Archive for January 2020

2020 BMW X3M Competition

Over the generations, the current BMW X3 reached almost the size of the first-generation X5, its bigger brother.

Okay, since the 1990s, SUVs are the most popular type of vehicle people prefer. They are selling like hotcakes. They offer practicality, comfort and all-wheel drive option altogether in one package. Practicality and comfort don’t sound that exciting, this is why there are many people who hate SUVs as they claim it makes their soul die when they drive it.

Driving this powerful machine on snowy side streets of Toronto was a pleasure

However, not all SUVs are the same.  Premium brands such as BMW offer SUVs with some soul in it. This week’s tester is the X3M with Competition Package. It is a utilitarian vehicle with an animal under the hood. The question is, does it deserve the “M” and “Competition” badge? In this article, we will try to find it out.

“Competition” package is approximately $12.000 CAD extra

Engine and Drivetrain

3.0L Inline 6 turbocharged engine produces 503 horsepower

As always, we should start with the heart of a car with the “M” badge. It comes with a 3.0 Liter, 6-cylinder turbocharged engine which pumps out 503 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. Like many other BMWs, this has 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission. It only comes with all-wheel drive, and it is able to get to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, despite being heavier than 5500 pounds. These numbers are extremely impressive for a utility vehicle. However, if you don’t need all 503 horsepower to go to grocery shopping, you can opt-out the Competition package which comes with 473 horsepower with an only 0.1-second penalty for 0-60 mph. In our test, we couldn’t care less about fuel consumption as potential buyers also should not care about it, but we can definitely say it is over 15.0L / 100 km/h if you drive spiritedly.

Exterior and Interior

Are you a car guy, or average Joe? You will immediately identify the X3M if you are a car guy, as it comes with bigger wheels, sporty front bumper, unique black grille, grille in the front fenders, M side mirrors, unique rear spoiler, and different M specific rear bumper. Not only that, but it comes with M calipers which are significantly better and painted from the factory. Sorry, but it still looks like a regular X3 if you are an average Joe.

High-quality materials and craftsmanship is a BMW tradition

When you get inside the X3M-C, you feel high-quality materials and great craftsmanship, like a BMW tradition. Lots of soft-touch plastics, leather, aluminum and carbon trims placed all around the interior. Though it is heavily relied on infotainment system to use many of its features, there are still actual buttons that you can use for adjusting the air conditioning, radio, cruise control, suspension setup and so on. The combination of technology while keeping actual buttons for essential features mean you are not screwed if the technology fails in the future, so the X3M will still be drivable.

M seats in an SUV !? It looks great but also hugs you well.

Interior wise, X3M-C differs itself from a regular X3 by few important changes. Different trims such as carbon fiber, M specific two-colored sporty seats, M buttons in the steering wheel, few “M” badges in the interior and that’s it.

A well-executed interior with nice color combination makes night-time driving an appealing experience

Driving Impressions

It may be an SUV, but it drives like a car. Impressive!
M calipers and drilled front rotors provide excellent stopping performance.

Should I give you a spoiler? This feels like a sports car in every circumstance. You should not expect a super comfortable ride, however, the struts are super-complaint that it is not overly stiff, but there is no body roll at all. The steering feels like M3, chassis feels like M3, engine, and transmission are a beast to drive. However, the difference is, when you turn your head back, you have tons of legroom and cargo room. It is quite impressive BMW was able to offer M3 driving dynamics in an SUV. Of course, if you go to the track and compete with any M car, it would fall behind, but who buys an SUV for the track? This is an excellent car for public roads and overpowered for our highways, which are unfortunately limited at 100 km/h.

Need to go grocery store with over 500 horsepower under the hood? You’ve got it.

Let’s go back to the engine and transmission for a second. This 6-cylinder S58 engine has tons of torque in the whole rpm range. It is a rev-happy engine that goes all the way up to 7600 rpm and it shifts really quickly. Maybe not as fast as M3 or M4, but quick enough for an SUV. Regardless of which gear you are in, the car just wants to move without downshifting which makes it extremely easy to drive on the highway, back roads or city roads.

