can configure the system to different display modes, including an ultra-futuristic “Progressive” setting. Combined with the oversized central Continue Reading

2015 McLaren 650S Coupe and Spider are a surgical strike in the supercar battle

I should really be more wary about flinging a $265,500 McLaren supercar around a racetrack, except for the fact that the 650S Coupe I’m driving is absolutely begging to go faster. Hard on the carbon ceramic brakes, the active aerodynamics kick in, and the rear spoiler shoots skyward to keep the back of the car planted. I’m thrown forward, against the seatbelts, as the 650S’ carbon-fiber brakes decelerate the car with tremendous force. I grit my teeth, knowing I could have braked much harder…and much, much later! In one particularly long double-apex right hand corner, the McLaren feels so alive, it’s just impossible to resist the temptation to roll onto the gas pedal and unleash all 641-horsepower from the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 that’s sitting behind me. A quick wiggle from the rear tires alerts me that I’m getting in a little over my head, not to mention on the throttle too early. But it doesn’t stop the thrill of flicking the 650S through a nearly flat-out chicane, and hammering the gas pedal before the next corner looms ahead. The McLaren 650S is like plugging into an automotive form of The Matrix, except it’s a lot more fun and without any menacing guys in dark suits chasing after you. The Daily News Autos visited Monticello, New York, to experience this British-built supercar on public roads and, as you’ve probably guessed, the challenging racing circuit owned by the Monticello Motor Club. Introduced earlier this year at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the McLaren 650S is a faster and more visceral take on the company’s current MP4-12C Coupe and Spider. According to McLaren, 25 percent of the 650S is completely new compared to the current MP4-12C it’s based upon. Forming the core of both the Coupe and Spider is the “MonoCell,” a carbon-fiber tub that weighs a scant 165 lbs. This MonoCell is a major factor in the extremely taut and precise Continue Reading

City cabs to be outfitted with high-tech warning systems for pilot program

Vision Zero is going high tech. The Taxi and Limousine Commission is testing a system designed to warn cabbies when they are in imminent danger of hitting a pedestrian, bicyclist or car. A total of six cabs and livery cars so far have been outfitted with the Mobileye Accident Avoidance system, which includes a windshield-mounted camera to scan the road ahead. Computer software identifies and classifies objects, and calculates risk based on speed and distance, said Guy Palumbo, a regional representative for IonFleets, which is providing the equipment for the pilot program. A series of alerts — an audible alarm, flashing dashboard light and a vibrating steering wheel or seat — will prompt the driver to slam the brakes, Palumbo said. The TLC expects to expand the 12-month program, which began Tuesday, to include safe-driving systems installed in additional cabs, TLC officials said. “There is some very promising technology out there that we hope can help us achieve the goals of Vision Zero, and the more we learn about it through this pilot, the more effective we will be when adding it to our tool belt,” TLC Chairwoman Meera Joshi said in a statement. Vision Zero is a City Hall initiative that aims to eliminate traffic fatalities across the five boroughs. Other components include redesigning dangerous boulevards and increasing police enforcement of traffic laws. Some car manufacturers offer crash-prevention technology as options or standard features. The TLC still needs to determine how equipment fares in cabs that are driven all day and all night on city streets, officials said. The system that was installed for the pilot also includes a camera focused on the driver and a “black box” event recorder, Palumbo said. Initially, the TLC will collect data from incidents of “events” such as hard-stops, sharp turns, tailgating, speeding, lane departures, near-collissions and Continue Reading