Archive for Car & Travel

JEEP Grand Cherokee in San Francisco

With Jeep Grand Cherokee

Bob Hope, English-born American comedian and actor once told: “In San Francisco, you can experience all the four seasons: Every day.”
Having visited the beautiful city on the Bay three times this year, I can only appreciate and confirm his statement. In February, I spoiled my body with a brilliant sun and 22 degrees Celsius. This was a wonderful winter getaway for someone living in Ontario. After a couple of months, I was surprised by a cool and windy weather with some rain and 18 degrees in mid-July. In either case the sun is part of the story.

Golden Gate Bridge: What else could better explain San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge: What else could better explain San Francisco

San Francisco, a city founded by the Spaniards in 1776 has a population of 800,000. Including the San Jose-Oakland Metropolitan Area, nearly 7, 5 million people live “around the Bay” and make it the second most populous region after Los Angeles in California. The Silicon Valley to the South is home to global tech giants like: Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo.
Sadly, despite its wonderful geography, San Francisco sits on top of one of the most dangerous earthquake zones in the world. The notorious San Andreas Fault Line cuts through the city and caused devastating earthquakes and fires in the past.

With Jeep Grand Cherokee

For many people of my generation, especially from outside North America, “The Streets of San Francisco”, the famous television police drama from the mid-Seventies established the first emotional connection with this wonderful city.

About the city and Jeep Grand Cherokee

I toured San Francisco first with a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a model symbolizing the start of Chrysler’s new product offensive which started about two years ago. The legend says that nobody wants to drive a car with manual transmission in this city of countless hills. I could not verify if the legend is true, however, I was absolutely convinced to have to have an automatic transmission (which I did have) after criss-crossing the city and stopping at red lights up the hills.

Bob Lutz, the legendary car guy of the industry and a Chrysler executive by then, spectacularly launched the Jeep Grand Cherokee by smashing a glass wall during 1992 Detroit Auto Show. The statistics tells us that only about 5 per cent of Jeep Grand Cherokee owners leave the asphalt. Nevertheless, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is an off-road vehicle with all-wheel-drive. During its development, the current generation of the Jeep Grand Cherokee witnessed some turning points of the recent, turbulent Chrysler history. The development of the Jeep Grand Cherokee started in 2005 under the Daimler-Chrysler Era, continued under the Cerberus Capital Management and was completed during the partnership with FIAT. The Jeep Grand Cherokee was launched in summer 2010. Definitely it doesn’t harm the Grand Cherokee to share some platform components and the architecture with the Mercedes ML.

 McCormick & Kuleto Restaurant in Ghirardelli Square has superp seafood and an wonderful view of the bay

McCormick & Kuleto Restaurant in Ghirardelli Square has superp seafood and an wonderful view of the bay

Even if there is no third row, the Jeep Grand Cherokee offers a comfortable ride for five passengers. The quite cabin makes a very good first impression thanks to features like; laminated glass, triple door seals for superior noise isolation, soft touch materials and very good finishing. Chrysler says that the current model range has no fear to compete with some established names like the Range Rover. Unusually, the Jeep Grand Cherokee offers three different types of all-wheel drive. In the Laredo version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee that I drove, the torque is equally split between front and rear axle. In the Quadra-trac version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the simplest of the three, there is a central differential with electronically monitored limited slip. There is no torque sensing between wheels or axles to adapt to different surfaces.
The new 3.6 liter V6 Pentastar engine with 290 HP of the Jeep Grand Cherokee effortlessly provided the power and torque I needed during my trip. The average consumption of nearly 13 lt/100 km is somewhat reasonable considering my dominantly urban driving.

