Electric cars have never been more relevant, more livable and more appealing, and in the case of the Cadillac ELR and the Tesla Model S, more luxurious. The ELR and the Model S are quite differently packaged
Very few companies have ever tried to take on Subaru, one of the gay community’s all-time favorite car brands, in the arena of all-wheel drive sedans, but since Chrysler decided to wade into the all-wheel drive sedan pool with its sleek new 200 sedan this year, I figure it’s time for a quick face-off.
Some cars make me feel mischievous, while some make me feel badass. And some, like this week’s Mercedes-Benz SL550 test car, make me feel rich. Like, Beverly Hills housewife rich. Black Amex rich. Bathtub-full-of-icees-rich. My-200-foot-yacht-is-currently-docked-in-Monte-Carlo rich.
What are the most popular cars among the LGBT community? Miatas, Wranglers, BMWs, Fiat 500s? None of the above, actually. Yep, according to a 203 IHS survey of 3 million self-reported LGBT consumers, we buy basically the same automotive appliances everybody else buys, with our Top 5 list comprised of the Ford F-150, the Honda Accord, the Chevy Silverado, the Toyota Camry and the Honda Civic.
By now, you may have heard that diesels are back in force and better than ever. Coincidentally, the VW Golf is back—all-new for 2015!—and is also better than ever. Put these two together, and you have a very, very appealing combination.
Our last “Drive This Not That” feature pitted the beautiful Audi S7 against BMW’s 650i Gran Coupe, and Audi won that matchup on account of its mix of sex appeal, performance, practicality and (relative) value. This time, BMW edges out its Audi competitor on the sheer emotionality it brings to the entry-luxury segment.
Winner: 2014 Audi S7 Like most gays, I love BMWs. And the saucy, muscular 650i Gran Coupe is the BMW equivalent of speedo-clad Joe Manganiello emerging from a tropical lagoon…yeah, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eatin’ crackers.
Everyone I know loves the yummy Porsche Cayman. And nearly everyone I know loves convertibles, especially in our sun-drenched locales. So it’s confounding to me that people do not love the Cayman roadster. It’s probably because—and only because—it’s called the Boxster, which was once regarded as the poor man’s Carrera. And no one—especially we image-conscious gays—want to be seen in a poor man’s anything.
If you like muscles, and you like cars, well, we’re gonna get along great. And we’d both probably agree that the big brute Chevrolet SS sport sedan is a decadent delight. It’s Chevy’s flagship car, with rear-wheel drive, polished wheels, fat tires and a big stonkin’ V-8 with a delicious exhaust rumble that hearkens back to the olden days of American car glory.
I’m a sucker for a pretty face. And with its clean grille and Audi A5-like LED running lights, the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200’s face definitely qualifies as a pretty. The 200 has a good body and great ass, too, if I may go there. But it’s more than beautiful on the outside; it’s spacious and stylish on the inside, too, especially in high-zoot “200C” form, which contains top-stitched leather and artfully bent wood veneers evocative of the famous lounge chair designed by Charles Eames in the 1940s. Among my favorite features are a gorgeous floating instrument cluster with backlighting—I’m all about good lighting—a clever center console with sliding cupholders, and the availability of 3G wifi connectivity.
In an age when cars are expected to hold more people, carry more things, be smarter, go faster and do it all while sipping less fuel, the good old-fashioned two-door remains an innately self-indulgent and decidedly personal form of transportation. With sleek, low-slung bodies and fewer unsightly cutlines than staid sedans, coupes are also prettier, more expensive and less accommodating in back—limitations that somehow make them that much more desirable. Coupes have become an endangered species of late, though, with many folks—including us gays—finding our way into four-doors or crossing into crossovers. I’m happy to see that two-doors are making a bit of a comeback, with about a half-dozen new models being introduced this year. Here are three of our favorites for your perusal.
Gays love BMWs, and I’m gay. And as a bit of a contrarian, I also love wagons. So to me, there are few things better than a BMW wagon like the Melbourne Red metallic 328d I tested this week. OK, so I entered this test a bit biased, but seriously, why anyone would get a $50K SUV when this sexy machine is available is beyond me. First, from a practicality standpoint, few luxury vehicles can touch it, with incredible cargo flexibility, its 40/20/40 split-back seats, extra under-floor storage, flexible floor divider with retractable band, hooks, anchors, a power point, even a dog net. The interior is otherwise identical to the 3-Series sedan, only better lit—thank you, panoramic sunroof.
What’s the difference between car design and plastic surgery? When you redo a car, you want people to notice, but when you 'get work done,' you don’t. Acura seems to have taken the Brentwood housewife approach when redesigning its third-generation MDX, because it looks more or less just like the last one, albeit with softer contours and a row of LED headlamps. Alas, it is new, and in pretty much every way, it’s better than before. The interior, for example, is gorgeous. The front seats are delightfully comfortable, materials are excellent, and the sound system is spectacular and reads every conceivable kind of media (except for your old Debbie Gibson cassettes—sorry). Storage is everywhere, the back seat is huge and it even has an easy-access third-row seat when it’s your turn to be the designated driver on Sunday Funday. The standard V-6 is quiet and fuel-efficient, yet can kick up its skirts when you find out there’s a fire sale at the Andrew Christian store. Even better, next to certain highly respected SUVs like the BMW X5 and Audi Q7, it is far less expensive. In other words, it’s got enough of the stuff you want, and not too much of anything else, letting you save your money for the undies.
