Living the Dream at Road America – The Five Favorites

2013 Rolls-Royce Ghost 1
Oooooh…Ghost. All photos by Randy Stern

This may be the most predictable Five Favorites ever in the series.

It is because you already know which ones would appear on this one after reading the last two posts on this site. If I said "Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally" one more time, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out all Five Favorites from my time at Road America this past week. After all, this list includes the first ever vehicles driven of three brands – in my life.

Without further ado…

2013 BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GTC: I said it felt like "heaven." It does. The GTC is a mature convertible that has all the power it needs, the moves it has to have and the poise of its class, heritage and position. Let me make one thing clear: Yes, it has the 567HP 6.0litre twin turbocharged W12 engine under the hood. And, no, it is not the Speed model. It does have a Mulliner Driving Specification, which makes things bespoke and grand – all for $255,400. The only thing missing in this experience was to lower the top. We could not – it was raining. That is where the all-wheel drive system came into play. To drive one is to indulge in something rarified in the automotive world – a convertible that is poised and excellently executed.

2013 JAGUAR XJ 3.0 AWD: I could hear Jeremy Clarkson braying in my head: "It's a Jaaaaag." Obviously, I had just a dollar bill in my wallet, so I could pull off the caddishness Jezza was talking about. Yet, the "Top Gear" host also lauded how great the current XJ was in another crazy stunt to go from sundown to sunset across England. I will state that it is one of the finest cars I have ever driven between $65,000-100,000 (it costs $88,825). The lightweight construction was right to drop the 340HP 3.0litre supercharged V6 under its hood. The result was a highly motivated machine with plenty of poise and moves to go along with the engine. The interior was fantastic, though I needed more leverage for my head at the sunroof. But, who cares? It is a Jaaaaag!

2013 ROLLS-ROYCE GHOST EXTENDED WHEELBASE: To drive one is to be driven. Of course, that would mean driving the Phantom or any Rolls prior to the introduction of the Ghost. The Ghost was designed for drivers, although the Extended Wheelbase version was meant as a sportier alternative to a chauffeur-driven Phantom. It does drive – and extremely well. You feel it move, but it does so effortlessly. If you do step on the throttle, you need to remind yourself it has a 563HP 6.6litre V12 under the hood, behind the Spirit of Ecstasy. At $356,290, this is the most expensive vehicle I have ever driven in my life.

2014 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SRT: First of all, the revised Grand is utterly fantastic. Chrysler nailed one of its most popular products in the lineup with improved interior quality, specification and overall engineering. The SRT takes the entire package another notch. All you need to do is hear the rumble of that 470HP 6.4litre V8. Not even the new 8-speed ZF automatic or its fuel-saving technology could tame this beast. The minute you open up the throttle, a wild animal is unleashed. But, no…it corners, tackles the track and the road and owns everything in its wake. Tame? Hardly, but when you drive the SRT Grand Cherokee, you do not expect to drive it "normally." I would be remised if I did not say that it simply kicks ass.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 2

2014 CHEVROLET SILVERADO: Stop looking at the outside for a moment! I already read and heard enough of how "GM did not go far" with this truck. The point of the new light duty pickup is to improve the way it drives and goes about it business. What you do not see is a transformation of the 1500-grade pickup with a better frame, better suspension set-up and improved engines. I was not a fan of the 5.3litre V8 in the prior iteration. GM went to work on its middle motor by raising the power to 355HP, increase torque beyond 380 pounds-feet, adding cylinder deactivation and other gizmos to make it more efficient than ever. The result is a better driving pickup – one with great ride and handling when unladen. Imagine if you are towing your boat or the snowmobiles to the lake and cabin. Imagine simply doing so in a comfortable, well done cabin. That is what the new Silverado is all about.

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