2019 Ford Explorer Platinum in Thousand Islands

Overview

Ford’s 7-passenger SUV looks compacter than it actually is. A good design remained fresh for 8 years

The new, 2020 Explorer is already on sale by the time we publish this post. Based on its Lincoln Aviator cousin, Ford’s new seven-passenger crossover has more tech, more performance, and is also more stylish. We will test the new Explorer in the upcoming weeks. This article is more about a farewell and respect to the outgoing, fifth-generation Explorer, that you can still find at some dealers.

General Assembly of the Kingston City Hall. A place to better understand the British past of Canada

I drove the 2019 Explorer in its range-topping Platinum version during two long drives to Kingston and Niagara Falls.

Engine and Powertrain

Power is what the Explorer Platinum has under the hood. The 3.5L V6 engine with double turbochargers delivers 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. It was a pleasure to drive this SUV on two long journeys. With the curb weight of over 2,200 kg, these numbers are good unless you expect the performance of a sports car.

A visit to Kingston usually starts near the historic City Hall

Rated at 14.5 L/100 km city, 10.6 L/100 km highway, and 12.7 L/100 km combined, the Explorer falls behind its competitors. I reached an average of 13.6 liters after mostly driving at the highway. Natural Resources Canada measurements are good and useful for comparative purposes but not so much for real life.

Downtown Kingston with the British Martello Tower is worth a day visit from Toronto or a perfect stopover while driving from Ottawa to Toronto
Hanging flowers in Ivy Lea with the Thousand Islands Bridge in the background
For travelers short of time, a-one hour boat cruise departing from Ivy Lea is a good opportunity to become familiar with the amazingly beautiful Thousand Islands Region

Driving Impressions

Driving WB at 401 around Trenton while facing the sunset

While cornering, you feel a fair amount of body roll that reminds you of the size of this vehicle. Two times during the test, I experienced a slow nose-dive during braking which turned out to be a test also for the tires. If you remember the quality of Hankook tires about ten years ago, we should admire the progress Koreans achieved. These big tires work well and Ford definitely made a wise and thoughtful decision. (Ford is a company which had huge problems with tires in the past. (Keyword: Firestone)

Crossing the Cataraqui River in Kingston

Inside the cabin engine and wind noise were minimal and talking to a passenger in the middle row was so easy (without turning your head of course) while enjoying the powerful sound system. Highway cruising at 120 km/h is a pleasure thanks to its long wheelbase and absorbent suspension. Yet, occasional but serious potholes distort this feeling. The same, 20-inch, big, well-braking Hankook tires are this time, probably not the “best shoes” the Explorer can wear. At least not with these dimensions.

The dashboard and interior of the Explorer look still fresh and well-built at the end of its life-cycle
The Explorer offers two comfortable seats in the second row

Conclusion

The Ford Explorer Platinum still feels a relatively new and technologically up-to-the-times vehicle. And smart buyers can check the dealer lots for the heavily discounted 2019 models. It is worth doing so for the purchase of a vehicle with a 60K g price tag.

For the most up-to-date information, please visit https://www.ford.ca/

Article and Photos by: Varol McKars

2020 BMW 3-Series

The Best Premium Compact Sedan

The All-New 2020 3-Series is now available in Canada

We are living in a world where most of the families are looking for SUVs and it is understandable. They are practical, lots of headroom and legroom space, big trunk, most of them offer all-wheel drive, and they offer a great comfortable ride. However, we are sure there are still many families looking for the more engaging driving experience, that’s why they look for compact sports sedans. Before the SUV tsunami hit the market, especially in the 90s and 2000s, compact and mid-size sedans were the king. Today, circumstances have changed and even some manufacturers stop selling sedans in North America.

Interestingly, BMW 3-Series is still the best-selling BMW all around the world. This year, in Canada BMW introduced the 7th generation 3-Series which had been launched in Europe in 2018. We have had the opportunity to review two different versions of the all-new Bimmer this summer, the 330i xDrive and the M340i xDrive respectively. Both of them are so capable in terms of technological features, overall build quality and driving experience. In this article, we will explain their features and find which one would be a better option for you.

Exterior and Interior

Compared to the last generation, the differences in exterior design are not immediately detectable. Of course, it is not the same, but you need to be eagle-eyed or a “BMW guy” to see the difference. The headlights and taillights look more sleek, and sporty. Definitely an upgrade, but it is having VW Golf or Porsche 911 syndrome, you must be familiar with the 3-Series to see the design difference at first look. Overall exterior design definitely look premium, but we are on the fence which one looks the best as Mercedes C series also look great. At the end of the day, this is a subjective matter.

M340i comes with sportier M wheels, front and rear bumpers
This is how a non-M 3-series looks like – It is still a sports sedan (330i)

The new 3-series is slightly bigger than its predecessor; it is 73 mm longer, 15 mm wider and 13 mm taller. It has 40 mm longer wheelbase and increased track width, which affects the overall agility of the car. It looks almost as big as E39 BMW 5-Series from 20 years ago. Unsurprisingly, this is a common trend in the car industry, cars usually get bigger at each generation, but it also helps with overall interior space, as it offers more legroom than its predecessor.

Interior design is much driver focused than the previous generation. In fact, this may be the most driver-focused dashboard in its class. We were speechless when we first got into the 3-Series. Whole dashboard is refreshed and you immediately feel that it is different than the previous gen. Everywhere is soft-touch plastic, leather and high-quality aluminum. Steering wheel leather feels great, overall interior quality is excellent especially for a car marketed as a compact sedan. A few years ago, there was a significant difference between 3 and 7 series in terms of the quality of plastics leather, wood/aluminum trims, but now the gap is much smaller. This generation comes with a bigger screen, and fortunately, it comes with the newest infotainment system.