I’m asked all the time about hybrids, and, frankly, I find them hard to love (especially the Prius). Plug-ins, on the other hand, including the Chevy Volt and this car, the Ford Fusion Energi, actually work for me. Why? Because you can drive them around as electric cars for most of the day (up to 24 miles in the case of the Fusion Energi), and when the juice runs out, you continue on your merry way sipping gas. Plug-ins are the best of both worlds.
Winner: 2014 Ford Fiesta ST This is weird, and frankly, unexpected. Who’d have thunk that a Ford Fiesta would be able to out-fun the Mini Cooper S, a perennial favorite among budget thrill-seekers? Well, first of all, the Fiesta ST is no ordinary Fiesta but rather a bargain screamer, with a thrilling turbocharged engine, racy five-door body, slot-car handling and gorgeous steering. Its bumpy ride and notchy six-speed manual are perfectly in character with its playful purpose, and like a Mazda Miata and the Jeep Wrangler—two longstanding gay faves—it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GT — Ehhhh, Not So Much Yes, Mitsubishi still builds cars. Haven’t noticed? Perhaps that’s because, aside from the mighty EVO, Mitsu’s products have been rather unremarkable in recent years. But alas, the massive Japan-based automobile and electronics manufacturer is still making cars, and the redesigned Outlander GT crossover is the freshest of the lot. So while I’m not so fond of its Marty-the-Martian face or its porky body, I decided to give it a chance to win me over with its spacious cabin, bevy of new safety and convenience features and supposed quality improvements.
Winner: 2014 Chevrolet Silverado Full-size pickups used to be synonymous with cowboys, road crews, and—fine, I’ll go there—lesbians. But nowadays, big trucks aren’t just for the sturdy set. They're suitable for a variety of lifestyles that occasionally involve towing or carrying stuff but don’t necessarily revolve around said activities. What hasn’t changed in the last, say, 50 years or so is the rivalry between Ford and Chevrolet for full-size truck supremacy. And this year, Chevy’s redesigned Silverado, which was recently crowned North American Truck of the Year, is far and away the better truck compared to the ubiquitous F-150. With modern amenities like app-based infotainment, a padded dash top, Mercedes-like craftsmanship, available heated and cooled seats, lane departure warning and other great stuff, the Silverado is as comfortable as an everyday vehicle—even a luxury vehicle—as it is a work truck. Handling is decent for something this rugged and capable, and the cabin is library quiet at speed. Gotta be careful, though, as prices can creep up in to the $40K—$50K range (or even higher) without much problem.
We gays love our Jeeps. Whether it be a classy Grand Cherokee or a doorless, ragtop Wrangler, there’s something masculine and cool and eminently gay-chic about owning a Jeep. That said, there’s a lot of space between those two vehicles, which Jeep is filling with its new Cherokee compact crossover. First, it looks, um, different, with a controversial constellation of front-end lights (that I love, but not everyone else does). It also checks all the boxes in terms of space, interior ergonomics and available features, including a ton of safety equipment like drift prevention, collision mitigation, radar cruise control and more that’s found primarily on luxury cars. But Jeep may have overshot the mark on the equipment parade in the case of my Limited grade test vehicle, which came loaded with pretty much everything but a sunroof, bringing the sticker price to an eye-watering $37K! At that price, the Cherokee needs to feel less like a RAV4 inside and more like a Mercedes, and alas, it doesn’t.
Like a drag queen throwing a spiral, Kia almost universally surprises its audience—especially when the Kia in question is one of its high-zoot models like the Cadenza, the next-rung-up model above the popular Optima sedan. The Cadenza’s design is decidedly elegant, with LED lights front and rear and, on Limited models, gleaming multi-spoke, 19-inch wheels. My tester was rendered in a delicious brown metallic paint that would garner plenty of compliments on a Bentley, let alone a Kia. They could have sweated certain details a little more, like adding grippy material inside the cupholders and making both front seats heated and cooled, not just the driver’s seat. And the ride is a little stiff, too, thanks to the low-profile tires wrapping around those pretty wheels. But otherwise, it drives nicely enough, with 293 hp from its V-6 engine and front-wheel drive. With its leather-and-wood-lined interior, tons of tech features and a strong, masculine presence, the Cadenza can be regarded as Kia’s Lincoln, if not Kia’s Mercedes. That’s coming later this year in the form of the ambitious new K900 sedan. As our drag queen quarterback might say, “Go long, Kia!”