A view of Downtown from Pier 39

A view of Downtown from Pier 39

My trip “inevitably” included a trip to Sausalito in the North whereby I crossed the Golden Gate, arguably the most photographed and most famous bridge in the world. You do not pay a toll when you drive northbound towards Sausalito. Returning to San Francisco costs you three dollars. The bridge is open also to cyclists and pedestrians, weather permitting. The Golden Gate is actually the strait between the Pacific Ocean and the Bay of San Francisco and this name was given by Captain John Fremont in 1846. The Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was opened in 1937. The average number of crossings per year (in both directions) is above 41 million. The middle span is 1966 meters and the clearance above high water is 67 meters. The maintenance of this magnificent piece of architecture is an ongoing process and the bridge was never closed for this purpose.
A visit to San Francisco is never complete without going to Ghirardelli Square. The place once hosted a workshop where uniforms of the Union Army during the American Civil War were sewn. The McCormick & Kuleto Restaurant offers a wonderful view of the Bay and the famous Alcatraz Island, once the most secure prison on earth. The seafood is superb. Among other items, to me the star of the extensive menu is “Mahi Mahi Macadamia Nut Crusted with Fried Plantains.” Some people get confused and think that mahi mahi is simply some kind of dolphin, which is not true. If you happen to visit this place, order it and remember my advice.
Mr. Sarper Buca, the restaurant manager of Turkish origin works hard to keep the culinary standards of this food temple high.

View of the Bay and the Alcatraz Island from McCormick & Kuleto

View of the Bay and the Alcatraz Island from McCormick & Kuleto

Seafood Sampler is a good start to experience the menu at McCormick & Culeto

Seafood Sampler is a good start to experience the menu at McCormick & Culeto

If you find this upscale restaurant too expensive (which arguably is) there are other and significantly cheaper options to feed your stomach and soul. Around the Fisherman’s Wharf, there are plenty of fast (and slow) food restaurants and clam chowder in sourdough bread bowl is probably the most delicious option. If the size of the portion is too big, leave the rest to shameless gulls surrounding you. You will probably come to this area to visit the famous Pier 39 for people watching; to taste some other varieties of seafood and for listening to street musicians.
If you can afford to wait up to one hour in summer-time, take the historic cable car to the Union Square. Be patient, since the “car” has a maximum speed of only 16 km/h.

The cable car is an iconic symbol of the city

The cable car is an iconic symbol of the city

Add to your visiting list also the famous residential neighborhood and park of Alamo Square. It consists of four city blocks at the top of a hill overlooking much of San Francisco, with a number of large and architecturally distinctive mansions along the perimeter. A visit to Alamo Square is worth for at least to photograph those well-maintained Victorian houses a.k.a. “Painted Ladies.”

Four-cheese oven pizza of Napa Farms is a great culinary experience

Four-cheese oven pizza of Napa Farms is a great culinary experience

If you haven’t fully satisfied your culinary expectations yet and about the leave the city, pay a visit to the Napa Farms Market in Terminal 2 of the San Francisco Airport. You should try their wood fire-cooked four-cheese pizza. It is made to order but absolutely worth waiting for. The place is designed by San Francisco-based Baldauf Catton Von Eckartsberg Architects and is inspired by San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace and Napa’s Oxbow Public Market. It showcases mouth-watering artisanal products from the Bay Area.
Summa summarum, these places are some highlights from a city you could easily fall in love with and far from all-inclusive.
During your stay, do not get disappointed by a cloudy and rainy morning. The sun will eventually respond to prays of some 15 million tourists visiting the city each year.


For more information about Jeep Grand Cherokee, please visit:
www.jeep.com
www.sanfrancisco.travel
www.fishermanswharf.org

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The 2012 MAZDA 3 Skyactiv Goes to Motown

Mazda 3 Sport, as the hatchback is called in Canada, has a fresh and highly organic design

 

Even if the current generation of Mazda 3 has been on sale for nearly one year, the previous generation of the Japanese compact car is an important player on the used car market and will do so for a long time. This 2012 Mazda 3 has the same Skyactiv technology as the current model. In this post, I shared my impressions during my visit to 2013 NAIAS in Detroit.

The automotive industry opens every year in Detroit. Its official name is NAIAS, for; North American International Auto Show. In Detroit someone can hear the first comments, gossips and media buzzes of the year. Being one of the biggest auto shows of the world (the other being Frankfurt and organized only in odd years), Detroit sends strong signals about the industry, brands models and of course about the outlook and expectations of the year ahead.

After the collapse of the industry in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008, things have slowly but steadily improved. Detroit, once the global center of the automobile production is now benefiting again from the recovery.

