Raising the specter of luxury


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Walking out of the posh Eilan Hotel in San Antonio — the same place actress Eva Longoria would be appearing later in the day — I was greeted with a question few people on the planet have ever been asked.
“Mr. Price, which Rolls-Royce would you like to drive?”
Seeing a row of luxury cars laid out in front of me like the world’s most expensive buffet, I picked one at random and drove away in a $350,000 piece of art.
I hesitate to even call it a car because this new Ghost isn’t something you buy because you need a vehicle to scoot around town. You don’t cross-shop dealerships comparing the features and prices to pick the best one, and even in the rarified air of super-high-end luxury cars, it doesn’t have a direct competitor.
Instead, the people who buy this kind of machine are more likely to ask themselves, “Do I want a vacation home, a yacht or a Rolls?”
And if they pick the Rolls, I don’t blame them one bit.
After all, this is a car that can inspire you like a great piece of artwork and is as relaxing as any vacation spot. After spending some time driving and being driven in the Ghost Series II, I understand more than ever before why people with money would buy one.

The Rolls-Royce Ghost is a hand-built luxury car that gets a subtle but important update for 2015. The new version is called the Ghost Series II.

The Rolls-Royce Ghost is a hand-built luxury car that gets a subtle but important update for 2015. The new version is called the Ghost Series II.

You can reach down to run your fingers through the wool floor mats, and your hand sinks down through inch after inch of cotton-candy-like fluffiness — and that’s just what you rest your feet on. It has control knobs covered in genuine crystal, and of course there’s all the custom woodwork created by some of the best craftsmen on Planet Earth.
Its leather comes from young bulls raised on ranches over 6,500 feet in elevation with no barbed wire. Why? Because their hide will have no scratches, no imperfections from carrying babies and not even a mosquito bite. Mosquitoes can’t live at that altitude.
Because this car is hand-built, that means you can personalize virtually everything on your new Ghost. If you’re a wealthy rancher and want to outfit the interior using wood from a tree on your ranch, for example, Rolls-Royce can send someone to cut down your tree, make wood veneer from it, and then use that material to actually build your car.
It takes 60 pairs of hands 450 hours to build the Ghost.
But there’s a limit to how much those hands can do. I asked a Rolls-Royce spokesperson whether that wealthy rancher could have a pickup bed installed on the back of the car, and the answer is no — but not because Rolls isn’t capable of it or doesn’t want to do it. It’s because when you change the body structure like that, the car would have to be crash tested again and re-certified by the government.
So if your heart is set on driving a Rolls-Camino with a pickup bed, you’re out of luck.

Because it’s built by hand by expert craftsmen, the Ghost’s cabin can be personalized using materials of the customer’s choosing — including using wood from a tree on the owner’s property. The options are nearly limitless.

Because it’s built by hand by expert craftsmen, the Ghost’s cabin can be personalized using materials of the customer’s choosing — including using wood from a tree on the owner’s property. The options are nearly limitless.

What’s it like to drive and be driven in a car like this? From the driver’s seat, it’s all about having an overabundance of power, a ridiculously heavy feeling body, and the smoothest, quietest ride you can imagine.
Even better, I asked someone to drive me around while I sat in the back seat. You can adjust the seat to lean back like a living-room recliner and prop your feet up on a footrest, making it feel like nap time. And if you need to get some work done, you can control all the car’s electronics from the back seat and use a fold-out a table to hold your laptop or iPad while you work on your company’s next mega-merger.
Walking away after driving a Rolls-Royce for the first time, the biggest impression I got was that the Ghost didn’t really feel like a car. It felt more like a piece of sculpture — something you don’t buy because you need it, but because you’re deeply inspired by it.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II. Base price: $286,750
Wheelbase: 130 in.
Length: 213 in.
Width: 77 in.
Height: 61 in.
Engine: 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12 (563 horsepower, 575 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed satellite aided transmission
Estimated Mileage: 13 city, 20 highway

RATINGS
Style: 10
Performance: 10
Price: 9
Handling: 8
Ride: 10
Comfort: 10
Quality: 10
Overall: 10

Video Review:
2015 Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II
bit.ly/2015ghost

Why buy it?
It’s a hand-built, thoroughly personalized piece of art. It’s designed for multi-millionaires who want the best of the best.

 

Posted in Rolls Royce

Much more than safety


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Volvo has long been known for inventing new safety features, but now it’s trying its hand at developing a new kind of technology — the kind that fits in your pocket.
This Swedish car company has released the best smartphone app I’ve ever seen for a vehicle. While I doubt anybody would buy a car purely for the app it comes with, the Volvo On Call app, as it’s called, offers an interesting peek into the future of car electronics.

With up to 302 horsepower and an impressive suite of technology, the 2015.5 Volvo S60 has a lot more to offer than its reputation for safety.

With up to 302 horsepower and an impressive suite of technology, the 2015.5 Volvo S60 has a lot more to offer than its reputation for safety.

The app could do some way-cool things on my S60 test car, including:
— Locking and unlocking the doors remotely through a data connection, no matter how far your phone is from the car. It works through the Internet and cell phone signals, so I’m assuming you could unlock your doors from halfway around the world if you wanted, just by pressing a button on your phone.
— Letting you know about maintenance needs. It can give you all kinds of data without having to pop the hood open, including monitoring your brake fluid and washer fluid. If lightbulbs are burned out or your gas tank is getting empty, you can see that right from your phone.
— Knowing where you go. You can track trips and keep a mileage log for business expense reports or taxes, for example, or simply look on a map to see where your Volvo is located right now. That means if you let your teenage kid drive the car, you’ll never have a question about where they go in it.
While most car companies are offering various kinds of apps these days, this one from Volvo is the most full-featured I’ve ever seen. It’s working proof that a smartphone can “talk” to your car and extract information from the many sensors and computers that are already found in modern vehicles, which opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities.