Unlike 3 series, this digital screen looks more traditional, but it has everything you need

We think the all-wheel-drive system deserves a few words. Like most of the BMWs, this has rear-wheel drive biased AWD system. In our tests, there was a snowstorm in Ontario so we had a chance to see its limits and how capable it is. If you disable the traction and stability control, which is extremely easy to do unlike the other German vehicles, some even won’t allow you to fully disable, the X3M-C can easily go sideways and it is a joy to drive in every type of road surface. X3M-C offers two types of different AWD tune, which is Normal and Sport mode. In Sport mode, it can transfer up to 100% of the power to the rear whereas, in Normal mode, the car will send more power to the front. Either way, you feel that it always sends power to the rear first and then the front.

Pricing and Features

X3M with the Competition package starts at $96,000 CAD.

Fast & Good & Cheap – You need to pick two of them. This rule is also applicable to BMW X3M Competition. Like the other BMW’s, you need to take the “Cheap” part out of the equation. For X3M-C, the word “cheap” is replaced with “Practical”. Normal X3M starts from $86,454.73 and if you choose the Competition pack, it starts at $96,764.73 as of February 2020. If you choose the Ultimate Package, which comes with M Carbon Exterior Package, Front & Rear Heated and Ventilated seats, M Driver’s Package, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wireless Charging, Driving Assistant Plus, Parking Assistant Plus with Surround View, Manual Rear Side Sunshades that costs $10,000 extra and there are few more extras. So, we are looking at more than $110,000 before tax, PDI and delivery. Yes, that’s the premium if you want the “Fast, Good and Practical”.

Fast, Good and Practical – Great weekend warrior as well as an excellent family hauler.

Things could have been better:

Price – Our tester’s price is over $110.000 CAD. You should not expect a great deal if we are talking about an SUV, especially the one which is extremely capable of doing everything great. This “Fast SUV” is a niche segment and you have to pay the premium to play. If you opt-out for Competition package, which we doubt that most people need it, you can save a lot of money. However, at the end of the day, you are still paying a lot of money for an X3.

Adaptive Cruise Control – This was not as good as the latest generation 3 series. It always asks you to keep your hands on the steering wheel, unlike our M340i tester from last year. Though it stops and starts moving pretty smoothly, still we would expect the latest technology in the $100.000+ vehicle.

Exhaust system – We wouldn’t complain if this was not a Competition version. However, we were expecting a louder exhaust in our tester. This is perfectly fine for regular X3M, but it just needs to get louder for X3M-C.

Shifter paddles – Okay, for a true “M” and “Competition” car, it must not be plastic. Although it feels high quality, it must be metal, like the one in M3-M4 or any other M cars. You can always change with aftermarket ones, but why bother since you pay over $100.000 for a sporty SUV?

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

Article and pictures by Dan Gunay & Varol McKars

2020 BMW M4 Convertible

A Famous Performance Car

Like any other BMW M car, the M4 (which was previously an M3 Coupe) is still perfectly capable of offering the Ultimate Driving Pleasure. So nothing really surprising here.

However, what makes it interesting is, BMW replaced the soft-top with a metal top, for more rigidity and road comfort, which makes it unique in its class. Same BMW used soft-top in its Gran Tourer, the 8 series, but not in M series. Isn’t that weird?

2020 is going to be the last year of current generation M4, which is based on the previous generation of 3-Series. In our test, we will see how does the M badge goes along with four-seat practicality and the bulky hard top.

When the roof closed, it is almost identical with the M4 Coupe

Exterior and Interior

BMW M4 was first released in 2014 and it still keeps main design elements both interior and exterior. Convertible M4 comes with a metal roof, which offers a more comfortable and silent driving experience at higher speeds, at the expense of more weight. Though, when the roof closed, it looks almost identical with M4 coupe. There are some major differences compared to the regular 4 series. M specific wheels, bumpers, diffusers, fenders, hood, mirrors, quad tailpipes are all different and make the M4 look better and more special.

With M bumpers, wheels, mirrors, it looks more special than regular 4-Series.