Specifications of Mazda 3

Mazda 3 Sport, as the hatchback is called in Canada, has a fresh and highly organic design

Mazda 3 Sport, as the hatchback is called in Canada, has a fresh and highly organic design

 

It was time to visit Motown or Motor City not far from home and across the Detroit River shortly after the end of the famous 401 Highway. I sat behind the steering wheels and took my 300 km plus drive with Mazda 3 to the Renaissance Center, one of Detroit’s landmarks and GM’s global head office.

This was also a good opportunity to drive the Mazda 3 with its latest Skyactiv technology. In recent years, electric and hybrid vehicles created a lot of media attention and discussions. However, but this interest and excitement didn’t trigger a sales success  for justifiable reasons. One reason is, that the internal combustion engine, one of the longest lasting technological innovations, never stops improving and the current Mazda 3 with Skyactiv is an example of that.

Mazda3 has a sporty and elegantly designed dashboard. Infotainment screen incl navigation is optional

Mazda3 has a sporty and elegantly designed dashboard. Infotainment screen incl navigation is optional

The compact car Mazda 3 from the Island of the Rising Sun and the mainstream model of the Japanese manufacturer, is a major contender in the compact class and was launched in 2004. Built on the success of the first generation, the current model (Mazda 3) family was introduced in 2010. Since its launch, it is one of the top selling cars in Canada and was also the sales champion at certain times. Lastly the Mazda 3 received a major improvement that is defined as Skyactiv. Skyactiv is a bundle of technologies aimed at increasing the performance of the Mazda 3 while reducing the fuel consumption. Mazda offers this bundle in the form of a two-liter, direct injection 4-cyl gasoline engine with very high compression (12,1) delivering 155 HP and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.  According to Mazda, this engine of the Mazda 3 is more fuel efficient than its earlier versions. With various improvements from crankshaft to oil pump and chassis the 2012 version of the Mazda 3, the manufacturer claims,  reduced the consumption from 10.2 to 8.4 l/100 km in town, and from 6.0 l/100km to 4.9 l/100 km on the highway compared to the 2011 model.

With a full tank of gas I drove the Mazda 3 from Oakville to Detroit, shuttled between the Cobo Center in Downtown and my hotel near the airport for two days, and returned “almost” home. I refueled in Cambridge and was able to drive 775 kilometers with one filling. It is regular, by the way. This is an impressive range for a car with a gasoline engine.

It is cold in the early morning

It is cold in the early morning

The average consumption was 7,5 liter. With highway speeds around 120 km/h mixed with some rush-hour traffic in the Detroit Metropolitan Area, this is a still a material deviation from the theoretical consumption data of 8,4 l in town and 4,9 lt on the highway. Keep in mind: Use the consumption data for comparative purposes rather than real-life driving expectations.

Highlights from Detroit     

Every year, media (or press) days take place on the third Monday and Tuesday of January, before the show opens its doors to the public. I got up at 5 a.m. in the first morning and hit the road to find a parking spot underneath the Cobo Center. After registration, I obtained my credentials and wristband and set foot on the floor.

After relatively quite morning hours, hundreds of journalists, photographers and cameramen from all continents slowly filled the main hall. Press conferences, lasting 30 minutes were magnets for this crowd and it as difficult to find a good viewing angle, let alone a seat, unless you position yourself at the stand of the brand 10 to 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the press conference.

During the high-pace media days of the show, I rushed from one press meeting to another and naturally missed some. The manufacturers showed their financial muscles to impress the masses via media. Selling automobiles is a highly complex and emotional business. You have to know how to conquer people’s hearts with cold steel and glass. If I would attempt to tell every aspect and mention of all the brands of the show, This post would be pages long. So, below are some of highlights I chose for you:

Mercedes

Mercedes boss Dr. Dieter Zetsche is smiling after the staging of the new E-Class

Mercedes boss Dr. Dieter Zetsche is smiling after the staging of the new E-Class

One of the happiest brands of the show was Mercedes. Celebrating 2012 its ever best year in the USA, in 125 years. Last year, the brand with the stern sold 274 thousand units South of the border. The Germans confidently launched the new E-Class. Mr. Dieter Zetsche, like last year stole the show.

