Archive for September 2019

2019 BMW M850i xDrive Cabriolet

BMW’s flagship grand tourer coupe is finally back, after almost three decades. Like Toyota Supra, or Nissan Skyline, it reminds us 90s as 8 series was first introduced in 1990 and it was one of the legendary cars most millennials will still remember. Unfortunately, first generation 8 series were discontinued in 1999 due to poor sales. However, it seems BMW decided to resurrect it, and reintroduced the 8 series last year. The question is, is the second generation of 8 series going to be successful? Let’s find it out.

Exterior and Interior

The interior is well-crafted with superior craftsmanship and high-quality materials. Yet, more differentiation from the other models would be good.

As usual, BMW 8 series carries lots of design elements from the other BMW’s. It looks elegant, but sporty, a great blend of both styles. We wish it had some similarities with the first generation 8 series, but it looks more like an inflated version of 6 series. This is one of the most important flaws. As a Gran Tourer, it definitely looks big but only people who are into BMWs will see the differences compared to 6-Series. Other than that, it looks beautiful from the outside, especially LED taillights and Laser headlights look really attractive and we should not complain about that.

The color combination in the interior is beautiful. The rear seats are far too small by any means

When we first got into the interior, we see that it also carries lots of parts and design styling from the other BMWs. It may be a deal-breaker for people who are willing to spend almost $150.000 to see exactly the same steering wheel, gauges, screen, console buttons from the 3-Series. That doesn’t mean it is bad, overall interior quality is impressive, we just thought it would be better if the 8 series had more unique design and parts specifically used for 8 series so that the owners would have felt they are actually driving an 8 series when driving it.

Unfortunately, that feeling is really limited when you sit inside 8 series, regardless of the materials used in the interior. Like the newest BMWs, it offers driver-focused dashboard. However, rear-seat space is where you feel that you are driving a coupe, as it is extremely limited. BMW introduced this car as a four-seater but adults may not be comfortable in the back seat.

Our tester is a cabriolet, which is a fun-to-drive car in the summer. However, it is a soft-top, so it has a significant disadvantage, which is a road & tire noise when the top is up, especially on the highway. To be honest, it has little to no wind noise, which is quite impressive for a soft top, but it is not refined as a hardtop. We wish as a Gran Tourer, a hard-top option was available. Although it would have been even heavier, it would be more appropriate for the 8-Series.

Engine and Drivetrain

The Twin-Turbo 4.4 Liter V8 engine delivers 523 horsepower and 553lb-ft of torque.

This is where you start to feel you are driving a Gran Tourer, but definitely not a sports car. BMW M850i comes with twin-turbocharged 4.4 Liter V8 which produces 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. This masterpiece is also matched with BMW’s 8 Speed torque-converted automatic transmission. There is torque everywhere in the rpm range, and despite having more than 2 tonnes (4600 pounds) of weight, it is able to do 0-60 in less than 4 seconds. This drivetrain is so good, it would have been a hypercar level of performance if it was lighter, so the biggest hit for this platform is the additional weight as a cabriolet car.

Of course, the xDrive system contributes a lot to achieve 0-60 less than 4 seconds even with the Cabriolet version. This is one of our favorite all-wheel-drive systems, as it is rear-biased – almost like rear-wheel drive when tight maneuvering. When going straight, there is no rear wheel spinning and the car immediately distributes power to the front.

Low profile Bridgestone tires define the sporty character of the 850i

As always, BMW tuned the suspension extremely well on the M850i for public roads. There are few different driving options, but even in Sport+ mode, the suspension stiffness isn’t that hard, totally manageable and drivable daily. However, the tune delta of suspension between Comfort and Sport+ is not that wide. In fact, most of the time, we kept it in Sport+ mode to get the most out of overall performance during our test. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t expect to have good fuel economy when having twin-turbo V8 and over 4600 lbs of weight, it is hard to go lower than 11.0L / 100km even driving conservatively on the highway. If you drive like you stole it, it is not that hard to see more than 20.0L / 100 km.

Overall driving impressions & features

The BMW kidney gets bigger and bigger
A bold statement even in standstill

This is the hardest part to explain. BMW tried to put everything in this car and that’s why this is a weird combo. It is a grand tourer, cabriolet, sports car, all-wheel drive at the same time. That’s why it is hard to say it is a true grand tourer or sports car. The car doesn’t feel nimble at all, definitely not a corner carver but extremely capable with the xDrive system. In comfort mode, it feels like you are driving 5 or 7 Series, super light steering, soft suspension, and smooth torque curve. However, even with the M badge, it cannot be a sports car as the 8-Series belongs to the highways, not a race track. It is big, heavy and not as agile as a Porsche 911.

Feature-wise, it is not really different than other BMWs, except being a cabriolet. It comes with almost all features available for 5-7 Series. We are impressed with Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound System which comes with an active 12-Channel amplifier with an output of whopping 1.375 watts.  This is one of the best factory sound systems we have ever tried. Of course, all good things come with a hefty price, it costs $4.900 CAD extra to get this as an option. Other than that, the infotainment system is the latest edition, and much more user-friendly than the previous one. As always, latest digital cluster is excellent, easy to read, but not unique to the 8-Series.

