Tag Archives: car review

Toyota Prius Prime
New Car Reviews

Toyota Prius Prime review: Look how far we’ve come with toasters on wheels!

Growing up, I earned my learner’s permit driving my mother’s absolutely ratchet first-generation Honda Civic Hybrid. Remember that piece of boring, banal, borderline-indistinguishable, and certainly unmemorable mediocrity? Hopefully not. However, a couple of years after I stepped up to adulthood and earned my license, my mom bought a 2008 Toyota Prius. In those days, the purposefully fugly second-gen Prius served as something of a West LA status symbol but also served the fam well as a damned good car: getting superb mileage, with plenty of room for pets and gear, and over the years, proved reliable as the day is long (once we installed a cat shield to foil constant thievery, anyhow). 

But more about the old Prius later because last year—boom!—Toyota hit us with a total redesign, a radical revamp, a veritable resuscitation of the entire concept of the commuter hybrid. And now, I finally got the chance to revisit those early days of hybrid driving in a 2024 Prius Prime, the plug-in version that best suits this West LA commuter crowd.

Skip to section:

Toyota Prius Prime
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Price and specs

Base price:$32,975
As-tested price:$34,434
Engine:2.0-liter inline-four with dual electric motors
Transmission:Single-speed + CVT
Drivetrain:Front-wheel drive
Power:220 horsepower combined
Torque:139 pound-feet
Weight:3,461 pounds (3,571 pounds as-tested)
0-60 mph:6.7s (11.2s in full EV mode) 
¼-mile:15.1 seconds @ 94 mph (hybrid), 18.7 seconds @ 75 mph in (full EV)
Top speed:112 mph
MPG:50 city, 47 highway, 48 combined
Battery capacity:13.6-kWh lithium-ion
All-electric range:44 miles (39 miles as tested)

Prius Prime exterior design

Toyota’s advertising campaign leading up to the LA Auto Show debut of the new Prius ended up coming across as a bit funny since, even considering the svelte and futuristic styling, nobody will ever consider this common car a “black sheep.” And yet, damn if that new design doesn’t hit the nail on the head. Just look at the pics! Anyone remember the first-gen Echo twin? My, how far we’ve come.

Now, my boss here at Acceleramota has already covered the “base” (non-Prime) Prius, so go ahead and click back through his review before continuing to learn more about my time with the Prime. 

The only thing I might add, in terms of exterior styling, is that I parked the Prime next to my mother’s still-cranking, sun-faded, and bird-shit-splattered 2008 Prius just for comparison—and the new car’s roofline looked around five or six inches lower! So much so that I actually Googled the official measurements. It turns out the 2024 model rides exactly 2.8 inches shorter. Not as much as my eyeballs perceived, in fairness, but a serious statement about how stellar styling can make so much of a difference in a car’s profile and presence.

What’s hot?– Some style, at last
– Plug-in hybrid system allows for choice at a reasonable cost
– Simple, stark interior
– Noticeably improved aerodynamics
– Vastly improved performance and handling

Prius Prime pricing breakdown 

The non-Prime that Jeric drove starts at $27,950, and adding the plug-in capabilities bumps the price up by $5,025. The Prime comes in three trim levels, with the SE at the bottom of the gradewalk sporting manually-adjustable fabric seats, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, a slicktop roof, and 17-inch wheels for max range. Stepping up to the XSE swaps on 19-inch wheels, which result in slightly less electric range and diminished fuel economy stats, plus a parking assist system. And the XSE Premium, topping the lineup at a $39,670 MSRP, comes with a 12.3-inch touchscreen and the choice of a glass roof or an optional solar panel roof to soak up photons on sunny days.

As tested, my SE tester’s window sticker reads just about as basic as possible. Options limited to a cargo mat in the rear, door sill protectors, and wheel locks result in a $34,434 price tag—almost how I might spec my own Prius Prime. Leather or faux-leather seats might be nice for my pets and the generally filthy life I lead.

(link opens in same tab)

Prius Prime interior and tech

As on a non-plug-in Prius, most of the interior and tech options come standard depending on the Prime’s trim levels: both the eight-incher and the larger screen support wireless Apple CarPlay, thankfully. For Prime specifically, though, the small gauge cluster display needs to combine EV and ICE readouts. The resulting barrage of constantly shifting charge levels, range estimates, so-called “EcoScore” and “EcoZone” stats, and driver aid widgets all get lost in their own wash, to an extent.

Toyota Prius Prime
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Toggling to a simplified screen cleans up some of the mess, and really, just drive more slowly to max out the range in either HV (hybrid) or EV (fully electric) mode. Otherwise, the rest of the interior—despite a lower roofline—comes across as spacious and simple, with plenty of leg and headroom for tall drivers (even in the backseat).

And kudos to Toyota for delivering a straightforward design exactly as it should be: just a toaster that toasts toast as efficiently as possible.

It’s finally Prime Day!

A bit of battery power goes a long way

Slotted in between one of the most ridiculous press loaner schedules of my professional career—as I played car Tetris with a Ferrari 296 GTS, Porsche 911 Dakar, Bentley Continental GTC Azure, and an MV Agusta Dragster America—the Prime was arguably the most important car. And I can admit to feeling a bit of excitement before actually receiving it!

Too excited, maybe, because I promptly ruined the all-electric range without even realizing it by driving straight out to the Valley in full EV mode. A big whoops but a nice lesson on figuring out the toggles and switchgear before blasting through traffic in a plug-in hybrid (while thinking that Toyota had finally solved the hybrid drone sound the whole time). But luckily, I always snag a pic of the odometer when I first get into a press car so I can report my stats and figures for that inaugural drive.

In all, I used 68% of the reported battery capacity to drive 21 entirely unaware all-electric miles. That falls right in line with the claimed EV range of 44 miles, and even better, over the course of that jaunt, the overall combined EV and ICE range actually went up by three miles.

Next, I used the supplied charge cable (housed beneath the rear cargo deck) to plug into a standard 120-volt garage outlet for almost exactly three hours. In that time, the Prime added 33% charge—again, just about spot on for the onboard computer’s prediction of a nine-hour window to fully charge up the petite 13.6-kWh lithium-ion battery. Then I drove 11 more miles in hybrid mode and checked in again to discover that doing so used zero additional percent of battery charge. 