I had an interview with Mr. Gorden Wagener, Mercedes’s Design Chief. He said that in the next 7 years, Mercedes will launch 13 new models without predecessors. This is a very passionate goal and led me pose a question to Mr. Wagener: “Can we expect to see a Mercedes at every corner?” He smiled.

Acura MDX & NSX

The new Acura MDX concept

The new Acura MDX concept

The new generation of full-size SUV of Acura, the MDX was unveiled as a prototype. But the most successful model of the brand it looks very close to serial production. The new design, looked to me more as an evolution and proves that the MDX has become a mature product with a distinct and somewhat timeless design personality.

Jaguar & Land Rover

Flying without Ford’s wings. That’s the mission the JLR Group has to accomplish. I made two interviews with Product development managers of Jaguar and Land Rover USA. They were happy to have sufficient autonomy and independence to retain the British characters of these invaluable brands. And time will tell if the JLR Group can independently develop new models and increase its scale of production. There is reason to be optimistic considering the quality ratings of recent models.

Ford & Lincoln

During Ford’s media dinner in the first evening, I was able to talk shortly to Mr. Allan Mulally, Ford’s legendary CEO and one of the most successful leaders of an automobile company ever.

The relaunch of the Transit as Ford’s global commercial and passenger van will probably create new investments and jobs for Turkey, an important production base for Transit. I told Mr Mulally that there is almost no Turkish citizen that didn’t drive in a Transit at least once in his or her lifetime. He laughed and took note of this.

The Meaning of Auto Shows

Showing the cars in auto shows to the public is, like talking about sex. You have to experience it to really know it. Fortunately, when these models and prototypes hit the showrooms, people will be able to drive these cars. And the auto journalists are the lucky guys, who can test-drive so many different vehicles without buying them.

For more comments and pictures about Detroit, visit my Facebook page: Auto and Road.

To know more about Mazda 3, you can visit here.

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GMC Terrain in Los Angeles

The beaches in Los Angeles

You may probably have heard the legend: Los Angeles Area has the highest rate of armed robberies in the Western World. Why? It is because no matter where you are, you will easily find a connection to the extensive network of highways. I do not know if the robbers take into consideration also the morning and evening rush hours.

History of Los Angeles

 

The best view of the Hollywood Mountain is from the Grifffith Observatory

The best view of the Hollywood Mountain is from the Grifffith Observatory

The city, Los Angeles has a long history of highways: Today’s Pasadena Freeway (named by then The Arroyo Seco Parkway), opened in 1940 is usually considered as the first urban freeway. By today’s standards its snake-like twists, missing lanes for acceleration and deceleration and faulty exit ramps are hardly acceptable. The Angelenos are among the most addicted drivers in the world and spend most time in their cars. Los Angeles Metropolitan Area is one of the most amazing examples of urban sprawl and public transportation is far too weak. So, the automobile remains the only viable solution in “town”.

I wanted to be part of this mobility experience for a few days and chose the GMC Terrain, a compact SUV as my “road-mate”. I drove the Terrain, equipped with a 3-liter V6-264 HP engine with six-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive for about 300 kilometers across the Los Angeles Area. The MSRP of this model in California including options such as leather upholstery is around 39K (USD).

The angular design of the Terrain is not for every taste, but definitely unique

The angular design of the Terrain is not for every taste, but definitely unique

Apart from its angular and unique design, the Terrain is well-built inside with good quality materials and good craftsmanship. Something we observe in almost all GM products since 2007.

To be honest, I was not very much impressed by its driving performance. I usually had the impression of having a four-cylinder power plant under the hood, instead of six. Maybe I should partially put the blame on the automatic transmission. You either switch to manual mode or provoke a downshift with a strong acceleration. The steering lacks a road feel in low speeds. The turning radius could be smaller for a compact SUV of this size.