When we get inside the M4, it has typical BMW quality. Lots of leather, soft-touch plastics, and some carbon fiber trims. It is still a 4 seater but there is little to no rear legroom in the 4 series. This car is really not for 4 adults. Front seats are both supportive and comfortable which come with 14-way power-adjustable sport seats. Unlike the new 3 series, 4-Series hasn’t been updated yet, so it comes with older interior design which we still like it. There are still lots of physical buttons and they are pretty easy to use. It has a nice combination of technology implementation while still keeping buttons for essential features for longevity.

Although this generation is 6-years old, the interior still looks fresh with high-quality materials.

Engine & Drivetrain

This is the most fun part of this car. The M4 comes with a 6 cylinder twin-turbo engine that produces 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. However, as it is a cabriolet, it is approximately 500 pounds heavier which is over 4100 lbs. Surprisingly, M4 is available with a manual transmission option, but you can also choose a 7-speed dual-clutch DCT transmission. The transmission is a perfect match for a 6-speed inline engine, and they send power exclusively to the rear wheels. In the rear, it comes with M limited-slip differential, which is a must in this class.

3.0L Twin Turbo Inline-6 Engine + 7 Speed DCT: Perfect recipe for fun

If you choose Competition Package, it offers extra “whopping” 19 horsepower for a total of 444 horsepower. Though its extra weight, the M4 Convertible is able to reach from 0 to 100 km/h around 4.5 seconds. This level of power, feeding two turbocharges and added weight means more fuel consumption. In our tests, M4 consumed approximately 13.0L / 100 km in mixed driving circumstances.

Driving Impressions

Okay, at the end of the day, it is a true M car. This car is overpowered for public roads, and it will be dangerous for an average Joe if he turns off the stability control. However, if you are an enthusiast, you always appreciate having silky smooth inline-6, twin turbocharger, dual-clutch DCT (or manual), and a limited-slip differential. Unlike regular “sporty” BMWs, M4 comes with metal paddle shifters and they feel great when you shift manually. It literally encourages you to drive harder, and use it in manual mode all the time.

Having a hard top means there is a weight penalty.

Driving a Convertible is fun in the summertime, but for an M car, there are significant disadvantages. It has less body rigidity, worse weight distribution. The M4 Convertible cannot beat physics, so this is where it gets confusing. You must decide if you need convertible, or need a true sports car, or both. If you need both, this is an excellent car, but you shouldn’t expect it to be perfect for being both.

Top up or down, it looks gorgeous from outside

As it is 500 lbs heavier than the coupe, it feels slower and heavier for a true sports car. It is not as sharp, or nimble. Not only it feels slow, but having so much torque and weight gives rear wheels hard time. As it is a twin-turbo, it has lots of torque in the low rpm and you must have great road conditions to successfully transfer that amount of torque when you are accelerating. You must be really careful with the throttle or it will constantly spin the rear tires in bad weather and road conditions. This should not be a problem as you shouldn’t get a convertible if you are serious about having the best lap time in track day or autocross. If having a convertible is your priority, this is an extremely fun and powerful car and it is capable of putting a smile on your face every time you drive it spiritedly.

Features and Pricing

As always, it has lots of optional features. Our tester comes with the Ultimate Package, which is a hefty $26,000 premium for Adaptive M suspension, 20″ wheels, Storage Compartment Package, M Seat belts, Park Distance Control, Adaptive Full LED Headlights, High-Beam Assistant, Active Blind Spot Detection, Surround View, Head-Up Display, SiriusXM, Wireless Charging, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Black Kidney Grille, Competition Package, M Driver’s Package, Carbon Fibre Front Inserts and Mirrors, Titanium Exhaust with Carbon Tips, and Carbon Fibre Rear Diffuser. For all features list, please visit www.bmw.ca

Optional titanium quad exhaust tips look & sound great, a “must-have” for M4.


The infotainment system is user-friendly and easy to search around. However, it still lacks Android Auto. Unlike the 3-series, this generation 4 series hasn’t been updated yet, so it still has older technologies, so some of them are not on par with the other (newer) BMW models. For instance, the Adaptive Cruise control system is not as good as the new 3-Series. However, when it comes to features, you can’t go wrong with BMW as long as you pay the premium.

M cars are always special, but you need to pay the premium.