I spent the rest of my time in the Prime trying to max out the hybrid and EV range, but I also pushed a little harder just for fun. More official testing might skew the results, presumably, but so far, Toyota’s engineering seems pretty perfect. Especially considering the typical use case, when commuters might do most of their daily driving in full EV mode and top off the battery at home every night. For longer road trips—after remembering to remember to switch into HV mode—driving over 500 miles per 10.6-gallon tank shouldn’t even require too much hypermiling diligence.

Lower, sleeker, faster, stronger

On the 405 freeway, always a true test of suspension dynamics, the Prime’s lower and tighter suspension definitely produces a bit more rollicking than a second-gen Prius. But then again, in town or on a winding road, the new setup makes most driving much more fun: peppy and quick, with a 220-horsepower combined rating, and the torque delivery is almost full-EV-like given that an electric motor modulates the ICE engine’s power on the way to the e-CVT system. I missed a bit of the hybrid glide path ride quality of earlier Priuses, but I would definitely take those 99 additional ponies versus the previous gen and even some slight torque steer in trade.

Toyota Prius Prime
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Equally as important, this generation seems to include more sound insulation to reduce hybrid drone and wind/tire noise—though speaking of wind, the exterior redesign also finally solves the sailing phenomenon of the second-gen on long highway bends, which was always a truly sketchy sensation.

In terms of nits to pick, the typically frustrating Toyota driver aids still chime and ding incessantly. The fact that the Prime also defaults to EV mode, rather than sticking in hybrid mode after a power cycle, requires a bit more attention than I expected. And relatively slow charging rates limited by the onboard 3.5-kW charger, without Level 3 capability, means that, for example, anyone who does space out and forget to switch into HV mode can’t rectify their mistake particularly quickly.

Toyota Prius Prime
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle
What’s not?– Still a hint of hybrid drone
– Automatically reverts to full EV mode instead of hybrid
– Digital gauges are still small and in a silly location
– Naggy driver aid chimes
– Slow charging rates, no Level 3

Have we reached peak Prius?

Toyota openly wants to stick with hybrids as much as possible in the foreseeable future and only plans to build EVs reluctantly. Much of the argument makes sense since minimizing the use of lithium and other rare earth minerals while maximizing the use case of each individual vehicle will serve both customers and the environment best. Prime stands as a testament to that commitment (as does, considering perhaps a contrapositive, the peculiar Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra situation).

But if government regulations don’t snap back to reality—oh, there goes (the Lucid) Gravity—then Prius may need to go full electric in the near future, as well. All of which means that there’s a solid chance this little blue car might just be peak Prius Prime, the final form of one of the most important and influential automobiles in world history—no exaggeration, truly, despite my obvious penchant for obscene hyperbole.

Toyota Prius Prime
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

And this Prime indisputably takes a major leap forward, even if the tech does so slightly less. When a fourth-gen plug-in Prius drops a good chunk below $30,000 on the used market in the next couple of years, even a rear-drive sports car and four-wheel-drive rally racing fanatic such as myself might be tempted. And that is, truly, the greatest compliment I can give.

read more
Robs E92 BMW M3 review cover
Used Car Reviews

The BMW E92 M3 is a modern classic immortalized by a fervent V8

The BMW M3 has been synonymous with performance since its inception in the 1980s. It was born from the company’s need to homologate a new car for Group A touring car racing. It went on to be the most successful touring car in history and has gone on for six generations over the past thirty-six years. And even though BMW has made changes along the way, it mostly stuck to the same formula that made it so successful. As much as I’d like to sit and ramble about the different generations, for the purposes of this article, I’ll be focusing on the fourth-generation BMW E92 M3. It could be said that it was the peak of M3 production, a type of car that BMW simply can’t make today because of regulations. And I think they knew then they built it, a kind of swan song, paying homage to all the M3s that came before it. But let’s dive in and see if it’s worth snagging that E92 M3 for sale from your friendly neighborhood car-buying sites.

Skip to section:

BMW E92 M3
Image credit: Rob Crespo

Prices and specs

The majority of fourth-generation M3s sold were well-optioned. So, a lot of cars are going to have leather seats, iDrive with navigation, and other fancy luxury items you might find in the mid-aughts, like heated seats and those cool power folding mirrors. Remember, it’s an older car, so there is no CarPlay or Android Auto without aftermarket modification. Electronic damping control (EDC) was also common. The coupes came standard with a carbon fiber roof unless they were ordered with a sunroof. In 2010, BMW released the Competition Package. It featured a 10mm lower ride height, a different set of parameters for the electronic damping control, and a set of wheels specific to the Competition Package. 

New prices (2008 to 2013):$56,500 to $62,845
Approximate used prices:$25,000 to $45,000
Engines choices:4.0-liter DOHC V8
Transmission choices: 6-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drivetrain choices:Rear-wheel drive
Power:414 horsepower
Torque:295 pound-feet
Weight:3,704 pounds
0-to-60 mph:4.3 to 4.7 seconds 
1/4-mile:12.6 seconds
MPG:14 city, 20 highway, 16 combined 
Fuel capacity:16.6 gallons

The V8 engine, dubbed S65, was based on the S85 V10 used in the 2004 to 2010 E60 M5, with minor changes to improve reliability and reduce weight. It spewed out 414 horsepower at a dizzyingly high 8,400 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at a still-kind-of-high 3,900 rpm. It also weighed 33 pounds less than the inline-six it replaced. It has eight individual throttle bodies controlled by two electronic actuators with a massive air plenum perched atop and a set of equal-length, four-to-one headers for the exhaust. You could have the car with your choice of either a six-speed manual transmission or BMW’s then-new seven-speed DCT, which were both equipped with a transmission cooler. A limited-slip differential was standard, christened “M variable differential lock.” 

The price of a used M3 from this generation has been on the rise lately, even before it made Hargety’s Bull Market list this year. Depending on condition, mileage, maintenance records, and options, they can run anywhere from $25,000 to $45,000. Generally, cars with fewer options demand a higher price, especially “single hump” cars without navigation, referring to the dashboard construction. The lack-of-a-sunroof “slick top” will also cost you extra, especially for E90 sedans. And if you’re the kind of person who wants a unique color, that’s also going to add a few dollars to the price. But if you don’t mind cars that have 100,000 miles or more and are a common color, a well-maintained example will set you back $25,000 to $30,000 in today’s market. 

Oh yeah. There were technically three members of the E9x family. There is the popular E92 coupe and the far less common and arguably less sought-after E93 Cabrio and E90 sedan.