The interior design is a vast improvement over previous models

The interior design is a vast improvement over previous models

GMC, founded in 1901 by Max Grabowski and part of General Motors since 1909 is one of the oldest producers of trucks and commercial vehicles. During WW II, GMC manufactured 600 thousand trucks for the American Army. In Turkey (and probably in many other countries) those trucks were used and partly still in use for many decades. In the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008, GMC survived as the second biggest brand of GM after Chevrolet while Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer died. In the last five years, GMC launched two car-based SUV’s, the Acadia and the Terrain to diversify its model range and to reduce its dependence on commercial vehicles. The Terrain, introduced in 2010 is a derivative of its Chevrolet sibling, the Equinox. It is produced by CAMI, a GM Facility in Ingersoll, Ontario. Respecting earlier criticisms, The Terrain has an entirely different look from the Equinox. The sales figures reveal that this was a wise choice.

That’s all about the vehicle. Back to the City of Angels. As an urban cowboy, I criss-crossed LA stretching  from the Hollywood Mountain to the Sunset Boulevard, from Rodeo Drive to Beverly Hills and the Olvera Street where the city was founded.

This building is the birthplace of Los Angeles

This building is the birthplace of Los Angeles

It makes perfectly sense to start your tour with the birthplace of Los Angeles. 44 Mexican settlers founded a pueblo (village) in 1781 on the orders of Carlos III of Spain, who needed food for the troops guarding Alta California, Spain’s faraway province. The Spanish & Mexican heritage of Los Angeles is so much visible when you wander the brick path of Olvera Street, a pedestrian marketplace with Latino vendors and small restaurants offering all kinds of Mexican food cheaply and quickly.

This humble and colorful neighborhood is very different from Rodeo Drive, Probably the world’s coolest shopping street. Among other fashion brands, I passed by Bijan and saw his one million dollar plus Bugatti Veyron parked in front of his boutique. Bijan Pakzad, known simply as Bijan was an Iranian designer of menswear and fragrances. His boutique is known as the most expensive on the planet. He sold to presidents, statesmen and rich celebrities his very unique products such as; a pair of socks for 2,500 dollars made of the finest cotton from Egypt, woven in Italy and sewn in Switzerland. After his death in 2011, his family runs the business.

When you visit Beverly Hills, just stay on the Boulevard. Tour busses are not allowed anymore to intimate side streets where the residences of Hollywood celebrities are located. They were disturbed and initiated a ban imposed by the Municipality.

The smog hanging over the car-addicted Los Angeles is visible most of the time

The smog hanging over the car-addicted Los Angeles is visible most of the time

A visit to Los Angeles is never complete without the Griffith Park and the Observatory with its view of Los Angeles and Mount Hollywood with its famous sign.

Spend at the least half a day at the Universal Studios, Hollywood’s biggest dream factory. The waiting times are long but maybe worth waiting. Immerse into 3-D experiences of Hollywood blockbusters such as: Jaws, Jurassic Park, Waterworld and many more.

Finally, to feel the breeze of the Pacific Ocean and enjoy some “people’s bath” visit the Venice Beach and Santa Monica.

To know more about GMC Terrain, you can visit here.

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JEEP Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Summit

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep GC EcoDiesel Summit (7)

Jeep, in its last-generation flagship Jeep Grand Cherokee, introduces a diesel version to the somewhat anti-diesel obsessed North America.

On August 1st, Fiat shareholders approved the automaker’s merger with Chrysler. This is a milestone in FIAT’s history and marks the end of one of the icons of Italian industry and business.

This process started a couple of years ago when Chrysler declared bankruptcy and welcomed Fiat’s control. FIAT, Italy’s largest manufacturer and a symbol of the country’s was already struggling to adapt to globalization and in fact to survive. The bond between the the companies is in fact Mr Sergio Marchionne, an Italian Canadian and CEO of both companies. FIAT is leaving home after 115 years. The new company arising from the merger, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, will be incorporated under Dutch law, based in the UK and listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The merger will create the world’s seventh-largest automaker.

In early May, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, as it is now called following FIAT’s acquisition of Chrysler early this year, laid out its business plan from now until 2018 and kept very few details secret.

As Sergio Marchionne, the Italian Canadian CEO of the company expressed it, Fiat Chrysler is beginning to write a completely new book. I will discuss different aspects of this plan in this and upcoming other articles.