The S60’s cabin has a cool, Swedish vibe with an unusual layout for the center controls.

The S60’s cabin has a cool, Swedish vibe with an unusual layout for the center controls.

The Volvo On Call app is available on all 2015.5 Volvo models, including the snazzy, 302-horsepower S60 I tested. That .5 number represents an unusual mid-year 2015 refresh for the Volvo lineup.
Other than the smartphone tech, one thing impressed me about my tester: the miraculously efficient and powerful T6 engine.
I first experienced this powerplant in the 2015 Volvo XC60 and marveled at how this small, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine could deliver high power and high MPGs at the same time thanks to both turbocharging and supercharging. It feels even better in the S60, where the 302 horses make it accelerate like a sports sedan while its 35-mpg highway rating is almost unbelievable for a car this quick.
Yes, it has the requisite safety gadgets that you expect from this brand, but that’s just a small part of its appeal. It’s a Volvo that you can love for so much more than the fact that it keeps you alive.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E ($39,000). Options: Platinum package ($3,750), 19-inch wheels ($900), Blind Spot Information System ($900), metallic paint ($550), heated front seats ($500). Price as tested (including $925 destination charge): $46,525
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 182.5 in.
Width: 73.4 in.
Height: 58.4 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo, supercharged (302 horsepower, 295 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 24 city, 35 highway

RATINGS
Style: 8
Performance: 9
Price: 9
Handling: 6
Ride: 7
Comfort: 8
Quality: 9
Overall: 9

Video Review:
2015.5 Volvo S60
bit.ly/2015S60

Why buy it? 
It has one of the best engines and coolest smartphone apps on the market today, along with the safety features expected from the Volvo brand.

 

 

Posted in Volvo

Legacy bigger, more efficient


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Subaru has staked its reputation on all-wheel-drive cars. Every Subaru for sale these days sends traction to all four wheels.
That’s why these cars are so popular in places like Colorado, where there’s lots of snow and mountainous terrain, and the Pacific Northwest, where the roads are always wet from rainfall.
The only problem is that all-wheel drive cars burn more fuel. The last generation Legacy was rated for 32 mpg on the highway, which is drastically worst than the 40-plus mpg its most efficient competitors are achieving.

Subaru focused on making the new Legacy bigger while also keeping its weight to a minimum. Its highway fuel economy is now 36 mpg, which is impressive for an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

Subaru focused on making the new Legacy bigger while also keeping its weight to a minimum. Its highway fuel economy is now 36 mpg, which is impressive for an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

Well, there’s good news for Subaru fans. The Legacy sedan has been completely redesigned, and the engineers spent much of their time focusing on closing that fuel economy gap.
Despite the new Legacy being roomier than ever before — including the most spacious cabin of any mid-size car, according to Subraru — it’s also bumped the highway mpg rating all the way up to 36, which is remarkable.
Think about that for a second. It’s bigger than most mid-size cars. It’s sending power to all four wheels. Yet it’s getting the same fuel rating as a compact, two-wheel-drive 2015 Honda Civic with a manual transmission.
To hit those impressive numbers, Subaru took a lot of steps to reduce weight on the new Legacy, including using an aluminum hood. It also installed a continuously variable transmission (CVT). And while I’m generally no fan of CVTs and liked the heavy, solid feeling of the last generation Legacy — it reminded me of a German luxury car in many ways — this new one feels more in tune with the times.
I also like two other things about it: the premium-feeling cabin and the level of safety equipment you can get on it.

Tight-fitting switches and soft materials mean the new Legacy’s cabin still has a premium feel. Subaru says it’s the roomiest cabin of any mid-size car.

Tight-fitting switches and soft materials mean the new Legacy’s cabin still has a premium feel. Subaru says it’s the roomiest cabin of any mid-size car.

The cabin materials and construction are as good as anything in the industry right now. Switches feel tightly installed, and lots of materials are soft to the touch.
And Subaru’s upgraded EyeSight driver assist system gives it almost the same high-tech safety vibe as a new Volvo. Features like adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, steering responsive fog lights, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert make it feel like electronic guardian angels are always looking over the driver’s shoulder.
It’s a great sedan for people who value traction, comfort and safety.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium ($23,495). Options: Package with moonroof, navigation, EyeSight, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert ($2,890), partial zero emissions vehicle ($300). Price as tested (including $795 destination charge): $27,480
Wheelbase: 108.3 in.
Length: 188.8 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 59 in.
Engine: 2.5-liter Boxer four-cylinder (175 horsepower, 174 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Lineartronic CVT
Estimated Mileage: 26 city, 36 highway

RATINGS
Style: 9
Performance: 7
Price: 9
Handling: 10
Ride: 9
Comfort: 9
Quality: 9
Overall: 8

Video Review:
2015 Subaru Legacy
bit.ly/2015legacy

Why buy it? 
A roomier cabin and 36-mpg highway rating are among the many improvements on the all-new Legacy. The all-wheel drive system feels amazing on wet roads.

Posted in Subaru

Reviews