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The Underdog 

Volvo seems to have always been a conundrum of a brand. Not that popular with the general public nor enthusiast, but have always been a benchmark for safety, clean styling, and believe it or not pretty good performance. So when I got my hands on the new XC90 I was pretty excited. Volvo sure did not disappoint. 

 

 

OVERVIEW

The Good: It's amazing design and in my opinion draws more eyes than its German counterparts. Not to mention its something different. Great power and great accouterments for the price point. 

The Bad: From what I have read across the inter web and from some experiences from colleagues the car has been plagued with mechanical issues which. believe have been sorted out for 2k19 and 2020 model years. Also while the power is quite good I think the hybrid version is a must. 

Verdict: With crisp lines, smooth styling, and going against the status quo you have a great appointed car that rivals some of the best out there. Don't forget it's all quite safe. 

 

Mechanical 

Life is breathed through the XC90 through a surprisingly slick Dual charged (turbo and supercharged) 2 liter four cylinder engine. Which in theory is quite a feat however I personally feel the motor is just too small for such a big heavy car. However with the forced breath of life from the turbo and supercharger that little 4-cylinder motor has enough get up to get you to soccer practice back in a few blinks. I personally feel the T8 hybrid [while pricey] is the one to get as you can use as much extra power as you can get to push all that heftiness. At the end of the day no matter which motor you get its surprisingly good bang for the buck. 

Exterior 

 I think this car is quite the looker- and much different in the sea of Mercedes, BMW, Audi etcetera. The enthusiast in me wants to see it lowered on 21s with blacked out windows light smoke on rear tail lights and chrome delete to show the various aspects of this family hauler. But if you leave it stock in the right color looks just delectable. Granted some people may not enjoy the looks of this car, but I feel the design language of current Volvos is done just right and makes me want one because it is so unique and conceptual. The car I currently have came with LED headlights which is a must in any car -with the super cool and iconic Thor's hammer DRLs. Providing the car with the necessary aggressiveness to show it means business with the sweet lines to give it that luxury feel. The eyes of this car are aggressive, beautiful and bold. and the whole fit and finish of the exterior is quite chic. 

 

Interior  

The seats are comfortable and supportive. With that said I am a fan of the Design seating and appointment much more. The interior leaves a lot desired. While it designed well its quite minimalistic. It is probably somewhere in between BMWs over designed interiors and Tesla's overly minimalistic interiors. It is good just seems as if a little more is necessary. Everything is placed in a good spot making everything easy to get to and not out of reach. The only real problem I have with the interior is the size of the screen I wish it was a little wider and the engine start knob. While the piece itself is beautiful in my opinion it is just a tad silly.  The navigation worked well and the sounds system had enough bump and clarity to handle every genre of music and immerse you in the sauce as if you were there when they recorded it.  The interior is plenty roomy for kids and adults a like, however with that third row seat if you are anything over 4ft tall and or older than maybe 8 you are not going to be comfortable back there at all. Do not believe the hype adults do not fit in the 3rd row. 

Music equipment, stroller, mom and all her bags, real estate signs, beach gear you name it. When the third row is down there is more than enough space for all of life's adventures. Whether it is for work or play or family time to go adventure The XC90 can handle it all. I feel the interior is well thought out and conducive for an active lifestyle.

 

Safety 

It's a Volvo. What else needs to be said here. Notorious to other manufactures but Volvo has consistently almost since it's inception been one of the safest cars on the road hands down. Consistently having some of the best ratings of any car in and out of it's class. One of the things to note though is the adaptive cruise control. Almost like auto pilot in a sense that the car is very involved, however you the pilot are still very much in control. The only negative about the safety protocols is that the brakes get too involved way to early however with a few days of getting used to that initial though subsided. Making the whole system seem to be very good as opposed to cars made by its counterparts. 

 

Farewell 

Do not get my wrong I actually love the XC90 and its few quirks. The styling is great, the power is decent, the car as a whole is well thought out. But would I buy one? The one we tested was a few ticks under $74k ,Going to their site to spec one rendered with the R-Design accoutrements, and the hybrid engine we are beat over the head at just under $90k. A lot of autos can be had for $90k and for $90k while I absolutely love how unique, and well designed the XC90 is I still might opt for a Tesla Model X or a Trackhawk. Two Extremely different cars per se but also two I would rather drop $100k on. Special Thank you To Santa Monica Volvo. Go give them a visit and test drive your very own Volvo that suits your lifestyle. 