The instrument cluster is modern with a highly classic look. No experiments

The instrument cluster is modern with a highly classic look. No experiments

Let’s start with the Jeep Grand Cherokee:

 

Jeep, one of the non-human heroes of the WWII, is, with very little doubt, the most valuable brand of the group on this side of the Atlantic.

In May 2014, the brand’s monthly sales reached a historical high of 70203 units. This figure doubles Volkswagen and triples Buick. The market growth in North America is driven by SUV and CUV’s. Who else could benefit from this trend as much as Jeep does with a portfolio consisting of just those types of vehicles.

With the Patriot and the Compass to be discontinued in 2016, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, as the flagship of the brand will be even more important, complemented by the hard core Wrangler and the new, highly successful compact SUV, the Cherokee.

With a global vision in the near future, Jeep needed more choices in terms of engines, among other things. A diesel engine is not less than inevitable especially considering the ambitious goals in Europe. The average North American driver is still largely obsessed with the bad-smelling, smoky and noisy machines from the seventies and Jeep is doing a good job to destroy this mental wall.

Jeep GC EcoDiesel Summit (12)

The Lord of the Tough Terrains did not limit its Fiat based diesel power source just to Europe. It is available in Canada and the USA. The three-liter, six-cylinder Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel delivers 240 HP of power and 420 lb-ft of torque. Mated to an eight-speed auto, the full-size SUV Jeep Grand Cherokee promises 9.8 litre in the city and 7.0 litre on the highway. Even if these numbers are more theoretical than actual, they make high promises, at least on a comparative basis. After more than 600 kilometers of mixed use my Jeep Grand Cherokee in one week, I scored an average of 11 litres. This again reminds me the fact that the consumption measurements in Canada and the USA need a redefinition and closer ties with the reality.

Jeep GC Diesel testinin sonu (8)

The eight-speed auto in the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a well-engineered transmission. Furthermore, the front wheels of the Jeep Grand Cherokee are decoupled when they’re not needed for traction and help saving fuel. The short ratios require a lot of shifting as you pull away from rest of the traffic. Luckily the shift action is nice and smooth. You will witness this diesel hitting high revs around 3,000. A frequent redliner for this type of powertrain.

In Canada, since the diesel is slightly more expensive than the regular gasoline, saving money by driving diesel is quite controversial and definitely a long-term investment. The driving pleasure of the low-end torque probably matters more.

My fully loaded test vehicle had a MSRP of CAD 69,655. (The base price is CAD 62,445) The price difference with the gasoline engine is almost CAD 5,000.

For this price you get a luxury SUV with everything from leather trimmed bucket seats (heated and ventilated), dual pane panoramic sunroof to heated steering wheel, navigation, aluminium polished wheels and much more.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee provokes you to “unfollow” the road

 

The material quality and craftsmanship of the Jeep Grand Cherokee is very good and promises a level comparable to Mercedes and Range Rover, maybe more so in the next generation.

Chrysler Canada provides a five year, 100,000 km (whichever comes first) zero-deductible, fully transferable powertrain warranty.

The test vehicle (Jeep Grand Cherokee) was provided by Chrysler Canada.

For the latest specifications and the pricing info, please visit www.jeep.ca

All rights reserved. This article cannot be copied entirely or partially without the prior written consent of the author. Links to the website (autoandroad.com) are allowed.

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CHRYSLER 300S: The American Sedan

Chrysler 300S

 

When Things Have Changed

Chrysler had introduced the revamped Chrysler 300S for the 2012 model year during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2011.

Hemi, an iconic powerplant lasting for decades

Hemi, an iconic powerplant lasting for decades

Similar to Cadillac of GM or Lincoln of Ford, Chrysler’s position within the FCA (FIAT-Chrysler Automobiles) is crucial as the luxury flagship brand. After the American-Italian marriage connecting both sides of the Atlantic, Chrysler is expected also to inject fresh blood to Lancia, the Italians’ noble brand in the form of rebadged Chrysler models. This model is already on sale as Lancia Thema in Europe.

The competition in the North American luxury sedan segment is very tough and largely dominated by the Germans, even if not as strongly as in Europe. During my one-week test drive with Chrysler 300S I searched the answers about how good is the sedan from Detroit in comparison with other established names like: Mercedes E Class, BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Lincoln MKS, Cadillac XTS, Lexus GS, Infiniti M and Acura TL.