The M4 Convertible starts at $89,000 CAD and if you choose the Ultimate Package and M DCT automatic transmission, it goes all the way up to $118,900. It is true that you are paying a huge premium to have a true sports car heart with a convertible body. Unless you really need a convertible car, you can get a lot faster M cars for significantly cheaper. For the price, you are getting into M5 / M5 Competition territory which offers way more horsepower, more fun, more precise driving experience, more functionality, and more daily driveable car.

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

Article And Photos by Dan Gunay

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4WD

It Started With A Surprise. And Not A Pleasant One

Our first encounter with the Pathfinder was something unexpected. As we were going to pick up the vehicle in Mississauga on Monday morning of the Christmas week, the vehicle was back from a very long journey deep in the USA. The windscreen got small chips along the legendary Route 66. And the hot, pressurized water at the automated carwash station turned these chips to three large cracks intersecting on the driver side of the windscreen. Bhu Kapur of Media Fleet, the company managing media fleets of several makes, acted fast and coordinated the same-day ordering of this critical part and made an afternoon appointment with Nissan Willowdale in Toronto.

Thanks to John Lim, the service manager of Willowdale Nissan in Toronto for a great service experience
Willowdale Nissan service team replaced the cracked windshield within about half an hour

As we arrived there around 5.30 p.m., John Lim, the service manager took the matter into his own hands and the Pathfinder got a brand new windscreen in about half an hour. At the same time, they also removed the rooftop cargo carrier that we wouldn’t need during our test drives and would be a problem when entering underground parking garages.
So, before we really drove Nissan’s SUV, we happened to experience a service visit to a dealership, which was great.

Drivetrain & Driving Impressions

The Pathfinder comes with only one option. 3.5L V6 Naturally aspirated engine that produces 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque.

Nissan Pathfinder comes with one engine option. It is a 3.5L V6 naturally aspirated engine that produces 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. This engine has been used by Nissan for a really long time, including the other models. However, this one is heavily updated few years ago with new direct-injection, new pistons, and variable valve timing. It comes with Continuously Variable Transmission which mimics gears of traditional automatic transmission.

This CVT transmission, unlike the other Nissan models, has more towing capacity. Pathfinder can tow 3,500 lbs weight which is quite impressive for a CVT. Engine and transmission are matched well and they operate extremely smoothly, which you would expect it from a 3-row SUV. In our tests, Pathfinder had 11.5L /100 km fuel consumption, which is average in this class, but not too bad for a V6, considering there are some entries switched to turbocharged 4 cylinders in this segment.

Although Nissan Pathfinder doesn’t have a front or rear locking differentials, it offers center locking differential system which distributes 50/50 of power equal to the front and rear. There are three different options and it is pretty easy to use. The first one is 2WD mode, which the car moves with only front wheels. The second one is the Auto mode, which distributes the torque front and rear depending on the situation. The third one is the locking mode, which always sends same power regardless of the terrain. In our tests, it improves overall traction when you are in the mud. This locking feature is also getting rare, as all SUVs are getting softer and less off-road capable.

Center locking differential is available in Pathfinder

When we drive the Pathfinder, we immediately felt that it is a big SUV, and it is not trying to hide this. It has a front biased all-wheel-drive system as the V6 is a transverse engine, this won’t offer a fun-filled driving experience. This is an SUV meant for comfort and being smooth. With the 3.5L V6 engine and CVT, this is one of the most comfortable entries in this segment. The V6 engine likes to rev, and it has lots of torque in the mid-range rpm. The suspension is tuned extremely well, it is not too stiff or too soft. The overall ride quality is excellent for this price range.

Exterior & Interior

There are lots of legroom and headroom space in the front seats

The third-generation Pathfinder, which was launched in 2013, was refreshed in 2017. Most changes were made on the exterior, which still looks modern especially for a platform that is 7 years old. In the interior, it cannot hide its age, as the design gets old. There are no soft-touch plastics on the dashboard. There are only some soft-touch on the door panels, which falls behind the competition. However, where you usually touch is usually leather, soft-touch plastic or well-padded surface so you won’t feel any cheapness.