Pricing and Conclusion

BMW 8 series starts at $123.500 CAD and if you opt for the Cabriolet, it goes up to $131.500. Our tester has almost everything with the Executive Package, which is $4.500 extra. With all options, it costs $143.200 before taxes.  It is definitely not bargains but considering it is capable to do everything well, and what it can offer to its owners, we would recommend buying it if you have the budget. However, if you are looking for a unique character and more nimble options, you should look elsewhere. Unless you are die-hard cabriolet fan, we would opt out for it to save some weight and money. Keep in mind, there are also M8 and 8-Series Gran Coupe versions coming soon, we assume price is going to be higher than our tester.

Some of our takeaways are:

+ Great driving comfort

+ Overall interior quality

+ Excellent drivetrain and performance

Things need to be improved:

– No Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is not free

– Hardtop option must be available for refined driving experience

– Despite being great in most parts, it lacks character

– Base MSRP is higher than the competitors

For the most up-to-date and more detailed information, please visit: http://www.bmw.ca

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

A long but enjoyable day trip from Toronto to Windsor was a good opportunity to become familiar with Mitsubishi’s newest product

Mitsubishi Then And Now

First things first: Mitsubishi today deserves a better space in the automobile landscape. This Japanese brand built its first automotive in 1917 and also the first four-wheel-drive car in Japan. Mitsubishi is part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, once the biggest company in Japan. This name has also a history of success in motorsports. In 2016. Mitsubishi joined the Renault-Nissan Alliance and owned 34 percent by Nissan.

Overview

The new front fascia inherits the so-called “Dynamic Shield” as the main design element

The Eclipse Cross is now the brand’s newest model. It may also be the last model independently developed before the era of the Alliance.

In the last decade or so, Mitsubishi entirely focused on SUV’s and CUV’s. For example, The legendary Lancer, once a star of the rally world is now quite outdated and still on sales in North America after several make-ups but without any intention for a new model. A strategy which is understandable considering the tight resources the company has.

To experience this compact SUV in the range-topping GT version, we took a long, daily drive from Toronto to Windsor.

A new front fascia called “Dynamic Shield” became the new face of the current generation. Also, the Eclipse Cross has it. With its progressive, forward-leaning design and split, visibility reducing rear window, it sacrifices some functionality for the sake of the design.

Engine and Powertrain

The 1.5-liter engine does the job on daily driving even if it is weaker than competitors

To stay “lean” in its portfolio, Mitsubishi offers one single-engine option for each version of the Eclipse: a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, delivering 152 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque between 2,000 to 3,500 rpm. It is paired with a continuously variable transmission and Mitsubishi’s four-wheel-drive system. In this class, many of its competitors offer stronger engines but in a country with not more than 119 km/h and not a lot of hilly roads, it is enough for your daily commute and driving the “E-Cross” provides some pleasure too. I am not a fan of CVT’s either and would prefer a more traditional automatic. Nevertheless, the CVT works well.

Interior

Despite some drawbacks, the dashboard and the interior is attractively designed and well-executed

The interior is significantly better in material and workmanship than what we see in older models like the Lancer.

In terms of functionality and user-friendliness, there is room for improvement. The on-off button and the volume control are on the far side of the infotainment screen and harder to reach. This was probably because the original design was for the Japanese version with the right-side steering.

The volume control is also a pair of pushbuttons instead of a dial.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard features, which is a big plus. There are plenty of folks who couldn’t be the least bit concerned over how an infotainment system works, though, and they may find these things don’t grate on them as much.

The front-row seats are much higher and more upright here than in most compact SUVs. This is not my favorite seating position. however, I did not feel uncomfortable with that.

A beautifully designed vehicle overall

Driving Impressions

I found the suspension more comfort-oriented and compliant than a typical SUV. It leans smoothly on curves and reasonably absorbs the small potholes and vertical bumps. At highway speeds up until 119 km/h, the interior noise is acceptable and conversation with your front passenger is very easy.

Even in the GT version there’s no full panoramic sunroof available, but instead there’s a pair of smaller ones. Still, this is good enough to let in much sunlight.

The split-window of the liftgate is arguably the most important design feature of the Eclipse Cross

The keyless entry was a bit surprising since it doesn’t work on the rear doors, and also the liftgate is “excluded”. The lack of a power liftgate is one of the “small” reasons for a competitive price. On the other hand, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel promise a vehicle good to go for the winter.

Fuel consumption is also worth noting: With an average of 10.7 liters, mainly on highway driving, it delivers fuel economy which is competitive in its class.

Pricing

The Eclipse Cross GT has a MSRP of $37,873 as tested, including freight and PDI. This is a competitive price for a Japanese vehicle that offers the longest warranty in the industry.

Conclusion

A modern, non-conventional design that stands out in this crowded segment, a relatively affordable price and a warranty (10 years and 160 kilometers) that largely eliminates the worries about long-term ownership are valid reasons to choose the Eclipse Cross instead of an Escape, RAV or CR-V despite some drawbacks.

Over the coming years, we can expect Mitsubishi to generate synergies from its alliance with Renault-Nissan (assuming that the alliance itself will move forward in a Post-Ghosn era with success) and become a stronger player in the cut-throat competition of the automotive business.

For the most up-to-date information, please visit:

http://www.mitssubishi-motors.ca

Article and Photos by Varol McKars

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