What’s hot?– Bonkers V8 engine 
– Balanced chassis 
– Rewarding drive
– Resilient on and off the track
– Shockingly versatile for everyday use
– Abundant aftermarket support

Review round-up

I’ve always been a fan of history, and taking a look back to see what the professional opinion havers (auto journalists) and consumers thought of the M3 was entertaining. Unbeknownst to me, the car was met with extremely high praise from everyone who reviewed it—finding only a handful of small issues. Fuel economy, which I can attest to, is nothing to write home about. The addicting sounds bellowing from the engine certainly don’t help keep your foot off the throttle.

BMW E92 M3
Image credit: Rob Crespo

“Our M3 was a sedate and luxurious sedan as well as a supremely rewarding driving machine. Docile in inclement weather and smooth enough to transport your grandparents (if you can resist temptation), the M3 was equally primed for backcountry road-smash mode, where it would fire every synapse in your brain related to driving pleasure. And then you’d find the M Drive button, which holds your preferred throttle, traction, and damping settings. With one press, everything somehow managed to get better. This is the M3’s genius. There are faster cars, yes, and there are a few that are more rewarding to drive. But of those, we challenge you to find one that combines speed, thrill, and daily driving duties as deftly as the M3.”

Carlos Lago, Motor Trend 2009 BMW M3 verdict

“With the M3’s many buttons, you can make of it what you want: loafing commuter, track animal, high-speed touring express. But no matter how you set it, the M3 astounds. There’s more front-end grip than most people have the guts to exploit, the steering wheel able to carve perfectly elliptical arcs up a winding road at foolish speeds. Where the 911 battles each corner, sometimes in a nerve-jangling sine wave of alternating grip and push, the M3 is dead calm.”

Aaron Robinson, Car and Driver 2009 Porsche 911 Vs. 2009 BMW M3

“Not exactly a lightweight at an estimated 3650 lb., needs more than just a carbon-fiber roof panel to be race ready — although from the performance numbers and driver’s seat it would be hard to tell the M3 is heavy. It feels light and agile. Getting the car to its limits feels smooth and progressive. Few cars combine this level of performance with such docile behavior.”

Shaun Bailey, Road and Track 2008 BMW M3 road test

“A car has got to be pretty spectacular to win over the curmudgeons here at 1585 Eisenhower Place, especially when familiarity sets in over the course of 40,000 miles. But our Sparkling Graphite Metallic M3 did indeed win us over. For less than $70,000, the M3 bolts from a standstill to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and turns the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds at 113 mph. It pulls an exceptional 0.96 g on the skidpad, stops in 147 feet from 70 mph, and reaches a governor-restricted 161 mph. On a racetrack or a back road, it’s a beautifully balanced and hugely entertaining machine.”

Mark Gilles, Car and Driver 2008 M3 long-term wrap up

“I am a proud owner of a BMW M3 and I enjoy driving my vehicle whenever I have the chance. Starting off with the exterior of the M3. My M3 is white, and I absolutely love looking at it from a distance and also when I walk away… kinda creeps some people off, haha. Moving on to the interior cabin. Very nice black leather with the signature BMW stitching on the steering wheel. The navigation systems could use some work. First-time users such as myself would have a difficult time unless you are technology savvy. This is my first BMW, and I am very impressed with the styling, detail of the vehicle, and the way it drives. It truly is the ultimate driving machine. The description of my driving experience isn’t included in my review simply because you have to drive it to experience it yourself. Go test drive an M3 now what are you waiting for!?”

Consumer review of a 2013 M3 Kelley Blue Book

“I purchased this car used in August of 2014 with 16,000 original miles. I have owned a 2004 M3 and a 2008 M3. This is by far one of the most exciting cars to drive that I have ever owned. The car is bulletproof. This is the last naturally aspirated V-8 made on the M3 platform. BMW changing (in my opinion) back to the straight six-cylinder was a huge mistake. This car is a 13-point Dinan-equipped car. Nothing but positive comments about the looks, engine sounds, and overall styling. Do yourself a favor if you are considering this car… Just drive one. Not cheap to maintain or fix, but worth every penny!”

Consumer review of a 2009 M3 Kelley Blue Book

“Handles great, love the engine sound and performance. Spent a lot of time in the shop, though. Dual-clutch broke, navigation broke, blue tooth broke, passenger seat controls broke, rear differential fluid needed to be replaced, etc. My nav has been broken for almost a year and says, ‘please wait,’ indefinitely every time I try to use it. The service deparment claims that their tests show that it is working fine! Not worth the hassle in my opinion.”

Consumer review of a 2011 M3 Kelley Blue Book

“Meets all expectations . Sporty and classy. Definitely a head turner. I receive compliments from total strangers. People are still impressed with the retractable roof. I feel this car is undervalued. Purchased used for 30k with only 40k miles. Great price. I will get years out of this car. Very impressed with the handling and pick-up.”

Consumer review of a 2013 M3 Kelley Blue Book

The other slap on the wrist was the early and somewhat clunky iDrive unit in the  2008 models. This was replaced in 2009 when the car underwent one of BMW’s famous LCI (facelift) updates, making the system much more user-friendly. Even the average consumer gave the car stellar reviews. They loved it for its style, performance, and overall usability for a sedan that keeps up with outright sports cars. However, as I’m sure you could see in a couple of those consumer reviews, there were reports of this German car doing stereotypical German car things. No one is perfect, I suppose.

BMW E92 M3
Image credit: Rob Crespo

Driving and ownership impressions

The commute

Working as an automotive technician has given me the opportunity to drive a plethora of different cars, including different generations of M3. But it wasn’t until I bought my own 2009 E92 M3 two years ago that I really got to know what it was like to own one. 

As a daily driver, I found it better than expected. Plenty of useable space for dogs, kids, groceries, or whatever homeowner crap I bought from Home Depot. It deals with my twenty-mile commute without a problem. With the suspension set in comfort mode, it soaked up most of the cracks, divots, and expansion joints that pepper the 57 and 91 freeways. Everything about the interior was well thought out. The controls are intuitive and have a solid feel to them. The seats, even with the obvious bolstering, are comfortable on long trips. Of course, it’s helpful that they have adjustable bolsters and power lumbar support.