Overall interior quality is top-notch, as you would expect from BMW

Engine and Drivetrain

This is where both M340i and 330i really shine, regardless of your choice. Both engines are fast, but M340i is really fast. 330i produces 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which is a 2.0L 4 cylinder turbocharged engine. If you choose the M340i, it comes with 3.0L inline 6-cylinder turbocharged engine, which produces 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Both cars feel faster than what is written on paper, both engines have great torque curve and offer extremely smooth operation. 0-60 times in 5.8 second for the 330i and 4.4 seconds for M340i. Both numbers are impressive, but M340i can keep up with exotic cars from 5-10 years ago when it comes to pure acceleration. Both cars are limited to 210 km/h, but it takes way less time for the M340i to reach that speed. If you live or have plans to live in Europe, you may need to remove the speed limiter.

You may be glad to remember that in Germany, in a 13K km section of the highway network allows driving pleasure without speed limit.

3.0L Inline-6, 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque –
M340i is the most powerful non-M 3-Series ever
330i’s 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine has 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque

This is one of the cars we really had a hard time observing the overall fuel consumption, as it varies a lot. If you drive spiritedly, it is not hard to see over 15.0L/100 km. If you drive normally, you can get it down to 9.0L/100 km. 330i consumes approximately 1.5 – 2.0L / 100 km average less fuel than its bigger brother, as it has two fewer cylinders and missing more than 100 horsepower.

Both engines come with torque converted 8-speed automatic transmission and it works flawlessly. Of course, M340i is tuned for sportier driving, but it can be extremely comfortable. We are glad torque converter automatics are back as they offer performance, comfort, and reliability at the same time. Both testers had xDrive All-Wheel-Drive system and like the rest of the drivetrain, it also works flawlessly. We really enjoyed driving them as it is rear-wheel-drive biased and engages the front wheels when you get less traction in the rear.

There are some technical updates with the 7th generation 3-Series. Now it comes with lighter chassis, and body weight reduced by as much as 50kg. BMW also revised the front and rear suspension to get better ride comfort and acoustics. Not only that, but BMW was able to achieve better drag co-efficiency, and reduced it by 0.03 down to 0.26 Cd over the previous 3-Series. They completely sealed the under-body, as well as new aerodynamically optimized wheels. Last but not least, they also used the latest BMW kidney grille which comes with active air flap control.

3-Series has active air flap control, which improves aerodynamic efficiency

Unlike the 330i, M340i also comes with adaptive M suspension and differential, which makes it a blast to drive the car. For daily driving, Comfort mode offers sufficient comfort and not overly stiff. When you switch to the Sport or Sport+ mode, there is no body roll at all. It has a great balance of being sporty while still being comfortable. M sport differential is noticeable around tight corners, you really have to try hard to get it out of control, but in the same time, it is super easy to control during oversteering (Yes! It over-steers even if it is an xDrive). This is a type of car which you feel you are a better driver than what you actually are because it makes you feel so confident, and it makes everything easy for you while not being intrusive. It is actually useful if you are cornering hard or taking it to track. You won’t feel a difference if you take your BMW just to work or coffee shop.

19″ Wheels are aerodynamically optimized and looks great. Best of both worlds.

Driving Impressions

Honestly, we really tried hard to find a flaw. If we have to mention some, we are missing steering feeling of E46 M3, but they have to use electronic steering to keep up with the latest technologies, so it’s understandable. At the end of the day, steering feeling is a little bit numb because of that, but it is responsive and predictable. Both testers come with almost all options available for 3-Series, but there were no cooled seats. We checked the website and couldn’t find it even as an option. The 3-series, premium compact sedan definitely deserves this feature, even optionally.

We enjoyed the latest iDrive infotainment system, it is one of the best you can get today. However there is no Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay is not free. This is not acceptable for a premium car that costs over $60.000 and maybe a deal-breaker for many people. For daily usage, we weren’t in love with rear legroom, as it is slightly less than the competition, but not a huge deal as it is still livable. At the end of the day, it is a compact sports sedan, and you should not expect SUV practicality.

It has sufficient rear legroom, but a little bit behind the competition

Other than that, there are some technologies taken from its bigger brothers, such as Advanced Adaptive Cruise control which allows you to not to touch the steering wheel up to 60 km/h. Also, park assistant works flawlessly and makes life easier for people who are not comfortable parking their cars, both vertically and horizontally. It is going to take forever if we add each feature, but you should definitely get the Premium Excellence Package, as it comes with important features like Laserlight Headlights, Nappa leather seats, Ambient Lighting, Head-up Display, Automatic Trunk, Lumbar Support, Heated Front and Rear seats, Harman Kardon Premium Sound System and so on. Although it costs over $8000, it is a well-worth investment.

Pricing and Conclusion

The base MSRP for the 330i xDrive Sedan is $49,000. Our tester with options called; Premium Excellence Package ($8.900), M Sport Package ($2,000), Adaptive M Suspension ($600) and Metallic Paint ($895), the price exceeds the 60K Threshold ($61,395 to be exact). If you choose the M340i xDrive, it starts from $61,850 and our tester had the same Premium Excellence Package but for $8.300, as well as the Adaptive M suspension option for $600.

The most important question is, is it worth? Definitely. If you are looking for a premium sports sedan, 3-Series is one of the most capable ones out there. If you just daily drive it, we think 330i is more than enough for your needs. However, if you are looking for more spirited driving, as well as occasional track-day events and couldn’t afford the M3/M4, definitely go with the M340i. We think that even at times of the global SUV/CUV surge, this sports sedan will continue to be a leading player and it outperforms current generations of C-Series and A4.

Our takeaways:

+ Overall interior quality
+ Excellent performance, engine, and transmission
+ Impressive technological features, such as Adaptive+ Cruise Control, or digital instrument cluster

Things can be improved:

  • Rear legroom space
  • No Android Auto and you have to pay to use Apple CarPlay
  • No cooled front seats, not even as an option

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

2019 Lincoln MKC 2.3T Reserve

End Of The Episode One

We enjoyed the comfortable suspension and road-holding of the MKC during the scenic drive from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Overview

At the end of its model life, the MKC dropped the split-wing grille and moved to the current Lincoln signature design with a notch etched in below the crest. This is the new face of most Lincoln models and a new stage in creating a common design language for the future. A long and painful process which is starting to pay-off and will continue into the Corsair.