 

https://www.volvocarsofsantamonica.com

 

My Ode to Ava[lon] 

I could be way off base here but I remember a day when Toyota was a brand for everyone; from exciting, practical, and  fun. They had a family car, big body sedan, sports car, mid-size, small-size and of course they were mostly affordable for everyone. Somehow the rear wheel drive powertrains were axed for boring mundane economy cars. Long gone are the days of the Celicas, AE86s, Supras, and VIP Previas. Until now, with the likes of the FR-S and coming Supra replacement it seems that Toyota is ready to get back to its roots; and they did not just stop it seems they have revamped their full line-up to great styling, great features and accoutrements. Even technology now seems presetine; Toyota truly has a car for everyone. Let's take a look at the latest offering that Toyota was kind enough to loan us for the week. The all new 2019 Toyota Avalon - Now let's be honest when I was told they were handing me the keys to an Avalon, I  cringed on the inside. However, I quickly ate crow. When they dropped the car off in it's beautiful Ruby Flare Pearl exterior paint I at first had no idea what I was looking at. I pulled over and thought it was a new Lexus GS then I realized it was the car that was supposed to be mine for the next seven days. We took a walk around checked out the interior and the whole time my jaw was dragging along behind me. I could not believe my eyes. The first thing that threw me off was the large and massive grill. It seems to be very polarizing you either like it or you do not. Shout out to my purist family who the majority disliked the grill but the whole aggressive design grew on me and I love it. I feel as if Toyota is back with a vengeance. If you want to know if the car is good, read no further as the bottom line  is simple. This car is amazing, the only negative is that it does not come in rear or all wheel drive. 

 

I have for the most of my automotive "career" almost always had European cars with the exception of two of my first cars. Which happened to be under the Toyota umbrella and I loved those cars no real reason why I left the brand; other than I was always a fan of the euro. However, the price point at a fully ticked $43k there is not much that can touch what this car offers for this price. Let me break it down this way so I can make sure we do not miss anything. 

Mechanical

The heartbeat of the Avalon is a 3.5-Liter V6 that has a respectable 301 HP and 267 lb-ft of torque and while its not lightning quick off the line; in a roll on the freeway and around 3500rpm this car catches speed quick. All bolted up to an 8 Speed automatic trans. Allowing you to have some naughty fun and/or get you out of trouble when needed. While the motor and transmission work extremely well together I am curious to know how good this motor gets with a tune, exhaust, and better breathing but we will see if we can test that theory at a later time. But if you want to know how good the motor gets you can ask the few Maserati Ghiblis, Levantes, Chargers, Challengers and few BMWs that lay slain in the wake of this surprising little beast. Rolling on 19" alloy wheels painted with black windows it ties the whole car in a very sporty, aggressive and classy way. The suspension is firm enough so you know whats going on but properly soft for a big body sedan. It soaks up LA's horrible roads with ease. I hit a pothole by accident and in my other car alignment probably would have been left a mile behind and popped a tire. The Avalon literally took it with NO problem and we barely felt it. What I like most which reminds me of the good old days when my parents gifted me their Lexus ES300, you can go 90mph and not notice it because the car is smooth, planted, quiet and comfortable. I can give you the full specs of the independent MacPherson struts and sport tuned shocks but in my opinion who cares the suspension is great. Seeing as this is a Toyota and their claimed summer anthem of wanting my MPGs they have this car at an estimated 25 mpg Combined (22 city/31 highway). With that said I averaged 27-30 with a lead foot and 2 tanks to prove it.