If it weren’t for the outdated iDrive system, you wouldn’t think you were sitting in a car that debuted in 2008. However, despite its inability to link to a newer iPhone, the infotainment system still does the job. You just have to plug into the auxiliary port if you want to stream from your phone unless it’s a 2011, and then you can just stream using Bluetooth. Even the cup holders provide a perfectly adequate place to put your morning coffee. And by adequate, I mean I’ve never inadvertently spilled anything. Plus, on those rare mornings when the freeway is wide open, you can get to work really fast. Really fast.

While the M3 functions just fine as a commuter, there are better cars for that, which is why it’s been replaced with a Nissan Leaf. This car was purchased for two reasons: Explore the vast and wonderful canyons and backroads of Southern California and turn laps at the track. 

In the canyons and at the track

This car is the last of the old guard. An M3 powered by a high-strung naturally aspirated engine backed by a manual transmission. Driving it over the undulating ribbons of asphalt cutting through the mountains behind Los Angeles is one of the rare events everyone needs to experience.

The V8 fills your ears with the abundant sound of induction and exhaust as you push into third gear headed toward a fast-approaching corner. The talkative hydraulic power steering lets you know what the front end is up to as you turn in after a dab of braking. You can feel the tires grabbing hold of the asphalt, and even mid-corner adjustments are effortless. The brakes are responsive without being overly grabby, and you’ll be hard-pressed to overheat them on the street. The whole car feels composed and, despite its weight, agile. Visceral sensations abound, even at what one might call reasonable speeds in a canyon setting. It’s part of what makes the car so special. You don’t need to push it to enjoy it. The character that comes from the drivetrain makes the car feel alive regardless of your pace. 

BMW E92 M3
Image credit: Rob Crespo

In my mind, having a car like an M3 and not taking it to the track doesn’t make much sense. So, I took mine to the track as often as I could. As impressive as the car was in the canyons, it was even better on track. After a simple change to high-temperature brake pads and fluid, even with an amateur driver like myself behind the wheel, the car filled me with enough confidence to attack every corner with the ferocity of an angry badger. The chassis is balanced enough so that even when I overcooked a corner, there’s only a touch of understeer that was easily overcome. Heel-toe downshifts were handled easily, thanks to the on-point pedal spacing.

Even with 148,000 miles on the original suspension, it still held things together in the corners. Of course, with the weight of the car, there was some body roll when I pitched the car into a turn. The engine pulls and then pulls some more, and then it bounces off the rev limiter because I forgot to shift. But even after a day at the track, having pushed the car as close to its limits as I could, everything held together with no overheating, no brake fade, no matter how hard I sent it. 

Keeping it running

 Maintenance and repairs are the one thing everyone fears when they’re considering buying a used high-performance German car, so this section is a must. And I’m going to be straight with you here: it’s not the easiest car to work on, and parts certainly aren’t the cheapest. And yes, the rod bearings should be replaced. Mine certainly were. It’s a classic “better safe than sorry” situation because if you do spin a bearing, it takes down the whole engine. Mind you, the cost of a new engine outweighs the cost of replacing the rod bearings by a vast number of dollars.  

That being said, I haven’t experienced any world-ending failures. Repairs have consisted of replacing gaskets to take care of oil leaks and replacing service items like spark plugs, drive belts, and air filters. Standard old car affairs. The most shocking bill came when I had to replace the brake rotors. Those massive 14-inch front and rear two-piece rotors were far from cheap. The parts cost me well over $1,000, including pads and fluid. And when it comes time for an oil change, don’t think you can just grab engine oil at any run-of-the-mill parts store. The S65 V8 uses a special 10W-60 synthetic oil that you either have to order from your chosen online European parts supplier or the dealership.

The good news is that just about anyone handy with a wrench will have no trouble taking care of one of these cars in their own garage. After all, it is based on an everyday 3-Series. Just set aside some extra time when dealing with the engine bay, as it’s a bit cramped. And if you’re into modifying your car, the aftermarket support is phenomenal. Whether it’s improving the suspension, the endless search for more power, or cosmetic changes you’re after. You better believe it exists. 

What’s not?– Atrocious fuel mileage
– High cost of maintenance 
– Low front end likes to scrape on everything 
– Be wary of throttle body actuators and rod bearings in high-mile cars
– Older platform means no CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity without mods

Should you buy a used E92 M3?

The 2008 to 2013 BMW E92 M3 is not for the faint of heart. So that question really depends on what you’re after in a car. If you’re looking for something that gets great gas mileage, is cheap to maintain, and will simply function as a large, wheeled appliance, then no, you absolutely shouldn’t buy one. However, if you want a car that stirs your soul every time you get behind the wheel and you don’t mind putting up with the extra cost and effort to keep it going, then yes, you absolutely should. But you’d better hurry because they’ve already started to catch the eyes of collectors, and you don’t want to get priced out of the market. 

BMW E92 M3
Image credit: Rob Crespo

read more
New Car Reviews

Maserati Grecale Trofeo review: The comeback kid

After more than a decade of sporty handling and sloped roofs, it’s safe to say we weren’t hurting for another luxury compact crossover SUV. To not only add another face to the crowd but to price it higher than its German rivals, I’d say you’re either out of your mind or you’re Italian. As it happens, Maserati is both. And while its standard Grecale GT and Modena trims are the result of rational decisions a faceless corporation would make to sell a commercial product in high numbers, the 523-horsepower Maserati Grecale Trofeo is the exact opposite in the best possible way.

Up against the dubiously named but popular BMW X3 M and the universally lauded Porsche Macan GTS, both of which have undergone years of refinement, Maserati has its work cut out for it. Not to mention that once-iconic Trident badge on the front doesn’t hold the same level of prestige it once did. But if reputation is all that’s standing between you and the Grecale Trofeo, don’t write it off just yet. From a plush, high-quality interior to a fierce supercar engine ripped straight out of the MC20, you’re going to want to take this one for a test drive.

Jump to:

Price and specs

Having said that, if you’re going to write off Grecale Trofeo, write off the Grecale Trofeo. Entrepreneurial lessees could be in for a big tax break considering Maserati clocked our press car at $117,500 MSRP. Damn near fully loaded with all the bells and some of the whistles, for this price, I could have my pick of SUVs in not only this class but the next size up—certainly a well-specced Cayenne S. Hell, that kind of money could get you a true lightweight sports car and a Grecale GT.