Engine and Powertrain

Our tester had the optional 2.3-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The same as what we know as EcoBoost at Ford, the mother brand. It delivers 285 hp and 305 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,750 rpm. All-wheel drive and six-speed automatic transmission are standard as you would expect from a compact SUV at the luxury category with an MSRP close to 60K. Whether or not you got used to it, shifting by button is “still” the norm.

Driving Impressions

The interior is sufficiently different from the Escape, its cousin. Yet, the Corsair will raise the bar in interior design and quality

The more elegant design and refinement of the current MKC have consequences also inside the cabin: Active noise control and an acoustic windshield and front door glass create a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Ride is comfortable and “adequately different” from the Escape, its “platform cousin” thanks to the standard adaptive suspension.

One weakness of the MKC is and has been its relatively short range. Arguably as a combination of a 60-liter tank, thirsty turbo engine, (as you push the gas pedal harder for more power and torque) and AWD, the range may drop to well below 450 kilometers, lower than the average in this class. During our test, with dominantly highway drive, our average measurement was 12.5 L/100 km, with occasional drive in sport mode. Also worth noting is that the MKC requires more expensive 93 octane fuel.

Inside, leather upholstery, open-pore wood grain inserts, heated front seats, a power liftgate, and the Sync3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, are important features to note. Although we were not able to test it; the Reserve package has a Class II towing rating with 3,000 lbs. (1,361 kg) including a trailer sway control.

The rear seats offer comfort and space and nothing short of the class standards

On the exterior, we loved the 20-inch bright-machines aluminum wheels (750 dollars extra) that give a bolder look to the compact SUV. All with other options such as Technology Package: active park assist, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, forward sensing, and lane-keeping, the MSRP of our tester reaches $58,570.

Conclusion

As a smart buyer of a luxury brand, if you are interested in the MKC, expect to get a generous discount of several thousand dollars. This happens everywhere and with each brand if the new generation is about to occupy dealer lots. The good thing is you have a chance of owning a mature and well-built vehicle.

By the time we published this article, we did not know how much longer the MKC will be on sale.

For the most up-to-date information, please visit: https://www.lincolncanada.com/

Article and Photos By Varol McKars

2019 Ford Escape Titanium

Can It Keep Up With The Competition?

Ford Escape is an important model for Ford, as it is one of the best- selling ones in North America. It is not that surprising, as SUV market grows rapidly, the competition gets very fierce.  This is the last year of current generation Escape, and we wanted to do a farewell review for it. The competition mostly has recently updated models and this review shows if the 2019 Escape can keep up with them.

Exterior And Interior

This is the third generation Escape, which is first released in 2013. It underwent a small refresh in 2017, and compared to pre-facelift version, it looks more like a smaller-scaled Edge. Unlike the previous generation which was a square design, this looks more like a modern SUV. Interestingly, it was designed by Ford of Europe, where the compact SUV is sold as Ford Kuga in. It is not that hard to see European design elements, and I think this is one of the better-looking alternatives in this segment. Our tester was the range-topping Titanium version, which comes with 19” aluminum wheels and we think this is one of the best combination if you are looking for an Escape.

Third generation Escape is refreshed in 2017 and aged really well
This interior is designed in 2013, and still looks fresh

When we get inside the Escape, we see lots of soft-touch plastics, especially in the upper side of dashboard and front doors. This car is from 2013, and the interior still doesn’t look old. Of course, we are not a fan of Ford’s infotainment system, and we wish they have updated it in 2017, but we are aware that it will be refreshed pretty soon. Ford Escape falls behind the competition when it comes to combined legroom, as it is significantly shorter than some of its rivals such as Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V.

Ford Escape has 68 cubic feet of cargo space, which is plenty enough for families

Engine And Drivetrain

Ford Escape comes with three different engine options and optional All Wheel Drive system. Base version come with naturally aspirated 2.5L engine, middle trims get 1.5L turbocharged Ecoboost engine. If you opt for the Titanium trim, it comes with 2.0L turbocharged Ecoboost and All-Wheel Drive engine standard which our tester had that. 2.0L engine produces 245 horsepower and 275 ft-lbs of torque but it requires Premium gas. We didn’t have a chance to try the base 2.5L or turbocharged 1.5L engine, but we can assure you, you should go with the 2.0L engine as it is borderline fast but doesn’t like being over 4500 rpm at all. It has a lot of torque down low and mid-range rpms, but once you go over 4000 rpms, you feel it starts to fade significantly. It is obvious that this engine is tuned for daily driving and you shouldn’t expect more than that. Our mixed-mood test drive delivered an average consumption of 11.5 liters of regular, which is good considering its weight and All Wheel Drive system.

2.0L Direct Injected and Turbocharged “Ecoboost” Engine is only available with SEL (Optional) and Titanium trims

The transmission is not that exciting either. It is an oldschool 6-speed automatic transmission with no paddle shifts on steering wheel. Ford decided to use the same shift buttons they use on F-150, which is not really engaging when driving. If you keep it at D, it is smooth and more than enough for commuting. It has slow response to manual upshifting and downshifting. Again, despite having impressive numbers on paper, it is unable to offer “wow” effect when driving. At least, they still use torque converted automatic instead of a CVT, which means it is more reliable on the long term. We can definitely say this engine transmission combo is one of the smoothest on the market, but you shouldn’t expect anything else.

Although 19″ wheels look great, they are not the best option for any kind of off-roading

The all-wheel drive system is a little bit different story though. It is one of the better alternatives on the market, as this is not just an on-demand system. It is definitely a front-biased one, but it doesn’t engage like an ON/OFF switch that makes driving experience smoother. The rear wheels work most of the time as you can also see how it works in the instrument cluster. To keep a long story short, definitely get the Escape with All-Wheel-Drive. We think the braking performance is as good as the all-wheel-drive system, and we are really impressed with it. Initial bite is great, it doesn’t feel spongy and extremely sensitive for driver inputs.

Driving Impressions

Things get more complicated when it comes to driving it daily, because that’s when you see how it falls behind and you start to feel it is getting older. Ford tried its best to keep up with the competition, by implementing half baked technologies. For instance, we were definitely expecting a premium sound system in a top trim. It has a Sony badge on the head unit so we assume it is better than the lower trims, but it definitely lacks mid-range frequency. If you are an audiophile, it may not be the best option for you. Another example is, there is an adaptive cruise control but it is unable to work under 30 km/h which is quite disappointing. Almost all other competition already integrated full stop & go feature whereas this one just leaves you on your own when you need it most.

