The Virtual Driver

Atlas V6 4Motion — Amazing space, surprising economy

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(August 19, 2018) It was time to load up the vehicle and head to Virginia to see the better half’s sister, a trip we've made before. Unlike that first trip, there would be no metaphoric transformation of coal into diamonds. I had learned my lesson the first time. We would not sacrifice ultimate comfort for usable cargo room, though we came close.

Enhanced performance through brake-by-wire

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(August 13, 2018) “Brake-by-wire.” Let those words sink in for a moment as you think of the last time your smartphone, tablet or personal computer threw a wobbly and left you scratching your head. Better yet, remember the punch line to the joke about the car filled with engineers that suddenly stops at the side of the road. After the mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineers each give a diagnosis and plan of action, all eyes turn to the computer engineer who says plaintively: “I was thinking that we could turn it off, get out of the car, get back in, and restart it.” Fills you with confidence, doesn’t it?

2019 Mercedes A-Class — Not some cut-rate sedan

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(August 11, 2018) The 2019 A-Class sedan goes on sale in the U.S. later this year as a new addition to a line that includes the CLA and GLA, as well as (though not in the U.S.) the A-Class hatchback. It’s a far cry from the 1997 sandwich-floor hatchback that tripped over a moose in testing, having become a sporty entrée into the Mercedes-Benz lifestyle, rather than an entry-level competitor for VW’s Golf.

Look for a larger Audi Q3 for 2019 with redesigned instrument panel

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(August 3, 2018) The second-generation Audi Q3 small SUV goes on sale in Europe late this year, with U.S. sales expected to follow by the first of the year. Buyers will find a larger vehicle with more technology, and more options.The 2019 Q3 is larger in all dimensions other than height.

Sometimes there is a replacement for displacement

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 28, 2018) Audi’s Q7 is the brand’s largest SUV, and nearly the same size as the Volkswagen Atlas. The two are so close in size that you wonder why they sit on different platforms. Consider: The Atlas is 198.3 inches long, 78.3 inches wide (not including the exterior mirrors), 70 inches high, and sits on a 117.3-inch wheelbase. The Q7 is 199.6 inches long, 77.5 inches wide, 68.5 inches tall, and sits on a 117.9-inch wheelbase. The two are nearly identical, yet the Audi feels smaller thanks to its more chiseled styling and seemingly cozier interior.

Sporty, solid and sexy — Audi’s S5 Sportback

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 21, 2018) “Great looking with an amazing body.” It’s a simple declarative sentence that could put you in front of a #metoo firing squad — if you weren’t referring to Audi’s S5 Sportback, that is.


From its introduction in 2007, the A5 has been a stunner. Designed under the watchful eye of Walter de Silva who, during his stint at Alfa Romeo (1986-1999), drew the delectable Alfa 156, a car that put Alfa back on the map stylistically, and brought lust back to the affordable sedan sector.

Dodge’s Demonic 2019 Challenger lineup

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 15, 2018) You may be getting tired of those Dodge commercials where Challengers and Chargers and even Durango SRTs do monstrous, smoky drifts through empty city streets. “Yes, Dodge is FCA’s performance brand. We get it,” you might think to yourself as the commercial runs.

Mazda takes a giant step toward HCCI

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 9, 2018) HCCI, Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition, is the holy grail of internal combustion in that gasoline engines would run like diesels on compression ignition, at much higher efficiency levels, and with lower pollution. The basic problem with HCCI, however, has been the inability to control the combustion process under changing conditions. Leave it to the boffins at Mazda to take a look at the problem from a less theoretically rigid angle to create a workable solution.

BMW hides its new sport coupe under a tech platform

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 6, 2018) The first generation 8 Series was introduced in 1989 as a top of the line coupe for the BMW brand, sitting above the 7 Series sedan in the same way the 6 Series sat above the 5 Series. More powerful, luxurious and expensive than the 6 Series, the V8- or V12-powered 8 Series suffered from slowing sales and falling demand, leading to its cancellation in 1999.

Ford, VW examine potential vehicle opportunities

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 28, 2018) The announcement that Ford and VW were looking at opportunities in the commercial vehicle market came as a surprise. Prior to the announcement, there were no indications the two OEMs were talking, much less that they had identified an area of mutual interest.