Base price:$105,500
As-tested price:$117,500
Powertrain:3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine
Transmission:8-speed automatic
Drivetrain:All-wheel drive
Power:523 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 457 lb-ft @ 3,000-5,500 rpm
Curb weight:4,469 lbs
0-60 mph time:3.6 seconds
Top speed:177 mph
EPA estimated fuel economy:18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, 20 mpg combined
Observed fuel economy:19 mpg
Fuel capacity:16.9 gallons
Maserati Grecale price and specs

That’s right, with a starting price of $65,300, the lower-trim Grecali (plural for Grecale) will more than suffice for the average Maserati SUV driver. The base GT’s mild-hybrid, 2.0-liter four-popper makes 296 horsepower, plenty enough to merge safely onto the highway. And, let’s face it, in our daily lives, that’s all most of us use the extra power for anyway. From $74,900, stepping it up to the midrange Grecale Modena unlocks the Trofeo’s premium interior touches.

Design, colors, and options

Say what you will about Italian cars (believe me, I do)—they do tend to be easy on the eyes. It’s a long-standing stereotype that Italian automakers give their designers a blank canvas, and the frustrated engineers have to work backward to bring their artistic visions to life. To what extent that’s true, I’m not sure. But it could explain how brands like Maserati avoided the polarizing—and in my opinion, heinous—trend of big honking grilles championed by BMWs. The front end of the Grecale is tame, inoffensive, and consistent with Maserati’s design language across its current lineup.

What’s hot?– Classic, understated design
– Fast, responsive engine
– Brilliant stock exhaust
– Five bespoke driving modes
– Flexible air suspension
– Dazzling metallic paint options

When our Grecale arrived at the bustling, grandiose Acceleramota headquarters in NYC (my apartment), I was struck by its majestic tri-coat metallic paint glistening in the sun. As I later found out, embedded between the middle and top, clear coats were tiny flakes of reflective aluminum, giving it that distinct iridescent flair none of my photos could do justice. This lovely shade of blue is undoubtedly the best of the bunch, but all of the metallics are stunning and well worth the $800 premium over the single non-metallic white that comes standard.

Maserati Grecale Trofeo metallic colors ($800):

  • Bianco Astro (white with silver gloss)
  • Grigio Lava (sparkly gray with bronze tint)
  • Nero Tempesta (fancy black)
  • Blu Intenso (spicy blue)

Maserati Grecale Trofeo non-metallic colors (included):

  • Bianco (generic white)

Not one of the Grecale’s three trim levels offers a ton of extras when ordered from the factory, but that is especially true of the Trofeo. After all, Maserati parent company Stellantis’s strategy to improve reliability by giving customers fewer options—thus, fewer combinations of untested variables—seems to be paying off. In JD Power’s 2023 Initial Quality survey, Maserati showed the biggest jump of any car brand year-over-year.

Nevertheless, the Grecale Trofeo doesn’t forego factory add-ons entirely. Advanced driving assistance tech doesn’t come standard, nor do some more basic features you’d expect from a car in the six figures. The heated steering wheel, for instance, is baked into a $4,200 Premium Plus package, as are ventilated front seats. Wireless charging and a head-up display (HUD) are bundled together for another grand. Even all-but-essential safety features like blind spot assist tack on a few thousand clams. Now we’re talking paper.

Packages

Driver Assistance Plus ($3,100):

  • Intelligent speed assist
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Intersection collision assist
  • Active driving assist
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane keep assist
  • Blind spot monitor
  • Drowsy driver detection

Premium Plus ($4,200)

  • Ventilated front seats
  • Heated rear seats
  • Heated leather steering wheel
  • Heated windshield washer nozzles
  • Sonus Faber 21-speaker sound system

Techssistance package ($1,100)

  • Head up display (HUD)
  • Wireless charging pad

Other options

  • Roof rails ($400)
  • Full LED matrix headlights ($1,200)
  • Inox sport pedals ($200)
  • Cargo rails on load floor ($400)
  • 360-degree surround view camera ($800)
  • Cargo 115-volt power outlet

Interior and tech

Don’t get me wrong, the Grecale Trofeo is a luxury vehicle through and through, no matter what packages or options you end up with. Odds are, you’ll never see a no-frills Trofeo at a dealership anyway. So you can rest assured that its old-money-inspired new-money cabin made me feel poor. Mission accomplished, Maserati.

If it wasn’t upholstered in leather, it was carbon fiber. The piano black bezels surrounding the infotainment displays were among the few plastic parts I could find. The firm grip of its swanky yet classic leather steering wheel gave me the confidence of an executive at a pharmaceutical company pretending to save lives. Physical controls were a nice touch.

Coming from an Alfa Romeo Tonale, the ignition button on the steering wheel was instantly familiar, and the drive mode selector on the opposite side was an upgrade. Adjusting the volume of my music and changing songs with controls on the back of the wheel took some getting used to. As did the frankly baffling procedure of opening the door from the inside. Pressing a button to open the door electronically when there’s a mechanical backup latch right below it made me wonder why the button was there at all. The answer, I reminded myself, is because why not?

The raw texture of carbon fiber can be found and felt everywhere from above the door handle to the center console. Red stitching accentuating the leather upholstery gave the Grecale Trofeo a sportier look, color coordinated with its performance. As we all know, red is the fastest color.

Although it’s not particularly exciting, the Android-derived Uconnect infotainment system is intuitive. A benefit of Stellantis’s platform-sharing, parts bin ecosystem is that the software has to scale across 14 different brands. If it doesn’t work for Maserati’s clientele, then it doesn’t work for Jeep or Ram or Alfa Romeo drivers either. As such, most people will get the hang of it after 10-20 minutes of flipping through menus on the Grecale’s Nintendo-DS-like dual-screen setup.

My only gripe with the infotainment, which is not unique to Maserati, is how eager it is to age. The more screens you have, the more dependent you are on software and computers, and the shorter the window of time in which a car looks and feels new. The bottom screen is a static HVAC panel, great! But then, at that point, why is it a screen and not a stack of tactile buttons I can program my muscle memory to press without looking? A digital gauge cluster is less concerning—there’s a level of tailored control over what I’m seeing, and it’s not something I’m constantly engaging with, unlike climate controls.

Image credit: Gabe Carey (Acceleramota)

But hey, at least we have a row of real physical buttons between the two displays!

Oh, no, that’s a gear selector, isn’t it?

Don’t forget to double-press P to throw it in Park, or else the car will stay in reverse.

Oh, Maserati.