We nitpick because the competition in this segment is intense. However, we are talking about an SUV which is from 2013, so it may be difficult for Ford to fully implement latest technologies. We are sure Ford will add these features in the next generation, but this is what we have so far. There are some nice features as well. Leather trimmed power seats, keyless entry and start-stop system, foot-activated liftgate, heated steering wheel, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, two-zone automatic air conditioning system, panoramic sunroof, front collision warning system, blind spot monitoring, park assist system, HID Bi-Xenon headlights and so on.

Dual exhaust tips give it a sportier look

Conclusion

The most important question is, can it keep up with the competition? Yes and no. Yes, because it is aged really well. Interior and exterior still looks great. It is smooth, comfortable and we are sure it will be more reliable with that torque converted automatic transmission than CVT offerings of other manufacturers. We would say no, because technology wise, it is falling behind the competition. If you are not the most tech-savvy person and looking for an SUV offers great comfort, smoothness, easy to use, and if you find a good deal, we would recommend the Ford Escape. It starts at $24,218 Canadian and goes up to $38,000 with 2.0L Ecoboost engine and All-Wheel Drive.

Some of our takeaways are:

+ Drivetrain smoothness

+ Overall comfort and ease of use

+ Competitive pricing

Things can be improved:

– Sound system should be better

– Half-baked features such as Adaptive Cruise Control with no Stop & Go

Hyundai Veloster N

We personally love hot-hatches, as they offer a driving experience full of fun and yet still practical, comfortable and affordable enough you can take your family and belongings with you. Hyundai’s sports car has been popular since the end of the 1990s, especially in European and Asian markets. As automobiles get more expensive and bigger, hothatches are considered as a revolution. Instead of modifying regular mass-produced hatchbacks, car manufacturers offer “factory-prepared” high-performance versions of them for a small price premium. The hothatch market actually started with Mini Cooper in 1960s in Europe, and today it is more popular than ever. In North America, hatchbacks have historically not been popular, but this trend is slowly changing, as they get faster and more competitive with supersport cars.

Veloster N is one of the best looking hot-hatchs in 2019, light blue color makes it even better

Yes, we said Supersport cars. “Cheap” hot-hatch lap times in Nürburgring are getting closer, and sometimes even better. Hyundai Veloster N is one of them. The letter “N” is the first letter of Korean City named Namyang, where Hyundai’s headquarters is located, as well as it is primed for the Nürburgring Nordschleife. This car actually is developed by Albert Biermann, former head of BMW M division, which shows Hyundai’s effort to produce a car to challenge the big boys in its class, such as Honda Civic Type R.

Engine and Drivetrain

2.0L Turbocharged Direct Injection engine produces 275 horsepower, and it is a blast to drive

Well, it’s a hot-hatch, so we have to talk about the most important thing makes it different from a base Veloster. The Veloster N comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It weighs just above 1400 kg, so power to weight ratio is impressive, and more than enough for a small hatchback to get moving. The engine is a part of THETA family which is used in other Hyundai/Kia models, but there are significant changes such as different engine internals and turbocharger. We are impressed with the torque curve as it spools up around 1500 rpm and still lots of torque all the way to the redline. The engine is matched with 6-speed manual transmission only, and gear ratios are set perfectly for both daily and track use.

Exterior and Interior

Sporty rear bumper, bigger rear wing, two exhaust tips make it look way more agressive than the base Veloster

Veloster N exterior is looking extremely attractive especially if you are a person who likes hatchbacks. Its light blue color makes it even more distinctive in its class. Overall body lines look exactly the same with base Veloster, whereas this one has bigger wheels, sporty-looking front-rear bumpers and rear wing, which doesn’t look like cartoonish like the latest Type-R. This is one of the better looking sporty hot-hatchs in its segment. Of course, 3-door design is what makes the Veloster different and genuine. While having a coupe look, rear seats are still more accessible than a regular coupe, which makes a huge difference. Also, wheels look great, it comes with 19” rims as well as 235/35 Pirelli tires.  Well done, Hyundai.

Veloster N runs on 235/35/R19 Pirelli Summer tires

With regard to the interior features, this is where it has a lot of common points with the base Veloster, there are minor changes such as sportier seats, N badged steering wheel, different instrument cluster, N performance addition to the infotainment system where it shows performance data, and that’s it. There are no soft-touch plastics in the interior, so that’s a bummer for a car costs $35.000. For a more detailed review, please see our regular Veloster review link here . What we didn’t like about the Veloster N is, it is actually missing some vital safety features like blind-spot monitoring which is available on a base model. For a 3-door coupe, it should be a standard feature no matter what version you get. Instead of having a heated steering wheel in a sporty hatchback, we’d rather have more safety features. If it is just for cost-cutting or weight saving, we think it’s not worth it.

Other than not having blind-spot monitoring, it still has some important features, like cruise control (not adaptive), heated front seats, Infinity premium audio system, 8.0” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear-view camera, and Hyundai’s great infotainment system. If you look comfort features like cooled – powered seats, you should look elsewhere as this segment is simply not for you.

The interior looks modern and sporty, but hard plastics are all over the dashboard

There is a small difference in the infotainment system though, which is the N mode. Unlike many of its competitors, it offers great customization for suspension, steering, engine, traction control, rev-matching setups. You can choose for comfort mode, all the way up to track/sportiest setup for each section. Most of its competition offers few different driving modes and that’s it. Veloster N takes it to another level by offering not only multiple driving modes, such as N – N Custom – Sport – Comfort and Eco, you can customize all driving dynamics to your liking.