Second row legroom is excellent, though the bottom cushions are placed low.
With the third row up, there is still plenty of space.
Sliding and foldable middle seats facilitate the access to the third row

Pathfinder is a big SUV, and that means it has tons of interior space. We were able to put 65” TV and there were even lots of space left. It is an extremely practical SUV if you are looking for carrying big stuff or hauling people. Both the second and third rows can fold down and it can be a fully flat surface all the way to the front seats. Access to the third row is easy, and it is easy to fold back the seats when you need more space.  There are lots of legroom in the second row and the third row is not too bad. However, the third row is not the most comfortable as the floor is located high so you need to keep your legs in a higher position, which is not good for long trips. However, if you are planning to have more than 5 people regularly, maybe you should take a look into a minivan segment.

Features & Pricing

Our tester was the SV Rock Creek trim, which is a special edition that comes with few more exterior and interior visual features. However, there is no mechanical difference compared to normal version. All trims still come with center locking differential. Rock Creek model comes with unique 18-inch dark-finished wheels and black-molded fender guards, as well as roof rails with black accents.

Rock Creek rims are 18″ and it has special black accents.

Aside from special trims, Pathfinder has three main trims called S, SV, SL Premium and Platinum. For full specification list, please go https://www.nissan.ca/en/suvs/pathfinder/versions-specs.html

Though not the best in class, it still has plenty of legroom space in the third row.

OK, let’s go back to our tester. As mentioned previously, the infotainment system looks old, as it has been on the market for more than 6 years. However, it is easy to use and not too slow compared to today’s standards. It is unfortunately still missing the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which could be a deal-breaker for some people. Considering they are readily available in almost all other Nissan vehicles, this should have been included for a car costs more than $40.000. Not only that, but there are some half-baked technologies implemented in the Pathfinder. For instance, Adaptive Cruise control is available, but it doesn’t have fully stop and go technology. It will disable itself once the vehicle fully stops, and it starts to creep. Also, the car comes with LED low beams, but it was missing LED high beams. We would expect fully LED headlights from a 3-row SUV.

Cargo practicality is one of the strongest selling points of the Pathfinder.

There are some safety features that are available in Pathfinder. For instance, Blind spot monitoring, front collision warning are some of them. Also, there are memory seats, heated steering wheel, Bose premium sound system, tri-zone climate control which are some nice comfort features. Overall this is an SUV fully focused on the overall driver and passenger comfort. It can still keep up with the competition if you are not a tech-savvy person and looking for driving smoothness and comfort. Nissan Pathfinder starts at $36,500 with the S trim and it goes all the way up to $49,500 with the Platinum trim. Since this has been on the market for a long time, it is easy to find a great deal if you shop around as there is intense competition in the SUV market. This could actually be a great option if you find a great deal in Nissan dealer.

Article and Pictures by Dan Gunay and Varol McKars

2020 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate AWD

Hyundai Kona: One of the best selling vehicles in Hyundai’s lineup

Hyundai’s SUV Family now consists of five models. This is an expression of Hyundai’s success and passion to fill every gap in its model range. With the recent addition of Venue, The Korean company has no reason to complain. There is a Hyundai SUV for every budget and taste now. As per Automotive News, in the USA in 2019, SUV’s made up 53 percent of Hyundai sales south of the border. In Canada, the picture should not be much different. The Kona, introduced in late 2017 and sold in North America since 2018 in one of the three top-selling models in Canada.

Exterior and Interior

Front design looks similar to its bigger sister Santa Fe, which has daylights on top, and high/low beams at the bottom.

Kona has Hyundai’s main design elements. It looks similar to its bigger sisters, Santa Fe and Palisade. It has daytime running lights on top, and low/high beams placed at the bottom. It is a small sized SUV, but it has sporty design elements. That being said, there are some design features such as side plastic protection covers to make it look more rugged.

The rear design matches well with the overall looks. Sporty but still keeps it’s rugged design elements.

The interior of the Kona looks similar to the Veloster. There are lots of common parts used in many Hyundai models. There is some soft and hard touch plastics, which is expected for this price range. Where it falls behind is the overall legroom, especially in the rear. It is one of the smallest entries in the subcompact SUV class. However, front seats are really comfortable and have sufficient legroom and headroom. The driver’s seating position is also comfortable, and it feels more like a car rather than an SUV, this is where you feel that it is a driver-oriented SUV.