As much as I appreciate a good historical nod, the analog timepiece in the middle of the dashboard doesn’t feel quite the same either as yet another backlit digital display. I’d be willing to accept it if it served some function beyond telling time—maybe a built-in timer for recording lap times or a way to benchmark acceleration. But no, it’s just a clock. Nothing more to see here, Gabe. Don’t question why an analog clock can’t be, you know, analog… move along.

Image credit: Gabe Carey (Acceleramota)

Capping this section off on a positive note, because despite spending several paragraphs on a rant about screens, I do like the interior in the Grecale. No, really!

If recent Mercedes are any indication, maybe those in the target income bracket for this car don’t care how it ages. More likely than not, they’ll lease it for a couple of years and then move on to something else. Then some sucker will buy on the used market for the price of a new Nissan Altima, and it becomes their problem. And that sucker will be me.

Where was I? Right. Cargo space. It has a good amount: 20.1 cubic-feet behind the second row. More than the Porsche Macan GTS, and less than the BMW X3 M.

Fuel economy and performance

Do we have to? Before I start philosophizing about the moral quandaries of driving a status symbol on wheels, much less leasing a new one every 2-3 years, let’s cut to the chase: No one cares about how much fuel they’re burning in a Maserati. The answer is 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined. No one cares so much, in fact, that you made it this far and forgot I already wrote this on a chart three sections ago. You know how I know that? Because I forgot too.

Those are decent numbers. So decent, they’re boring. Both the GT and the Modena are rated for 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. So there you go. The one with two more cylinders burns slightly more fuel. If emissions are a concern, presumably because you want to hang out in your garage with the door down while the car is running and survive, you’re in luck: Poised to compete with the Porsche Macan EV, the fully-electric Maserati Grecale Folgore is coming soon. I have thoughts on what we know so far, but I’ll keep those to myself until we know the price.

For the rest of you gas-guzzling scum, the Grecale Trofeo is quick. Maybe it doesn’t have the instant torque of an EV, but 3.6 seconds to 60 mph is enough to scare the demons out of you—with an exhaust that sings like Pavarotti and turbos that flutter like your heart will when you hear ’em. Believe it or not, you won’t find a fast compact SUV that bests the Grecale’s horsepower, straight-line acceleration, and top speed for the price. The vastly lower-cost X3 M comes close, darting from zero to 60 in just under four seconds, but close doesn’t win pink slips when you’re dropping the kids off at school.

Seeing as it weighs nearly 4,500 pounds, that’s an impressive feat. Impressive, but not terribly surprising since it’s powered by a detuned version of the twin-turbo Nettuno V6 engine shared with Maserati’s halo car, the MC20. As with the GranTurismo, the Grecale is underpinned by a Maserati-fied version of Alfa Romeo’s Giorgio platform, the same one found in the late Giulia and Stelvio Quadrifoglio (RIP).

You can feel it, too.

In Corsa mode, the gear changes hit with a satisfying punch, the suspension stiffened, and I was dropped so close to the road that, as with my Giulia, I could sail through corners in the Grecale Trofeo with unwavering confidence.

What’s not?– Too many screens
– Cursed gear selector
– Unproven long-term reliability
– Silly digital dash clock can be tacky
– Priced among fierce, proven competitors

To lease or not to lease? That is the question

Growing up as a child of hip-hop from the aughts into the early ’10s, it wasn’t that long ago when driving a Maserati was as much of a flex as a Maybach, a Rolls-Royce, or a ‘Rari. But sometime between Backseat Freestyle and To Pimp a Butterfly, the iconic Trident badge lost its exotic sheen, and for good reason.

Famously, the Ghibli sedan and Levante midsize SUV were introduced with cheap parts from downmarket brands like Chrysler and Dodge. Then there were the quality control problems, in some cases ranking Maserati dead last in reliability. Don’t get me started on its depreciation. As much as I enjoyed the Maserati Grecale Trofeo for everything it was, is everything it was everything it will be, and for how long?

read more
Hyundai Ioniq 5 Quarter View
Best CarsFeaturesNew Car ReviewsQuick Take Reviews

These are the best EVs we’ve driven for 2024

The number of new electric models is exploding, but like gas vehicles, some are great and others leave something to be desired. We’ve had a chance to drive several of the year’s best EVs and have come up with a list of the best electric models we’ve driven so far this year! Do any of these fine science projects on wheels tickle your fancy?

We’ll update this list as the year goes on and we get our hands on newer vehicles, but let’s get rolling to see our current favorites.

Hyundai Ioniq 5

Ioniq 5 charging
Image: Hyundai

Starting price: $41,650

Horsepower: 168 to 320 hp

Torque: 258 to 446 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 99 to 114 mpge

Battery Capacity: 58 to 77.4 kWh

Range: 220 to 303 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Top Safety Pick +

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 combines retro-futuristic styling with advanced driver aids and smooth, silent acceleration. It operates on an 800V electrical architecture, enabling blazing-fast charging, and it can travel up to 303 miles on a charge in its most generous configuration. While all-wheel drive is available, the most efficient and longest-range models are those with rear-wheel drive. The Ioniq 5 has a smooth ride and refined operation, and while it’s not the most powerful or exciting EV on the market, it’s certainly tuned for comfort and delivers on that promise.

Hyundai’s tech isn’t as fancy or flashy as others, but it gets the job done and makes interacting with the vehicle a pleasure. The EV comes standard with a 12.3-inch touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, HD radio, SiriusXM, and more. Additionally, the Ioniq 5 earned a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS in 2023.

Kia EV6

Kia EV6 rear quarter on display
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Alexander Migl

Starting price: $42,600

Horsepower: 167 to 576 hp

Torque: 258 to 545 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 83 to 117 mpge

Battery Capacity: 58 to 77.4 kWh

Range: 218 to 310 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? No

The Kia EV6 shares a platform and much of its underlying technology with the Hyundai Ioniq 5, though it presents unique styling and a hotter performance variant in the EV6 GT. The 800V architecture it features enables a 10 to 80 percent charge in as few as 18 minutes using the fastest chargers available. All configurations offer healthy acceleration, but the EV6 GT’s prowess rivals that of some supercars. At the same time, the SUV has engaging handling and can hold its own in corners. It’s a little tightly wound, but most will find the ride quality agreeable. 

Psst. To any speed junkies here, note it’s the only Korean EV available with that hotted-up, sports car-fighting powertrain option. Or at least it is until Hyundai drops the Ioniq 5 N on our shores. But until then, it’s an EV6 GT or bust!