Seats are well-bolstered and comfortable enough for daily driving

Driving Impressions

This is where Veloster N really shines. As mentioned, it offers multiple customization options that makes the driving experience more enjoyable and suitable for all conditions. We kept the suspension usually in street mode, as it is overly dampened in N mode. Normal mode is stiff enough to remind you that this is not a base Veloster, but not super stiff that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you switch to N mode, this is where it gets uncomfortable, you shouldn’t be driving in this mode on public roads anyway. Steering feeling is nice, but again, they adjusted it so well, street mode is the way to go. Exhaust modes are different story though, we enjoyed it in fully open mode, as it sounds awesome. It makes popping sound if you rev it over 4000 rpms. Most potential buyers don’t even have to get an aftermarket exhaust system to get a better sound, as Hyundai already offers it out of the box.

Exterior design matches well with the overall driving dynamics

When we take the Veloster N to some tight corners, we are even more impressed. The electronic differential works extremely well, it is difficult to get the car understeer while cornering. If you are on the limit, you should be on the throttle to feel that the differential is trying to pull the car towards the corner. Braking performance is also good, Hyundai somehow decided to use modified Kia Optima brake calipers to keep the costs low, instead of using Brembo brakes. We didn’t have a chance to take the car to the track, but it is more than enough for spirited driving on the public road.

Driving mode differences are strikingly significant. When the driver wants to take it easy, Comfort mode makes the driver feel like he is driving a base Veloster, it is silent and comfortable enough to get you from home to work, but when you want to have fun, it can be a great weekend warrior and corner carver. This is why we love hot-hatch cars, as they offer multiple driving characters for the affordable price range, and the Veloster N took it to another level where you can literally daily drive it and take it to a track day with no problem.

Veloster N is missing some features, LED headlights are one of them

The traction control in sport mode is also not too intrusive, which we really appreciated as you wouldn’t want to completely turn it off on public road, and it is fully adjustable and you can make it more sensitive for wet conditions. Hyundai offers a great driving experience with the Veloster N, as it still lets the driver decide how much he wants the car to get involved and help the driver, while still being engaging, fun to drive and competitive in hothatch segment.

The rear right door is what makes the Veloster different from the others

Conclusion

Overall, we enjoyed driving the new Veloster N. It is new in its class, and competing with old boys like VW Golf R and Civic Type R. We can definitely say the Veloster N can keep up with the competition despite being new in this class, which is surprising for us. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, there is still room for improvement, but this is a legit first attempt makes its rivals nervous about the next move. The Veloster N starts at $34.999 Canadian and that’s actually the only option that you can get. Considering its rivals have MSRP of $43.000 and more, this is a bargain and it offers best bang for the buck in this segment. We can definitely recommend the Veloster N if you are looking for a sporty hatchback as it offers a great overall package that you can use it for both track days and grocery shopping, and even some short trips.

Some of our takeaways are:

+ Great driving dynamics + customization

+ Excellent handling and engine performance

+ More practicality despite having a coupe design

+ Price – Performance ratio is the best in its class

Things can be improved

– Missing some essential safety features, such as Blind Spot Monitoring and LED Headlights

– Too much hard plastics for a car costs over $35.000 CAD.

Article & Photos by Dan Gunay

Nissan Qashqai SL AWD

The Success Story Comes To North America

There is no doubt that compact crossover sales are high in North America. This is one of the most important reasons why Nissan decided to bring the new Qashqai here. It has been on the market for several years in Europe with proven success. We drove the latest Nissan Qashqai for a week to see where it stands against the competition.

the Qashqai is a smaller version of the “good-old” Rogue, which itself is one of the most successful alternatives in the mid-size crossover market. It is named Rogue Sport in the USA, but somehow Nissan decided to use its original name in Canada, unlike the States. First-generation Qashqai was first released in 2006. It was offered all around the world, except North America. It was a major sales success especially in Europe and Middle Eastern markets. It was one of the fastest times for a vehicle built in the UK which reached a half million units in a very short time period.

Engine and Powertrain

Nissan introduced the second and current generation in 2013 and made it available in the North American market in 2017. Qashqai fills the small gap between the discontinued Juke and Rogue. Unlike in Europe with several engine options, here, unfortunately, the only engine option is the 2.0L inline 4-cylinder engine, which produces 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. We wish there would be a turbocharged option at least with the top trim, as our tester feels slightly underpowered for North American highways. During our test drive, we reached an average of less than 7.8L/100 km on the highway, and around 10.0L / 100 km in the city. If you mainly commute or drive in the city, the powerband is fine and more than enough for daily driving.

2.0L inline 4-cylinder engine, generates 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque and good for daily driving

The 2.0L inline 4 engine is matched with the typical Nissan CVT transmission. It mimics like a torque converter automatic when you drive it hard, however, you can still feel CVT, especially in the low rpm range. Although many brands are switching to regular torque converter automatic, Nissan is one of the first brands which has been using CVT and seems like they have invested in the CVT platform for a long period of time. The engine and CVT transmission are matched well, and people shouldn’t expect the Qashqai to be the fastest one in this segment, but it offers one of the smoothest and most comfortable operations in its class. The All-Wheel-Drive system comes standard with the top trim. It is not going to be the off-road king, but well enough to handle wet/snowy situations on the pavement. We should mention, that it is front biased like the rest of the small crossover models, so it will continuously understeer if you lose traction in the middle of a corner. You can lock the All-Wheel Drive system manually, but it will automatically switch it off over 40 km/h. Most of the time, it is a front-wheel-drive car to save fuel, until it loses traction, then rear wheels get involved, like a regular on-demand All-Wheel Drive System.

Driving Impressions

If you don’t mind its slow pace, which is not slower than the average small crossover anyway, Nissan offers a content-rich overall package with the Qashqai. It is one of the most comfortable alternatives in its class. We like the overall comfort level and the suspension is tuned extremely well for harsh Canadian roads, despite having 19” rims and 225/45 tires with the SL trim. Another good thing is, cabin noise is significantly lower than the competition and we are impressed with that. It is easy to live with this crossover, means it is extremely easy to drive – to maneuver and it also offers great steering feeling. Speaking of the steering wheel, Nissan product development decided to use the same steering wheel with the other bigger models. A flat bottom part feels great, as you are less likely to hit your knee when you get in or get out.

Exterior and Interior

The exterior and overall design features look like the rest of the Nissan crossover lineup, especially from the front side. It is noticeably shorter than the Rogue. The second-generation Qashqai has been on the market for several years, but despite its age, it still looks fresh and aged gracefully as it is refreshed in 2017. Surprisingly, the Qashqai has wider and bigger dimensions than the average subcompact crossover, thus offering a wider cabin inside.