Olivier Francois, Chrysler’s brand director (by then) defined the Chrysler 300S as “affordable luxury” during its launch in Detroit in January 2011. Since then, the Chrysler 300S proved its success with a brilliant sales performance.

The Cockpit is well designed and beautifully crafted

The Cockpit is well designed and beautifully crafted

In the USA and Canada the “Big Chrysler” is offered with three different engines:

  • 300 (C) V6 Pentastar with 3.6 lt. (292 HP),
  • 300 (S)  V8 Hemi with 5.7 lt. (363 HP) and
  • 300 (SRT) V8 with 6.4 lt. (470 HP).

Hitting The Road

My test car was a Chrysler 300S, the middle version with the 5.7 liter hemi engine. The name “hemi” originates from hemispherical combustion chamber and dates back as early as 1940’s to generate maximum power especially in drag races.

I drove the Chrysler flagship sedan for about 500 kilometers across the GTA and the Southern Ontario.

The powerful V8 delivers a maximum torque of 534 Nm. This is impressive and felt during acceleration, lane changing and passing on the highway, as well as on country roads.  The bold American accelerates from zero to 100 in slightly less than 6 seconds. This performance level provokes you to take the Chrysler 300S to Germany where outdated North American speed limits are not a problem (well, most of the time, if not always). The average consumption of around 11.5 liters in the mixed mode is very reasonable for a car weighing 1962 kg. That’s not all about it: The technology, called MDS (FuelSaver Multi-Displacement System) allows the engine to seamlessly switch from eight cylinders to four during cruising.

The chrome and carbon combination makes a bold statement for the sporty S

The chrome and carbon combination makes a bold statement for the sporty S

The multilink suspension system in front and rear are adjustable. The chassis provides a level of comfort so good and mature, that I was not afraid to compare the Chrysler 300S to the BMW 5 Series. It is worth remembering that the 300 Series shares some platform components and development history with the E-Class of Mercedes. An asset inherited from the days of the Daimler-Chrysler Era.

From a design point of view, the Chrysler 300S has a high beltline and a very masculine look. I found it even a bit claustrophobic. However, once you sit behind the steering wheel (or on the passenger side) the feeling of claustrophobia quickly vanishes. Front seats are adjustable in every possible direction to deliver the maximum comfort. Even the big power sunroof does not reduce the headroom.

Specifications and Pricing of Chrysler 300S

 

The test car provided by Chrysler Canada is fully loaded:

Red nappa leather fits well to black dominated colour treatment

Red nappa leather fits well to black dominated colour treatment

The standard and optional equipments include: 5-speed automatic transmission ( An 8-speed from the German ZF is also available), GPS navigation system with rear-view camera and front/rear park assist, four-wheel ABS, traction stability control, U-connect Bluetooth system, HVAC with dual zone automatic control, “Beats” 10-speaker sound system with 552 Watt Amplifier and subwoofer in the trunk, adjustable suspension, HID headlamps, 20” polished aluminium wheels with all-season performance tires, rain-sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring system, power sunroof, power-adjusted, cooled and heated front seats with memory function, heated side mirrors, dashboard with carbon-fibre treatment , heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and shift paddles, remote engine starter, adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning. And this nice and luxurious interior of the Chrysler 300S comes with seats in red nappy leather with silver-accent stitching. The MSRP including these options is nearly 55,000 Canadian dollars. This price tag is at least around 10K cheaper than a comparable German Sedan from Stuttgart, Munich or Ingolstadt.

Port Perry and Lake Scugog

rich nutrients pose a challenge for Lake Scugog

rich nutrients pose a challenge for Lake Scugog

As part of our test drive and with five people on board, we drove to Port Perry, a town on the Lake Scugog in the Kawartha Region. Port Perry, with a population of around 10,000 was founded by Reuben Crandell, a united loyalist in 1821. This beautiful town is one-hour drive from Downtown Toronto.