Like Hyundai, Kia focuses on functionality over flashiness in its infotainment systems. It also offers two 12.3-inch screens, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 14 speakers, wireless charging, navigation, and more. It earned a Top Safety Pick in 2022, but the IIHS hasn’t yet smashed it in the newer, tougher side-crash tests.

Ford F-150 Lightning

F-150 Lightning in the dirt
Image: Ford

Starting price: $49,995

Horsepower: 452 to 580 hp

Torque: 775 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 66 to 70 mpge

Battery Capacity: 98 to 131 kWh

Range: 230 to 320 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? No

Ford wasn’t the first to market with an electric pickup, but it hit the market hard with the F-150 Lightning — a normal-looking, full-sized truck that is surprisingly capable and demonstrates decent range. Though it has raised prices and struggled to keep up with demand, Ford configured the truck to be as familiar as possible for everyday buyers, and the Lightning delivers on that goal. It offers fantastic interior space and comfort and plenty of available tech – including BlueCruise hands-free driving. Though its range extends to 320 miles, towing and hauling heavy loads has an outsized impact on the distance it can travel, but 66 to 70 mpge combined is still pretty darn good for what it is.

Ford’s excellent Sync infotainment system runs on a 12-inch touchscreen, and the truck comes standard with a 12-inch digital gauge cluster. Buyers can upgrade to a massive 15.5-inch display, and other options include wireless charging, HD radio, and SiriusXM radio. Though it missed out on a Top Safety Pick, the Lightning comes standard with a load of advanced safety kit, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, lane keep assist, and more.

All said and done, it’s a fairly well-equipped and heavy-hitting product, even if it can get egregiously priced near the top of its trim levels. And sure. Although, it’s clearly not ideally sized for urban environments, don’t let a little girth deter you from an otherwise compelling product, especially if utility is a huge plus for you.

Mercedes-Benz EQS

Mercedes EQS quarter view
Image: Mercedes-Benz

Starting price: $104,400

Horsepower: 355 to 649 hp (751 hp w/ boost)

Torque: 417 to 700 lb-ft. (752 lb-ft. w/ boost)

Combined MPGe: 76-96 mpge

Battery Capacity: 108.4 kWh

Range: 280 to 352 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Not yet tested

The Mercedes-Benz EQS is a flagship electric sedan from the luxury brand that offers futuristic tech, striking style, and an available AMG variant with breathtaking performance. No matter the powertrain choice, the car carries itself with authority and composure. It remains comfortable over various road surfaces and is surprisingly capable in the corners. At the same time, the interior remains quiet, and the car feels like an S-Class Mercedes at all times.

Mercedes offers a serious array of tech in the EQS, including standard 64-color ambient interior lighting and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Though optional before, the expansive Hyperscreen system now comes standard, bringing a 17.7-inch touchscreen and a 12.3-inch passenger display. The EQS comes standard with blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, pedestrian and cyclist detection, forward and rear automatic braking, and more.

Nissan Ariya

Nissan Ariya Front Fascia
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Kazya Kuruma

Starting price: $43,190

Horsepower: 214 to 389 hp

Torque: 221 to 442 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 87 to 101 mpge

Battery Capacity: 63 to 84 kWh

Range: 205 to 304 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Top Safety Pick +

Nissan had delays with its new EV, the Ariya, but it landed in 2023 with a decent range and impressive horsepower. Acceleration feels solid, though the front-wheel drive model takes more than seven seconds to reach 60 mph. The all-wheel drive configuration is considerably quicker, making the run in 5.5 seconds, and the SUV manages itself well on the road. Braking and steering are confidence-inspiring, and the Ariya holds its own in the corners.

Nissan equips the Ariya with a standard 12.3-inch touchscreen running wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A Wi-Fi hotspot, HD radio, Amazon Alexa capability, and much more also come standard. The Ariya has a solid list of standard safety equipment, though the IIHS hasn’t tested it yet. It’s equipped with blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, lane departure warnings, pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, a rearview camera, parking sensors, and driver attention warnings.

Genesis Electrified G80

Genesis Electrified G80
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Damian Oh

Starting price: $79,825

Horsepower: 365

Torque: 516 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 97 mpge

Battery Capacity: 87.2 kWh

Range: 282 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Not yet evaluated under new criteria

Genesis took a tried-and-true approach with the Electrified G80, fitting batteries and an electric motor to the gas model’s body. The results are impressive: 365 horsepower, 282 miles of range, and all the luxury ride quality anyone could want. The car retains its flagship sedan feel, and the silent electric drivetrain offers strong acceleration and smooth operation. It’s not the most agile option around, but the car’s extreme level of comfort is a substantial consolation prize.

The Electrified G80 gets a 14.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 12 speakers, dual-zone automatic climate controls, a digital gauge cluster, and USB inputs. A 12.3-inch gauge cluster is available, along with wireless charging and an upgraded Lexicon audio system. The Electrified G80 earned a Top Safety Pick + in 2022 but hasn’t been subjected to the new, more intense side-crash tests. 

Cadillac Lyriq

Cadillac LYRIQ on China roads
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Dinkun Chen

Starting price: $58,590

Horsepower: 340 to 500 hp

Torque: 325 to 450 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 89 mpge

Battery Capacity: 102 kWh

Range: 307 to 314 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Not yet tested

The Lyriq is Cadillac’s first EV, riding on GM’s advanced Ultium platform. And while not everyone on board Acceleramota seems to love it, there’s no denying what it has to offer GM fans. It offers up to 500 horsepower, and even the base configuration brings 340 ponies to the table. Acceleration isn’t exceptionally thrilling, but the SUV delivers refined power and good handling. It’s also every bit a Cadillac, bringing a smooth driving experience and a stable ride quality. The Lyriq’s one-pedal driving function works well, and standard braking feels solid.

The Lyriq’s dash is adorned with a massive array of screens, collectively spanning thirty-three inches, and equipped with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, multiple USB ports, seven speakers, and more. Additionally, Cadillac includes ambient interior lighting, an AKG premium stereo, and a panoramic sunroof. Though it hasn’t been evaluated by the IIHS yet, the Lyriq comes standard with a vibrating safety alert seat, lane departure warnings, pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warnings.

read more
2023 Volkswagen Golf R
New Car ReviewsQuick Take Reviews

2023 Volkswagen Golf R review: a timeless hot hatch for the aging car enthusiast

Volkswagen released the eighth-generation Golf GTI and Golf R in the United States in 2022, and both got interesting anniversary models for 2023. I grabbed a 2023 Volkswagen Golf R 20th Anniversary from a local dealer at a fair price and have spent the last two months putting it through its paces. The car is far from perfect, but its mix of interior space, all-wheel drive performance, and supreme hot-hatch cargo capacity put it over the top for me. 