The functional and ergonomic dashboard is a sweetspot of the vehicle

The interior looks like its bigger sister – the Rogue, except it, has less cargo space and less rear legroom. It still has more than enough for a family of four. The legroom in the rear is better than most of the competition. Also, the cargo space is above average in the small crossover segment, which is 22.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 61.1 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded. You can easily fit a road bike when you fold down the rear seats, and that is impressive for a small crossover, as usually, you must move the front passenger seat forward to get more cargo room to fit a bike. As we see in Nissan’s larger crossovers, it also comes with additional cargo storage area under the load floor, so you can divide and utilize the cargo area to keep the items sliding forward and backward.

As we take a look around the interior, there are some soft-touch, hard touch plastics, as well as piano black trims. Our opinion is they are all balanced out extremely well, they didn’t overuse the piano black trims all around the console, like some of its rivals. The overall dashboard design is very similar to other Nissan products, especially the Rogue, and there are some soft-touch plastics in the upper part, and hard touch plastics lower on the dashboard. We wouldn’t expect S-Class interior quality in a small crossover segment, and we would rate the Qashqai slightly above average when it comes to overall interior quality as they used soft-touch plastics in many areas. Our tester has leather seats and rear passengers get air vents which is rare in this class.

Rear Seats: Comfortable for two, third passenger only for short drives.

 As mentioned previously, our tester is the top “SL” trim, which offers pretty much anything available in a Qashqai.  We are really impressed with the Nissan’s ProPilot Assist and we wish it was available in all trims as it is an important safety feature. The ProPilot Assist system is capable to fully stop and go, and it works smoothly. Also, you don’t have to tap the gas pedal every time the car in front of you moves forward, you just need to press the “+” button to start moving. The SL trim also comes with LED headlights, a built-in Navigation system, 7.0” touch-screen display, Voice Recognition, SiriusXM, Push-button start along with Intelligent Key System, Remote Engine Start, Blind Spot Monitoring, 6-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, optional Bose Premium Audio system, and so on. We think if you are interested in Qashqai, but not sure about which trim you should pick, you should definitely go with minimum SV, preferably SL. Some extras like Bose Premium Audio System is really worth getting it and makes the driving experience more enjoyable. We think that the infotainment system could be better, as it looks old, but we are glad that they offer both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Conclusion

Overall, we like driving the Qashqai a.k.a. Rogue Sport. It is a great alternative if you are looking for a daily driver, or want to get from A to B. Many reviewers all around the internet will complain about how underpowered the Qashqai is, but we, unfortunately, have few to no faster alternatives in the small crossover segment. Most of the competitors still use naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engines such as Subaru Crosstrek, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and they are not any different than the Qashqai in terms of acceleration. We wouldn’t complain about the CVT in this segment, as most of the potential buyers simply don’t care, so it is a great way to cut the costs and totally understandable to keep the price down. Nissan Qashqai starts at just above $20.000 mark, $20.198 Canadian to be exact. It can go all the way up to $35.500 Canadian if you choose the top trim as well as All-Wheel-Drive option. We think many people should go with higher trims as it offers advanced safety systems included. We would recommend the Qashqai if you are looking for great comfort, smooth driving, All Wheel Drive (optional), excellent practicality as well as some modern features and above-average interior quality.

Some of our takeaways are

+ Great comfort and overall drivetrain smoothness

+ Easy to live with – drivability

+ Overall features (especially the SL trim) and above-average interior quality

+ Large legroom – headroom and cargo capacity despite its size
+ Exterior design looks fresh, despite its age

Things can be improved

– Old looking infotainment system

– The dashboard is aging well but looks older than the competition

– More engine options, preferably forced induction alternatives

– ProPilot Assist system should be available in all trims

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

Ford Edge ST

Performance On Steroids

The new grill is the backbone of the mid-cycle facelift of Ford Edge

Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUV’s) have been getting extremely popular that even car manufacturers offer different types of it. Unfortunately, not many brands offer a CUV or SUV fun to drive. Some even don’t even care about driving pleasure, they just put a CVT to a naturally aspirated engine. Though their most important feature is family hauling, Ford offers Edge ST for people who are looking for a more performance-oriented utility vehicle. Ford stopped selling other performance-oriented vehicles such as Focus ST-RS, or Fiesta ST but kept the Edge ST in the market, which also shows that there is still a potential.

Engine and Powertrain

Let’s start with the main difference between the Edge ST, which is the drivetrain. Edge ST replaced the Edge Sport, but still has the same 2.7-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine, which is producing 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. It comes with an All-Wheel Drive system and 8-speed automatic transmission. In our tests, we really enjoyed the overall powerband and smoothness of the EcoBoost V6 engine, it feels significantly faster than average SUV. You can reach from 0 to 100 under 6 seconds, which is quite impressive and even faster than some “hot hatch” cars. Our tests show that it consumed 10.0l/100 km on the highway, and 12.0l mixed driving, which is not too bad considering this is one of the most powerful alternatives in this segment.

Driving Impressions

All Wheel Drive system is mostly front biased, and it tends to understeer when you push it hard. Maybe we are expecting too much from a CUV, but we would prefer some oversteering from a car with ST badge. Also, the transmission is not a good match with that impressive engine. Although gear ratios are short and suitable for quick acceleration, it isn’t fast when you want to shift manually. Upshifts and downshifts are smooth, but when you use paddle shifters, you feel that it is not really the fastest and sometimes it can be jerky. 7-8th gears are great for highway cruising.

We really like the suspension setup of the Edge ST. It is not easy to find the sweet spot if we are talking about a sporty SUV, as it must provide great comfort and little to no body roll. Ford Edge ST achieved this, and we weren’t expecting this level of the sophisticated suspension system. Yes, AWD system isn’t our favorite, but the suspension system is so good that it is hard to complain about the overall driving experience. It is firm, but not overly firm which is still good for long family trips.