Hybrids are seldom bought for emotional reasons, unless you’re particularly emotional about paying extra money upfront to save fuel over the years you own your car. But some hybrids, such as the new 2014 VW Jetta Hybrid, prove that at least hybrids don’t have to look like a doorstop, which is one of the reasons it gets the win against the ubiquitous Toyota Prius in this Drive This, Not That matchup. It also wins from a drivability standpoint, with strong (for a hybrid) acceleration, decent handling and a gas powertrain that doesn’t sound as droney as that of the Prius in the event that it comes on (it has an “E-drive” mode that allows you to drive on electricity alone up to 47 mph if you’re really gentle on the gas for short distances).
I know that many of say you’ll never be able to take Buick as seriously as BMW. But it’s worth noting that, nowadays, Buicks—and the Regal GS in particular—are tuned much more like Audis than the floaty lux-o-barges of our youth.This is especially true of my particular test car—a performance-oriented, top-of-the-line Regal GS, with grippy all-wheel drive that helps get all of its 259 horespower to the ground without sending the front wheels spinning like the freshly out-of-the-closet Brian Boitano performing a triple axle. The GS’ automatic transmission, however, needs some shift paddles if it’s truly going to be taken seriously as a sport sedan, so in that regard, the Germans retain their edge. That said, most BMW drivers I know couldn’t tell a shift paddle from a soap dish. To them, interior styling and comfort are more important, and the Buick’s intimate cabin is surprisingly stylish and high-tech, with excellent sport seats to boot. Of course, there’s a cachet deficit, but to some contrarians, that’s even more reason to consider it.
In about six months, the 2015 BMW i3 electric car will start whirring along the roads of Southern California, and just before this year’s L.A. Auto Show, I got a chance to drive the futuristic little thing. Here’s what I learned. For starters, there’s a lot of design going on here. Large glass panels, futuristic body panels, center-opening doors and cool light designs give the i3 a look like nothing else on the road. The cabin looks more like an industrial design project than a car interior, with floating info screens and a beautiful slab of open-pore bamboo that sweeps down from the glovebox cover underneath the iDrive screen. The seats don’t look comfortable but they are, and both rows of seats were designed so that passengers can easily slide across to the other side to get out in case parking is really tight. Very clever. But alas, even BMW has a hard time making an electric car fun. While it has that characteristic electric car rush of acceleration, its steering does not feel as natural as in most BMWs, and its super-skinny tires and aggressive stability controls render handling very, uh, cautious. At least the price is attractive: $42,275 for the all-electric model; add $3,850 if you want to add a Chevy Volt-style, range-extending engine in the back.
We gays are famous for adding “s” to things, and when it comes to Audis, I highly recommend adding an “s” before the name Q5. Doing so amps up Audi’s tasteful Q5 crossover into a high-style, high-performance trucklet that’s as quick as it is slick. The 354-hp supercharged V-6 engine, paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic and suspension all have multiple modes ranging from “I got this” (comfort) to “Let’s play” (dynamic), always serving up the right amount of response when you want to get frisky or smoothness when you just want to take it easy. Making every SQ5 distinct from workaday Q5s are matte silver mirrors, 20-inch wheels, an aggressive front fascia and a contoured rear bumper with quad chrome exhaust tips. The black leather-and-Alcantara interior on my tester was made even more special with beautiful black-stained wood that was inlaid every quarter-inch or so with an aluminum pinstripe. Very dressy. This isn’t the cheapest small crossover out there, but in my opinion, it’s the best. Make mine Estoril Blue, please.
Winner: 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport When it comes to premium luxury SUVs that can push six figures without much trouble, one thing is for sure—neither is going to suck. Indeed, if you look at the scorecard, the trucks are more or less tied overall. Alas, you can only drive one at a time, and if it was my money, I’d go with the Land Rover Range Rover Sport. Why? While the Bimmer handles better, gets better fuel economy and boasts an elegant and spacious interior, its new exterior design is dowdier than before, and its hospital-like sterility sort of works against it. The Land Rover’s far more distinctive design and countless personalization opportunities (including contrast-color roof treatments) impart a greater sense of occasion upon it. And while the Range Rover Sport is hardly sporty, it can certainly move, even with its base supercharged V-6. The fact that the Rover reigns supreme over pretty much anything in its class off-road is more or less irrelevant to most customers, but for what it’s worth, it is amazeballs when the pavement goes away.
Perfection. Sheer perfection. That’s what runs through my head every time I jump in the Porsche Cayman I’m testing this week. To me, it’s even better-looking than Porsche’s vaunted 911 Carrera, and—this may sound somewhat heretical—in Cayman S form, I think it even drives better, too. (I know…gasp!) With its powerful six-cylinder engine sitting right behind you and scintillating steering singing road texture to your fingertips, the feathery, second-generation Cayman can be best described as transcendent from behind the wheel. The new interior looks and feels as premium as that of the bigger, heavier 911, thus banishing whatever cheapness may have characterized the first-generation model. Also, while certain people love hard tops (who doesn’t?), some still prefer convertibles, and for them, Porsche does sell a Cayman convertible—it’s called the Boxster—and it’s just as delicious.