That said, I would’ve picked up a GR Corolla for the right price. The Golf R is brutally quick and offers impressive performance tech, but it’s not as raw or entertaining to drive as the Corolla or the new Civic Type R. It’s better at hauling my kids and dog, but is it a better all-around car? Let’s get rolling and discover all the reasons why I think (hope) I made the right call. 

Golf R Snow Slalom
Image: Volkswagen

2023 Volkswagen Golf R price and trim levels

The Volkswagen Golf R starts at $44,740 and is on sale now. It comes in two trim levels – base and 20th Anniversary – but the latter is just an appearance change for the car. Though the R is offered in other body styles globally, America gets a hatch only, but it gets all the goodies without added-cost options. In this review, we tested the 2023 Golf R 20th Anniversary.

Available trim levels:

  • Base: $44,740
  • 20th Anniversary: $45,390

Exterior paint colors

  • Lapiz Blue Metallic
  • Deep Black Pearl
  • Pure White White

Interior colors

  • Titan black w/ blue stitching

Interior options

  • VW offers no interior options

Packages

  • VW offers no packages or upgrades other than accessories

They’re keeping it real simple over there at Wolfsburg, I see.

For reference, the Civic Type R is roughly on par at $44,890, while its tuxedo-clad sibling, the Integra Type-S, goes for $51,995. The GR Corolla starts far lower at $35,900, and the Hyundai Elantra N, which is a teeny smidge behind this pack in terms of speed but has similar tech and features, stickers for $32,900.

2023 Volkswagen Golf R interior and tech

While VW offers plaid cloth or leather in the GTI, the Golf R gets leather in both models. The 20th Anniversary adds carbon fiber trim to the dash and a blue “R” logo to the steering wheel but is otherwise identical, other than the fact that buyers pay more to delete the sunroof. Some have complained that the eighth-gen Golf R and GTI feel cheaper inside than their predecessors, which is largely accurate. There are more hard plastics and fewer physical controls than before, and that’s a hard pill to swallow at almost $50,000.

Interior space

  • Front seat legroom: 41.2 inches
  • Rear seat legroom: 35 inches
  • Front seat headroom: 38.5 inches
  • Rear seat headroom: 38.1 inches
  • Cargo space with back seats up: 19.9 cubic feet
  • Cargo space with back seats down: 34.5 cubic feet

Dimensions

  • Length: 168.9 inches
  • Width: 70.4 inches
  • Height: 57.7 inches

2023 Volkswagen Golf R engine and performance

The 2023 Golf R relies on VW’s workhorse EA888 four-cylinder engine, now in its fourth generation. The turbocharged 2.0-liter mill makes 315 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque and sends it to all four wheels through a seven-speed DSG transmission. The car comes standard with a six-speed manual, but they’re harder to find and are down 15 pound-feet of torque on the DSG. I’ve been able to get close to Car and Driver’s tested zero-to-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds, but the quickest times involve perfect conditions that I rarely have here in Maine.

In the handling department, Volkswagen improved the Golf R’s suspension and chassis, and the car comes standard with adaptive dampers. Large 14.1-inch front rotors bring everything to a stop and the car’s torque vectoring shifts torque between the wheels that need it the most.

The Golf R also includes several drive modes, such as “Race,” “Special,” and “Drift.” Even so, having a Drift mode is only really useful if the car actually drifts while using it. That’s not the case here, as the Golf R feels extremely reluctant to break traction in the so-called drifting mode.

Golf R Drifting
Image: Volkswagen

2023 Volkswagen Golf R design

Where some hot hatches opt to shout their performance from the rooftops, the Golf R is a more subtle affair. There are no loud scoops on the hood or massive spoilers other than one prominent wing on the rear hatch. I’d prefer a sunroof, but many have knocked VW’s for being leaky and loud, so perhaps I dodged a bullet with the 20th Anniversary’s slicktop design. The car rides on 19-inch wheels clad in summer rubber, and though the wheel design is the same, the 20th Anniversary’s are painted black. The only other indications that it’s different from a GTI or standard Golf are the R logos on the quarter panels and rear hatch.

The interior design is pleasing to the eye, but there are simply too many touch controls. I’ve adjusted to them after weeks of use, but they could be jarring for someone coming out of a more analog car. The front seats are deep, sporty, and supportive and offer prominent bolstering for secure seating during rowdy driving. Back-seat passengers enjoy more legroom than the Toyota GR Corolla, and the R has more cargo space than a Porsche Macan. Go figure.

Golf R front quarter view
Image: Chris Teague

2023 Volkswagen Golf R future

The Golf GTI and R are only two years old at this point, and despite VW’s EV saber-rattling, they’ll likely stick around with gas for at least a few more years. The cars are expected to get a facelift in 2025 or 2026 that brings more physical controls and other updates, but the Golf probably won’t shift to an all-electric, or even a hybrid design for that matter, in the next couple of years. That said, VW has long said that the GTI name would make the jump to electrification at some point, so it’s only a matter of time before we see an electrified hatchback on American soil. 

Golf R Wheels and Brakes
Image: Chris Teague

Additional FAQs

Is the Golf R worth the premium over a Golf GTI?

In my case, the answer was yes. The GTI (I owned a new one for over a year) fizzles out at a point, and that’s where the R shines the most. This is true with acceleration and overall grip, as the R’s trick all-wheel drive system helps it claw out of trouble much more confidently. 

Is a Golf R expensive to maintain?

Maintaining a Golf R is more expensive than driving something like a VW Jetta or Camry. Still, it’s not as tearjerking as trying to keep up with maintenance on a Porsche or more exotic car like a Lamborghini or Ferrari. 

Which Audi has the same powertrain as the Golf R?

The Audi S3 sedan has the same turbo-four and all-wheel drive system as the Golf R, all wrapped up in a sedan body instead of a hatch.

Is the Golf R faster than the GTI?

The Golf R has 75 more horsepower, and its all-wheel drive system helps put that power to the ground much more efficiently than the front-wheel drive GTI.

read more