Design

The Edge’s design is slightly outdated, yet still beautiful

The exterior design of the Edge ST is attractive, in our opinion. Wheels and bumpers are the first two things differentiate itself from the regular Edge. When we go to the interior, it is almost the same, except the seats, steering wheel, and instrument cluster. Even the latest facelifted Edge with no ST badge looks great, ST version offers a bit better visuals and sportier look.

The interior makes a high-quality impression even if some cheap plastics can be found at certain spots

The interior of the Edge ST, as mentioned, similar to the regular Edge, so that means they still use mainly hard plastics and some piano black plastics. Interior design shows its age, as latest generation Edge is on the market for a few years already. One thing that we really didn’t like is, paddle shifters feel extremely flimsy. This is something that Ford needs to update. For regular Edge, it may be acceptable, but for ST? Definitely not.

A sporty vehicle can also be very functional and utilitarian

ST badged seats look great, but it may not be the most comfortable seat in the market. I wouldn’t say it’s a disadvantage, as people who look for sporty CUV, that’s what you should get. It offers great side support and thanks to the great suspension setup, Edge ST feels more like a car than a CUV or SUV. We are really hoping that they are going to get rid of that infotainment system with the next-generation Ford Edge. However, for now, it looks old and outdated and it is no different than regular Edge or other Ford vehicles. Some other important features are, adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay – Android Auto, built-in Navigation, Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, heated-cooled seats, and heated steering wheel. Feature-wise, it is good and more than enough for many people. One feature we didn’t like is the digital rev gauge, as it looks cheesy. We would prefer 100 percent analog or percent digital for speedo and rev gauge instead.

Conclusion

The Continental tires with sporty wheels fit the character of the most powerful Edge

Yes, we would call Ford Edge ST a “CUV on Steroids” because there is a reason. Many brands, as well as Ford, is focused on the CUV and SUV segment and they want to get the most out of this market. Sales for compact cars and even hot hatches are getting less every year, that’s why Ford decided to stop selling the Focus RS, or Fiesta ST. Ford Edge ST is a great alternative for people who were in love or dreaming of driving a hot hatch when they were younger, but they still have to buy an SUV as they get older and have a family. Ford Edge ST starts at $43,827 Canadian. If you add a few features, it can go up to $49.000 before tax, which is not cheap, but you don’t have many options in this segment. We would recommend the Edge ST if both performance and family hauling are your priorities as it combines them well.

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

BMW i3 BEV

Overview

When you are visiting friends and low on juice, do not lose any moment to charge your i3

To complement our earlier review about the BMW i3 (with range extender), We tested the BEV, with a stronger battery yet without the tiny ICE that acts as a generator.

You can read our review by clicking the link below: http://www.autoandroad.com/2019/04/2019-bmw-i3/

Varol and Dan had a close look to understand how the future of e-BMW’s would be like

It is wise to think that BMW carefully paves the way to full-electrification by offering better batteries while gradually eliminating transitional solutions like range extender.

Getting used to non-luxury cabin may require some time. Not so with its spaciousness.

The new 120Ah 42.2kWh battery enables a range of up to 246 km.
This is a 100 percent improvement from the original 60Ah battery in the 2014 model.

Driving impressions

During my one-week test drive, I enjoyed the driving dynamics, the great acceleration (which is a general feature of EV’s with instant torque delivery) and the spacious cabin of the i3. I was also curious about the proposed range of 246 km which BMW promises. Would I reach this range? The short answer is: No. In hot summer days, you can hardly drive without AC on. and use of AC reduces the range. This is laws of physics. The best range I could reach was 210 or so. This is still acceptable if you drive i3 in the city with a lot of stop-and traffic.

Charging the i3 at a Mitsubishi dealer

We attended a weekend party with our friends on a Saturday. On this day, I was not able to go to a fast-charging station in the morning. And my wife experienced a range-anxiety as the range indicator warned us with less than 14 kilometers of range. And as we arrived there, I tightly parked the car just close enough to reach the plug at the wall with the standard cord. And I was able to charge the i3 for another 15 kilometers in nearly five hours.

So, charging with a standard 110V outlet at home helps a little, especially if this is your only car.

Pricing

The base price for the BEV is $53,660, thus $8,650 cheaper than its sibling with the range extender, which starts at $53,600.

Our tester’s price climbed to $57,600 with options such as:
Premium Enhanced Package ($7,750), Driver Assistance Package ($2,500), Sport Package ($1,400), Glass Sunroof ($1,200) and Wireless Charging with Extended Bluetooth and USB ($350) and Eucalyptus Matt Fine Wood Trim ($350).

Fully-loaded, the MSRP reaches $57,600 and still $4,645 lower than our (again) fully-loaded earlier tester with $62,245.

For a price saving of nearly 5K, you can more excitement and better planning skills.

Conclusion

When you choose an EV, it is still an expensive alternative without any government incentive. When you choose a BMW as an EV, this is definitely an expensive alternative among the EV’s. And this will probably be not your only car. Then, by not giving another 5K to have a considerable less range anxiety and more flexibility?

Choose wisely and choose the model with range extender.

Article and Photos by Varol McKars

2019 BMW X2 M35i

A “transitional” design between a CUV and a hatchback. The X2 would be an alien to the BMW design language 10 years ago, but now it is well-accepted and unmistakeably BMW too

Expanding the “X”

People always want to get everything in one package, especially when it comes to the crossover market. BMW X2 offers a great package, it is capable of doing everything, but we are going to see how good it can do in this review.

The interior has a typical BMW quality. “Magma Read Dakota Leather” is a vibrant color and emits energy inside.

The crossover market gets more and more popular and every manufacturer works to expand its model range. Even at BMW, the world’s number one luxury car manufacturer, we may have more “non-sedans” than the traditional sedans soon. Remember, that there was only the BMW X5 in the beginning of the century, and then the Bavarians eventually released the X3 thereafter, and eventually they have used X seven times across their entire model range to define SUV’s and CUV’s. Why? Because the customer is the king and also BMW had to bow to the demands of its customers.

However, remember that BMW calls this vehicle SAC, “Sports Activity Coupé”. a subcategory within the X Family.

Currently, BMW offers 7 different X models which start from the X1 all the way up to the X7. You may think that X2 is the bigger brother of the X1, but it is vice versa. The X2 has sportier – “coupe-ish” design elements which are slightly lower and shorter. So, you are buying a car, which should be a “utility” vehicle, and you have to sacrifice legroom, headroom, and overall space just for the looks.

Our tester had the M35i package, which comes with sport suspension (10mm lower than its non-M counterpart), “M” badged steering wheel and sport brakes, bigger 20” rims, sport seats making you feel closer to a sports car, rather than a utility vehicle. Mind you, this is not a real M car, just a few different changes to make it livelier.

With 302 horsepower and 332 lb-ft this is BMW’s most powerful 2.0L TwinPower Turbo engine

Engine and Powertrain

BMW X2 M35i comes with a four-cylinder 2.0L turbocharged engine, which produces 302 horsepower and 332 lb/ft of torque. It is not overwhelming but definitely not slow. It is matched with an 8-speed automatic transmission which we should say, we are really impressed. Shifts are really quick, smooth when driving slowly. When you push it hard, it is super engaging and matches really well with the overall performance of the engine.

Driving Impressions

What we didn’t like about the engine is, which is probably software related issue, throttle response is not really good, especially in the first gear. It literally takes two seconds to start accelerating. You can switch to Sport mode to eliminate most of this problem, but it is still there. What we also found in the first gear is, it doesn’t matter if DSC/TC is ON or OFF the turbocharger probably boosts less than the other gears, so it doesn’t feel like 302 horsepower all-wheel-drive car until you upshift to the second gear. Our tests show that it consumed 11.8L / 100 km and we weren’t easy on it, so it is obvious that 2.0L engine is great on gas, considering its power, the overall weight of the car and all-wheel-drive system.

20″ light-alloy double spoke wheels cost $500 as a stand-alone option
As a weird design feature, the thick C-pillar bears a BMW badge on both sides.

Handling and driving dynamics are extremely good for a crossover. X2 feels more like a car, rather than an SUV, as we detected almost no body roll when the vehicle reaches its cornering limits. Also, since it has the M package, you are slightly lower than many crossovers, so you would feel like you are actually driving a hatchback. It really looks like slightly raised hatchback BMW and it feels the same way inside.

When you get in the X2, you instantly feel that you are in a BMW. It has a typical BMW interior design. Overall quality is really good for its class. However, feature-wise, there are some important missing ones, such as cooled seats, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring. Considering its price range, those features should be standard, let alone an option. It also doesn’t have Android Auto, like the other BMWs. Other than that, we have a typical BMW infotainment system, which is really good and user-friendly.

Pricing

The base price is $49.200. Our fully loaded tester had the premium package costing $5.650 and three standalone options costing $1,400 in total. These additions bring the total MSRP to $56.650

Conclusion

This is a good choice for BMW fans or new clients who want to experience BMW sportiness and M performance features in a relatively affordable way. And affordable is relative.

Article and pictures by Dan Gunay & Varol McKars

Ford Mustang Bullitt

A Vehicle Dedicated To Bullitt

Dark Highland Green is a must to give the car its character and connect it to the Movie. The only other colour option is black

It starts with a great sound of music: The Roaring of the V8 and the piping of the exhaust promise a great ride, American style.

The 5.0L, V8 engine is the same engine in GT, with an added 20 horsepower

This is the Bullitt, a Mustang bringing back the memories of Director Peter Yates’ film from 1968 with Steve McQueen shining like a star: “Bullitt”. The car-chasing scene in this movie on the streets of San Francisco is known as one of the best in the history of Hollywood. And without this scene, this movie would have vanished in our distant memories.

On its 50th anniversary, Ford brought back this legend on four wheels in dark green and with an “empty” front grill. The only badge is in the rear. It is a limited series production with a serial number on the dashboard. Our tester had the number K0667, even if Ford does not give any clue about the scale of production.

The Bullitt At A Glance

The original 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2 + 2 Fastback from the Movie “Bullitt”

The Bullitt is based on Mustang GT Premium. Ford added another 20 horsepower to the original GT engine to reach 480 hp while delivering the same torque. As you would expect, this car comes only with a manual transmission.

The optional ( $ 1,800) Recaro sports seats provide very good lateral support, but only manually adjustable in six-ways and not heated. But, to me, these seats are a bit narrow and less comfortable. Having said that I am, as a “somewhat” overweight old guy, not a typical driver for this type of car and my comments may be judgemental and biassed.

These seats make much sense if you test the limits of the car on the track.

Driving Impressions

You only see the Bullitt badge
To me, the Bullitt is not a car for the crowded Downtown Toronto, but it fills the frame beautifully

For two days, I drove the car on the highways around and in pothole-covered streets of Toronto. My final verdict is: Do not think that the Bullitt can be your only and everyday car. It is fun to drive after you painfully bow and find your position behind the steering wheel. The long doors, as they are in a sports coupe may be a barrier to tackle in tight parking spots. It may be torture to play with the shift sticks in the terrible Downtown Toronto traffic. And the potholes in hundreds of Toronto streets turn the experience very nasty.

Own it to take to the track or enjoy some twisty roads in the countryside for adventure at summer weekends.

Pricing

The Mustang GT Premium, which is the basis for the Bullitt, starts at $47,425, but in Bullitt trim the MSRP jumps to $57,525. For that, you get a 5.0-litre V8 that’s used in the regular GT, but with a twenty-horsepower bump up to 480 ponies. Other features expected to justify the price difference are; Brembo front brakes, auto-adjustable suspension, a limited-slip differential, active exhaust valves, and unique wheels with summer performance tires, plus a 12-inch customizable instrument cluster, premium audio, a navigation system, and blind-spot monitoring.  

Conclusion

A perfect choice of sports car for baby boomers who can remember Steve McQueen’s era and witnessed the birth of Pony Car in the 1960s. Or you are a millennial going off the beaten path and discover the qualities of an American sports car instead of a higher image German or Japanese name.

Following our comprehensive test with the Mustang GT, as you can read in the link below:

http://www.autoandroad.com/2019/06/ford-mustang-gt-2/

Article and Pictures by Varol McKars