The interior design looks similar to the Veloster, with slightly more soft-touch plastics.

Overall user-friendliness is very good. You only need few minutes to get used to layout if you are new to a Hyundai. The instrument cluster and the infotainment screen are easy to use. Important features have dedicated buttons, so it is not 100% relying on the digital screen/infotainment system.

As it is a subcompact SUV, rear-seat legroom isn’t the best.

Speaking of the infotainment system, it is very good. For this price range, it is one of the best in its class. It also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is a car that is designed for Millennials and young people, so that’s why there are lots of modern features available. If you choose the top trim, it comes with an 8-way power-adjustable driver seat, lumbar support, a head-up display, an 8-inch color touchscreen, wireless charging, heated steering wheel, sunroof, lane keep assist, and so on. Please visit https://www.hyundaicanada.com/en/showroom/2020/kona/specs for more details.

Engine and Drivetrain

The instrument cluster and infotainment system are easy to use, and it has actual buttons for the air conditioning

Hyundai Kona comes with two different engines depending on the trim. Lower trims come with a 2.0L naturally aspirated engine which produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. If you choose upper trims, it comes with a 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 175 horsepower and 193 lb-ft of torque. This 1.6 turbo engine offers the most horsepower in the subcompact SUV class, and due to its size, it makes the car really peppy. It is not super fast, but it is fast enough for daily driving and easy to use due to its torque curve. Our tester’s fuel consumption was 9.5L / 100 km which is quite impressive for an All wheel drive vehicle.

It comes with a 4-cylinder 1.6 turbocharged engine, which produces 175 horsepower and 195 ft-lb of torque.

Kona also comes with two different automatic transmission options. The base engine is matched with 6-speed torque converter automatic transmission, whereas the 1.6 turbo engine has the 7-speed Dual-clutch transmission. In our tests, the 7-speed transmission is almost as smooth as torque converter automatic, but there are few occasions where you feel jerkiness and rough shifting especially when it gets hot.

Speaking of getting hot, if you are planning to take the Kona to off-road, dual-clutch transmissions are not the best option. As it is an automated manual transmission, it still has clutch operation, and if you do off-roading, it will overheat. This is where you should consider regular torque converter automatic transmission option.

Regardless of the transmission, Kona is not a heavy-duty off-road vehicle and the AWD system is not designed for that. It is an on-demand system and it activates rear wheels whenever it needs. If you drive it normally, it sends power to the front wheels only.

Driving Impressions

This is where Kona shines, compared to some other subcompact SUVs. Due to its peppy engine, it makes Kona fun to drive. This is one of the most driver-oriented option in this segment. What we didn’t like about Kona is, you are not allowed to fully disable the stability control. You can disable the traction control and stability control, but the car will get involved whenever you try to go sideways. We would like to disable it fully to get the most out of the all-Wheel Drive system, especially from a driver-oriented SUV.

Ultimate trim comes with 18″ rims and 235/45 tires, which offers the most grip.

Overall steering feeling and handling are nice, though you are sitting noticeably higher in Kona, than a compact hatchback or sedan. That means you have a significantly higher center of gravity, so it is not a corner carver by any means. However, it is quite impressive considering this is a subcompact SUV.

Kona is one of the best looking vehicles in its segment

Pricing and Conclusion

Hyundai Kona starts at $21,249 and goes all the way up to $32,249. If you want absolute base trim but need All Wheel Drive, it starts at $27,149. Kona offers great features for the price range, we believe this is one of the best bang for the buck in its class. If you need a small SUV that offers lots of features and easy to use, definitely check out the new Kona.

Good

  • Great engine and transmission combination (on pavement)
  • Great driving dynamics
  • Lots of features for this price range
  • Ease of use – buttons, infotainment, gauge cluster
  • Impressive styling

Bad

  • Adaptive Cruise is not the full range
  • Rear legroom and cargo space
  • Can’t fully disable the stability control

For more detailed and most up-to-date information please visit: http://www.hyundaicanada.com for more details.

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay