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The Rolls-Royce Dawn gives an unqualified upscale experience.

In our test, we felt the respect this car engendered while driving it through Boston on a beautiful Fall day through New England.

The Dawn is more than 17 feet long and six feet wide, and its weight is claimed to be just less than 5,700 pounds. That’s big in a city where the streets were designed when most people rode horses.

But, the Dawn is such a spectacular sight that everyone around it simply moved out of the way.

In a town where people would just as soon lose a front bumper rather than let you merge, its drivers remarkably relaxed for the Dawn.


On the open road, getting out of the way is a moot point, because most cars can’t keep up.

Power comes from a 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12. Stats are 563 horsepower, 575 lb-ft of torque, and a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds. That’s a lot of power, but this is a lot of car.

As such, the Dawn isn’t the most responsive vehicle you’ll ever drive, but once it understands you mean business, you’ll see the Dawn’s hood come up as power surges and it lets loose.

But that’s not really what the Dawn is all about. It’s not a sports car; instead, the Dawn is a luxury car that pretty much defines the words.

People don’t save up to buy a Dawn; they usually add one to their existing collection of luxury cars. According to the folks from Rolls-Royce, that collection typically numbers around seven and likely includes a Land Rover for days when the terrain is more rugged.

The Dawn is your Sunday afternoon pleasure cruise. It’s your drive up the coast with nothing to do and no destination in mind. It’s your meandering journey through the countryside. It is effortless and relaxing, and it floats down the road.

Thinking of hiring a driver? That’s a good plan, because the best seats in the Dawn are the ones where you don’t need to hold the wheel and can simply sink back into the leather and enjoy the ride.

This is a true four-seater convertible with a back seat that fits two adults comfortably. It is elegant, with open-pore wood and chrome accents tastefully applied throughout the cabin. The story is similar up front, save for a few oddly chosen black plastic accents that seem completely out of place in the face of such luxury.


The suicide doors, which Rolls-Royce calls carriage doors, make it easy to get in and out of the Dawn, but they are heavy. They can also be difficult to reach for short arms, so there are buttons you can press to close them. The only odd bit about the buttons is that you must hold them down until the doors are fully closed.

You’re probably choosing to drive your Dawn convertible on days when the sun is shining, but should the weather unexpectedly turn, then there are built-in umbrellas in the passenger and driver’s side door jambs. Push a button, and your umbrella pops right out.

You can also quickly close the roof in 22 seconds at speeds up to 32 mph. As with the doors, this requires holding the button until the process is complete.


Much like this isn’t a performance vehicle, it’s also not a particularly tech-centric vehicle. You won’t find Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and there’s only one USB port tucked into the notably small center console. You get a 10.25-inch high-definition screen that is not a touchscreen. It’s controlled with a dial on the center console that features the silhouette of the Spirit of Ecstasy. That’s the name of the Rolls-Royce hood ornament, so you can thank us later when you know that tidbit the next time you’re chatting with a stranger over a bourbon.

Starting price of the Rolls-Royce Dawn is $335,000 for the base model, but most orders come in higher.

Cash in hand gets your custom Dawn stocked with most anything you want. You’ll also have to be patient, as orders are currently taking around six months to fill.

Order your Rolls-Royce Dawn today, and you’ll have it just in time to celebrate spring.


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BMW refreshed its 3 Series for 2016, and the 328d xDrive Sport Wagon continues on as a driver’s car with elegance and efficiency aplenty. 

Changes for the 2017 328d are minimal – even its $100 price increase is negligible. So if you’re wanting a 328d xDrive on the cheap, check out your local dealers for end-of-model-year deals.

Although “cheap” is probably not the word to use with the 328d xDrive Sport Wagon. It has the usual BMW feel of exceptional quality, and the 328d’s pricing is firmly premium. There are many excellent cars and crossovers and SUVs you could buy for the near-$62K price of our 328d test car, but few would have this 328d’s wagon-chicness.


We’re stopping short of calling the tested 328d xDrive Sport Wagon truly fun to drive, for a reason we’ll explain forthwith. But on the whole, this 3 Series’ responses were balanced and satisfying.

Fun to drive is of course in the eye of the beholder, and there’s a lot to like here. The 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder engine’s strong low-end torque keeps it feeling nimble around town.

The 328d xDrive will then run a like a freight train down the highway – one can imagine it being a terrific commuter, especially with the diesel‘s impressive 40-mpg EPA highway rating.


That’s six more than the gas-powered (with premium required) 328i xDrive Sport Wagon’s rating of 34, and it places the 328d xDrive in the enviable place of reaching the coveted highway rating of 40 while being equipped with all-wheel drive.


The fly in the ointment is BMW’s electric steering. For longtime BMW enthusiasts and owners like your writer, this is a particular disappointment. BMW’s hydraulic steering was once unrivaled, with open communication and a predictable buildup of resistance.