 

Exterior

Once again I think this car is quite the looker. The enthusiast in me wants to see it lowered on 20s with blacked out windows light smoke on rear tail lights and bigger exhaust tips to really showcase the beautiful lines of this car. But if you leave it stock in the right color looks just delectable. Granted some people may not enjoy the looks of this car, but this is one of the many places this car gives it's euro counterparts a run for the money. The car I currently have came with LED headlights which was an option. Most other manufacturers that charge close double for a similar vehicle are still using boring old Xenons - which starts easily building the case why this car is a steal for the money. LED headlights not only look great but function well and I will never purchase a car again that does not have them. The eyes of this car are aggressive, beautiful and bold. Full LED headlights with Automatic High beams and sequential running blinkers (Dynamic Auxiliary Turn signal) for both front and rear. Huge aggressive front grill with front camera to help with 360 Parking, and curb assist so you do not plow your bumper into the parking block ahead. Nice aggressive front vents that are functional which I presume for aerodynamics and brake cooling. We finish off the front half of the car with acoustic noise-reducing front windshield keeping the occupants happy inside. Bringing around back we have quad tipped exhaust a nice lip spoiler which looks like an aftermarket piece and I like it quite a bit. Also, including a nice aggressive rear diffuser to button up the whole package. 

Interior 

The seats are very nice. Orange stitching keeps together a semi-perforated ultra suede and leather seat that is both heated and ventilated (cooling and amazing on these hot days) giving the car that posh sporty look that you typically see in more expensive cars. Hop into the front you are greeted with a plethora of enjoyments. Starting off with an 8-way adjustable seat with 4 way lumbar for both passenger and driver. Heated tile and telescoping steering wheel all with memory function. Also included on the steering is bluetooth hands free and voice command buttons along with cruise control volume and other niceties. Behind the steering wheel you have your speedo with a nice 7" screen with pertinent information and they one upped themselves with a 10" color HUD right in the windshield where you can see the speed limit of the street your on, mph, radar info and a few other things that help keep your eyes on the road and not where they should not be. In the dash you have a 9" touch screen which is very responsive and has all the fun stuff. Satellite radio, 360 rear and front cameras all come on at the right time to help you park and stay out of the insurance companies pockets. The only negative about this system is the navigation is a little annoying and not as good as the old Toyota and Lexus' I remember. However, if it gets on your nerves there's always Apple CarPlay. One thing I really liked about the navigation though is Dynamic Navigation. Here's how it works, I need to get to a destination and I am driving and/or in my case too lazy to look it up or type it in. Hit the prompt for navigation assist and on the line comes an operator asking where I would like to go. I tell them to map me to said location. If they do not have an address they will look it up. Hit GO on my screen and off we are to the next adventure. 

 

Just below that we have wireless charging which is an amazing feature. The only problem I had with wireless charging is that my phone kept sliding around and  flying off the charger which left my phone upset. However, I am sure when the car comes to production that will be fixed with some type of rubber footing or holder. Additionally, under the armrest which is insanely deep holds three pots to charge your devices. Finishing off the interior with the rear seat there is plenty of space back there for passengers big and small. The biggest problem I have as a dad with any car these days is my kid and her carseat. She says at 42 inches tall she does not have enough legroom. With the Avalon that is a problem of the past. Also, to keep your rear seat guests comfortable and happy, two large vents that offer them copious amounts of air and an additional two plugs for their phones or tablets so you are always charged and ready for life's adventures.  Oh and the trunk is big as "F" so strollers, bass guitars, keyboards, a ton of of stuff will fit with ease and if you need more you can fold down the rear 60/40 split seats. 

 

My only real qualm about the interior is the center stack. In my opinion the clean interior design does not match the stack and the stack lessens the slightly more premium feeling you get in the Avalon. 

 

 

Safety

They have all the top safety stuff that you want, need and systems you never knew you wanted or needed. The list is pretty long I will more or less talk about my favorites here. A few of my favorite safety features that I put to use was the brake alert; coming too close to the radar system in the nose of the car will alert you that it is time to brake if it feels you are moving at a rate of speed where it will be difficult to brake safely without a collision. Which could be helpful if you get distracted or the traffic suddenly changes before you have time to react. Blind spot detection which is always an added bonus, along with pedestrian detection. One cool thing to note is when we tested the feature, the car came to a complete halt if someone walks behind your car while you are backing up. My favorite though is what I am calling semi Auto-pilot. It is a far cry from Tesla's autopilot, which in actuality you cannot really call or compare it to Auto-pilot because it's not. It is a very smart cruise control system having some very similar features which was quite welcomed during traffic. So the car has a radar in the nose which helps with a lot of the driving and safety features. Most noticed when cruise control is activated. You can in fact activate cruise control at pretty much any speed and it will hold at whatever speed you set unless you come up on a car. Once you come up to a certain distance about 3 car lengths the car will adjust it's speed to keep a safe distance from the car ahead. It will slow down up unto the point where it needs to come to a complete stop if necessary. It will not go again until you tap the gas to re-activate the cruise. With lane keeping assist that will push you back into the middle of the lane. It is a good and intuitive way to keep you safe even when you're not as alert because you have been sitting in LA traffic for 2 hours. The only drawback of this system is the brakes let you know that they work as they for the most part apply full force; they do not ease into the brake to reach programmed limits. No matter what speed whether theres traffic or not if it senses it needs to slow down to keep with the parameters set it will slam on the brakes making your stomach hit the front windshield. After playing with it every day I finally figured out a happy medium for the most part and the system worked quite well. 

 

Farewell

In my ripe young age I have become quit the car snob. After spending time with the Avalon for a full week I shed a small tear to see it go as I have been turned into a believer that Toyota still can produce a functional, fun enjoyable daily driver that can handle a multitude of requirements and daily tasks. For the enthusiasts this is a great tuning platform for the stance and VIP crowd. A solid platform to use as a show car, cruiser, family hauler, business car, and overall huge bang for the buck. It's actually mind blowing what Toyota has provided in their new Avalon for $40k. For all other car makers, in particular the European counterparts. You have been put on notice: Koreans and Japanese are coming and they are here to stay and they are here to wow customers with strong, solid, designs, technology, reliability and overall great cars. If you want something your age get the Camry as it's geared toward the younger demo. If you want a nice big body cruiser that has some potential and comes with pretty much everything you need standard. The Avalon is the way to go. 

Thank you to Toyota for forcing me to buy another car because I like this car that much.  

Check out the IGs of the photogs that collaborated with me on this shoot. 

@Russ.Photography

 

Out from the Ashes? 

It can be said that the Fisker Karma is and was one of the most beautifully designed cars that has hit the production line in the past few decades. Among the likes of anything Aston Martin produces. The curves, the lines, the overall product was a thing of beauty and passion. But plagued by trials, missed deadlines, production halts, production problems and a plethora of other game ending mishaps, the welcomed luxury hybrid that once had a bright future died before it was able to sprout it's legs. However, with someone's heart set on not letting the amazing dream of Henrik Fisker die with the mishaps that ensued in the business; a Chinese company procured the rights and have since revived the lost child under a new name the Karma Revero. While it has all the backing it finally needs is the car actually any good? 

 

Granted I think I would need to spend a lot more time in the vehicle to answer fully but having spent about a solid hour driving it thanks to the kind gentleman at Karma OC. What I thought might make the perfect new addition to the garage for my Real Estate mobile, I quickly started to second guess that thought. Let's get one thing straight this car is beautiful inside and out it was designed and built to the best standards of any car in the space. Because of what competition this cars faces; the car quickly unravels a few inherent problems. The car is built better than the past cars as they have had more time to get it right. The main problem I feel is that it is too little too late. Since 2011 when the Karma was first released the space has since gotten quite crowded with the likes of Tesla, jaguar, Audi and other manufacturers with their versions of hybrid and electric vehicles. 

 

The Drive

For me this was the most disheartening part but maybe I expect to much. I wanted it to drive like an SClass or a Rapide and give me the power of a Tesla. But that did not happen. What this car is laced with is an outdated four-cylinder two-liter turbo motor from GM that they no longer make so when that motor is done they will be on the hunt for a new heart. Coupled with two (2) electric motors and a 21 Kwh battery driving the rear wheels. Revero promises to have a 50 Mile range under electric only conditions before going to the two-liter motor and offering a measly 20mpg. Which in all honesty does not fare well with similar likes in this space including Chevy, Tesla and Nissan. Then there is the whole speed issue which is the biggest for me. Every other car in this space does the speed factor better than the Karma in it's top sport setting. As journalist Hannah Elliot, said so eloquently "The disparity here between price and speed doesn’t compute." I cannot agree more for a car that costs about $130k I think it should do a lot better in the overall performance category. This largest problem in my opinion with this car and the performance specs is this car is HEAVY, a few tics over 5k pounds with an underpowered motor that has no "testicular fortitude" its difficult to get any where in this car that makes it enjoyable. As the engine struggles to push 5k pounds off any line, drive way or downhill ramp the little power it has isn't linear. I just feel as if I am getting banged in the rears by a dump truck every few seconds. There is never really a spot at any speed where the car feels lively or comfortable. It appears more like a little newly trained puppy that fights hard to contain his excitement for a treat but cannot stay focused long enough to obtain the treat. 

 

Interior

Unlike other journaliststhe weird and oddly shaped interior is quite refreshing, different and is appointed nicely. However, the excitement of strapping in soon faded as I had to put my kid and her carseat in the back seat and that was quite the experience. Because of the extremely small and oddly shaped rear seat of the car putting a car seat in is close to impossible and if you have a rear facing car seat fuggetaboutit. After taking what seems like an eternity and a half to strap in the car seat my wife, my kid, the salesman all pile into this beautiful car and set off. The interior is great to look at but In my opinion does not function well and with every passing breath excitement fades and frustration ensues. The first is how cramped the interior is I feel as if the passengers are all sitting on top of each other in a strict 2 seater car; this is smaller than a 2+2... I think the Ferrari FF I drove felt way more generous in the space then this car and the Ferrari only had 2 doors. It is probably due to the over-sized transmission tunnel that divides the car like the Red Sea which annihilates all space for the passengers. The crystal ball gear selector that appears to have been lifted from Volvo, and a head unit that looks like an Alpine head unit from Fast and Furious; this car leaves a lot to be desired. The radio for a self-proclaimed audiophile is like nails to a chalk board I'd rather use my Apple air pods and those sound heinous as well. The trunk well that is nonexistent could not even get the umbrella stroller in there let alone real estate signs or a hand bag for that matter. 

 

At the end of the day I enjoy how the car looks on a brochure, parked inside the mall, in a review. But the second you grab the key and go for a spin you understand that noone knows what this car should be and no one knows the real purpose for this car. If I were to spend $130k on a car I am probably going straight to Tesla or Aston as a first choice. Can anyone out there answer me what is the point of this car? It is neither fast, nor comfortable, nor functional its just a car you get to take the wife to dinner I presume. 

 

I had such high hopes but we will not being seeing one in the Keyes' garage anytime soon. I was fighting for the car to be a winner but it just doesn't make any sense. Some one please help me out here. 

 

Keyes

 


 

THE PERFECT DADDY WHIP: 2018 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo  

Yes, I know I am a little tardy to the party on this one. However, life changes when you have a kid- not that much but it does for the best. The most notable change is in your mode of transportation. While some move on to Minivans and oversized SUVs I still like Daddy's car to be sexy, sleek and still fun to drive. Now unlike most I'm partial to wagons especially with 400+ horsepower. To likes of CTSV, E63 AMG and now the beautiful Porsche Panamera Wagon. Grocery Getters never looked so good, haul groceries, kids, strollers and everything in between this is the perfect germanized Swiss army knife. In pure Porsche fashion there are way to many models- 5 to be exact; Panamera 4, 4S, 4S Diesel, 4 E-Hybrid and Turbo. Along with enough options to blow your mind, wallet, and errr many of other things. Also comes loaded with other various trinkets like an adaptive roof spoiler. Not many cars have it let alone a wagon and the absurdity continues. With enough power and enough accouterments to keep every one happy this car is sure to please and get you up the road in an expeditious and fun manner. Now the joy form and function of this amazing machinery comes at a price. The base model starts at a very modest $96,200 then moving up as follows $104,000 for the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, $109,200 for the Panamera 4S Sport Turismo, and $154,000 for the Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo and topping it off with an extra grand for shipping and handling.  MY18 Panamera Sport Turismo has been confirmed to come to the states later this year which is exciting news as most wagons never touch the US shores. Stay tuned for updates on this gorgeous car and leave your comments after the jump. 

Always on duty,

CK