But this electric steering unit isn’t interested in much beyond keeping the driver isolated from the proceedings, and it frustratingly dings the 328d xDrive Sport Wagon’s fun factor. I noted this in my review of 428i Gran Coupe, and the same is the case in the tested 328d xDrive Sport Wagon. C’mon, BMW, fix this.

Otherwise, this 328d xDrive Sport Wagon presented itself with substance and elegance. The front Sport Seats are included with the $3,100 M Sport Package, and they’re as buckety and supportive as you’d expect, although we thought it was curious that the lumbar support came separately through the $1,700 Premium Package.


The 328d xDrive Sport Wagon’s rear seat is clearly compact-sized, with 35.0 inches of legroom. That’s just enough for six-footers. The seat is comfortably shaped, and unlike some closed-in crossovers, the view out from back there is wide-open.


The cargo area is deeply carpeted, and its 27.5-cubic-foot measurement opens up space enough for a good-sized Costco run. Fold down the seatbacks, and that number grows to 61.5 cubic feet.


So the tested 328d xDrive Sport Wagon impressed in many ways – of course, adding nearly $20K in options will do that to a car. If you’re looking for a premium experience in a car with extra practicality, the 328d xDrive Sport Wagon is worth a look, and what feels like isolated steering to this automotive journalist might feel like something else to you. But we’re holding out hope that BMW will infuse the 3 Series’ tiller with the substance the rest of the car reflects.



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2016-09-01 14.52.40

The 2016 Audi TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic is a capable and competent coupe; it has all-wheel drive traction, along with all the power one would be able to use on public roads. But is it fun to drive?

What is it? 

The compact Audi TT AWD coupe is in a class of its own. Its closest competitor may be the larger Audi A5 coupe. Low, wide, and built for a firm command of the road, the TT exemplifies Audi’s design capability. It is also, in the case of our test car, a handsome car. In profile and from the back, it is downright good-looking.

The front is dominated by a black plastic grille that seems too sedate for a pricey sports coupe, but maybe Audi buyers want sedate. Compared to the Lexus RC 350 and BMW 4 Series, this coupe is smaller, not based on a rear-wheel drive car, and has no usable back seat. It is really a two-seater with a storage area shaped like a seat in back.

Let’s look at the facts and the feelings we got from this car, and then we will tell you clearly if it is fun.

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Pricing and trims

Audi offers three separate TTs. The first two are the TT Coupe we test here and the TTS Coupe which offers a higher level of performance. The third is the convertible TT Roadster, which has the same drivetrain as the TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic we tested (don’t blame us for the oddly spelled name).

The base TT starts at about $44K. The higher performance TTS starts at about $53K, and the TT Roadster starts at about $48K.

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Our 2016 TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic had an MSRP of $50,600 and included upgraded seats, wheels, sound system and had Nav. These options swayed our opinion of the TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic, so even though a lower cost model is available, we think the options and higher cost of our test vehicle made a significant difference.

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Being an extremely low-volume model, neither IIHS, nor NHTSA has tested the current Audi TT. Our test vehicle lacked forward collision prevention and auto braking, and along with that key safety feature, it was missing adaptive cruise control. These now common systems are available on mainstream models priced around $20K. How a luxury model can lack them is a mystery to this auto tester.

The back-up camera was unique and very helpful. The TT is not as easy to see out of in back as most vehicles, and the back-up camera displaying in the gauge cluster was just about essential.


Performance is this vehicle’s reason for being, and the TT delivers – it has more than enough thrust to shoot you forward. Although 220 horsepower from a 2.0-liter turbo may not sound like much compared to V8 Camaros that can offer more than double that power at this same price point, the engine in this coupe has plenty of torque at low RPMs.

With its all-wheel drive system, the TT has the traction to get every pony to the ground. Our test included multiple rainy days and the TT never slipped once. Like all VW products, Audi is tuning the TT to behave like a diesel. It muscles itself off the line with its torque, but unlike a diesel, the power kicks you in the seat of the pants once underway.

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Turbocharged engines don’t have the same instant response that normally aspirated (non-turbo) engines can offer, but that’s not always a problem. If you plan to drive the TT aggressively, it will be there for you. Floor the gas from a stop and it has only an instant of lag before it shoots you forward. As boost builds, the sensation of power comes on quickly.

The TT offers multiple drive modes, including the ability to individually set your favorite parameters. The transmission also has an “S” mode that is accessed and canceled by simply pulling the gear shift lever back one notch from “D.” This is hands-down my favorite thing about this car.

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The S tronic part of this vehicle’s model name refers to the automatic, six-speed, dual clutch transmission (DCT). The DCT behaved well in low-speed moves in and out of the garage, unlike some DCTs we have tested in past years. The point of a DCT in a sports car is that the shifts are super-fast, and the driver can be involved using the paddle shifters. We loved the way the paddles responded to our commands, and the TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic is easy to drive in manual mode.

When we wanted more aggressive shifts, we simply pulled the gear selector back to the “S” position. This raises revs and holds the car at higher RPMs. Thus, throttle response is much faster, since the car is always on boost. The car also senses you slowing for turns and downshifts.

In normal cruising, the winding engine gets a little tiresome and “D” is easily selected with another pull of the gear selector. Audi really nails this part of the car. I loved being more involved and the feeling of control.

Unfortunately, the TT has no option of a manual transmission. Although I loved the DCT, it is cars like this in which a manual makes the most sense.  Two manuals I have tested jump to mind – the $39K VW Golf R With DCC and the $31K VW GTI Autobahn I tested and fell in love with. Both offer performance similar to this $50K TT, though they lack the Audi’s upscale interior or low-slung exterior styling.

Ride and handling


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Forget that this car is “built on a front wheel drive platform.” It doesn’t feel at all like a front wheel drive car in normal or aggressive driving on public roads. On a racetrack, we had a blast with the Golf Type R and VW GTI, which are built on a similar platform.

This TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic felt planted, and there’s very little lean in corners. The sensation is that you can’t make it slip. Is that fun? It is a matter of taste.

The ride is firm, and the rear end actually feels firmer than the front. The TT is the opposite of a Mazda Miata which leans quite a bit in turns and has lots of flex in the rear-end springs. Steering is precise, and the TT brakes like a good sports car should.


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The front seats of our test vehicle were a worthwhile option. They look cool, and the power adjustment helped you get fully dialed in. These seats are supportive in hard cornering, but they don’t bear hug you in normal driving. The seat heater switches are built into the left and right air vents, a novel touch.

However, the seating position is part of why we raise the question of fun. One sits waaaayyy back in the TT.  There is a lot of headliner above and in front of you, and our tester had no moonroof. The effect is like that of being in a MINI. Personally, I don’t like the enclosed feeling one bit. I prefer to be seated in such a way that I don’t see any headliner, just windshield.

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Speaking of novel touches, that’s how we’d describe the rear seat.  These tiny perches must have something to do with insurance, because they have very little to do with passengers. In the convertible, they are missing. They look like they would be a great place for additional cargo, or a padded perch for a pooch. The LATCH baby seat connection ports are nice to have, but we’re not sure what kind of child seat would fit back there.

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A round of applause for Audi putting a spare tire in this sports car. We loved it so much we pulled back the cargo cover to let you gaze upon it. These vehicles make perfect road trip cars on holiday weekends. A spare gives one confidence when far from home driving on super-low profile tires that are unlikely to be in stock at a local tire center.

The cargo area itself is long and wide, but not very deep. It would be fine for a full load of groceries and for a week-long road trip with two peoples’ luggage. It is covered when the lid is closed for security.

Do not underestimate the importance of a spare tire and decent cargo capacity in a GT car. In the real world, these are important features to people that own these cars.

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Infotainment and controls

The TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic has infotainment and controls unlike any other car I’ve tested. There is no separate screen in the dash. Everything is in the gauge cluster, which uses a thin-film transistor (TFT) screen. Being new, such a setup it is odd at first, but I will say that the screen clarity is amazing, and finding what you are looking for is not difficult.

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The rotary mouse to select menus on the console works well and is intuitive. The volume and station control knob up in front and to the right of the gear selector is not, but those controls are also on the steering wheel. That little knob is for the passenger we assume.

The sound of the Bang and Olufsen audio system was truly amazing. The bass is deep and rich, and you can feel it, not just hear it. The high tones are sharp and distinct. VW and Audi have the best audio systems to my ear. And it’s optional, so make sure you get it. It costs $950.


The TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic is remarkably well executed overall. It is fast and handles great, it has awesome optional audio, and as ever, the TT modern and classy. So after some time with the car, would we call if fun? Hell yeah. The thing is, there are a lot of fun cars in the VW/Audi line we might call more fun. The GTI from VW is one of those cars, and it is a screaming bargain compared to the TT.

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The TT Roadster might be the car that is the obvious fun choice. Are we out of line even asking the question about this car being fun?  Read about the convertible version and then you decide.

2016 TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic:  


Technology Package: $3,250
-MMI and NAV
-Power Folding Auto Dimming Mirrors
-Parking System With Rear Camera

19-inch Wheel Package With Summer Tires $1,000

Sport Seats: $1,000

Bang and Olufsen Sound System $950

Florett Silver Metallic Paint $575


  • Excellent Seats and Audio
  • Takes Regular Gasoline!
  • Spare Tire!


  • Fun, But There Are Funner
  • Enclosed Interior Feel
  • Token Rear Seat