With a landmass of about one million square kilometers Ontario is 25 percent larger than Turkey. It is hardly believable that our province has nearly three million lakes. There are 3,900 lakes bigger than three square kilometers. No surprise that Canada has the largest freshwater reserves in the world. Scugog is a shallow, warm water lake and a popular destination for boating, fishing and swimming. It is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway. The lake is very rich in nutrients. This results in large populations of weeds. Nutrients enter the lake in a number of ways. One important source is the runoff from the lawns. Large grass lawns contain fertilizers and pesticides which contribute to weed growth in the lake.

The ecologically fragile lake attracts thousands of vacationers and weekenders particularly from the GTA particularly in the summer months.

Conclusion:

If you need a large and powerful sedan “Made in America”, Chrysler 300S will positively surprise you. In the last couple, turbulent years with tears and blood, the “Bigs of Detroit” reinvented and revisited their glorious pasts. The consumers still profit from it.

If you are not convinced, book a test drive with a Chrysler 300S. You will understand what I mean.

For the most accurate and updated information on specifications and pricing, please visit:

www.chrysler.ca

All rights reserved. This article cannot be copied entirely or partially without the prior written consent of the author. Links to the website (autoandroad.com) are allowed.

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CHEVROLET Malibu Eco in New York City

OnStar turn-by-turn navigation system worked well unlike my surprises in BC last summer.

 Chevrolet Malibu with a new technological face

 

Midsize sedans account for 20 percent of the Canadian market. Chevrolet, as GM’s leading brand with more than 50 percent of total sales, is a contender in this class with the Chevrolet Malibu.

The comprehensive facelift of the Malibu offers Camaro-inspired taillights

The comprehensive facelift of the Malibu offers Camaro-inspired taillights

In the model year 2013, the new Chevrolet Malibu heats up the battleground  and faces challenges from big names such as Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and so on.

Recently GM introduced the “Eco” a version with increased environmental consciousness. The Chevrolet Malibu Eco has a 2.4 lt-four-cylinder, 182 HP gas engine which is assisted by an 15 HP electric motor-generator, called “e-assist drive-train”. Prices for the Chevrolet Malibu Eco start at CAD 29.450 including the destination charge of CAD 1,500.

This eco-assist cannot drive the car a la Prius but helps to save fuel during red-light stops, city traffic and deceleration. Regenerative braking of the Chevrolet Malibu Eco helps to charge the battery which steals some valuable space from the trunk.

Well-designed cockipt

The well-designed cockpit shows the competitively high material and build quality of GM vehicles

General Motors Canada provided us a test vehicle. Our test car Chevrolet Malibu Eco with options, such as power sunroof and 8-way power adjustable driver seat had an MSRP of CAD 31,740.

According to the estimated of Transport Canada (TC), the average of the most electrified Malibu’s consumption is 8.1 / 5.3 liters per 100 km in city and highway respectively.

The Chevy’s powertrain is very smooth and someone does not feel any difference from a conventional gasoline car. Automatic transmission is smooth.

OnStar turn-by-turn navigation system did not create any problems except gas stations, which were not at place, as I was begging for juice in Lower Manhattan, NYC. This system is arguably a bit outdated compared to a GPS based navigation system. Add the other features of the OnStar, such as Call Center, Automatic Crash Response, etc, it is a modern communication tool at your fingertips.

The Beaux-Arts style Helmsley Building from 1929 is a desigYork landmark since 1987

The Beaux-Arts style Helmsley Building from 1929 is a New York landmark since 1987

As our real life experience showed us during an extended weekend trip to New York City and New  Jersey, you should use TC’s estimates for comparison purposes only. We had an average consumption of around 9.1 liter despite very long highway drives to and from New York. Our battles on the congested streets of Manhattan should have not changed the (expected) average consumption so dramatically.

Powertrain and More

The transmission is a six-speed automatic and the Chevrolet Malibu Eco’s e-assist system features automatic start-stop functionality (the engine shuts down at stop lights to save fuel), with regenerative braking that charges the air-cooled battery, and aggressive fuel cut-off during deceleration. An active shutter system in the grille of the Chevrolet Malibu Eco automatically closes airflow through the lower intake to enhance aerodynamics and reduce fuel consumption based on engine coolant temperature and speed. So, being a mild hybrid, Chevrolet Malibu Eco owns a significant amount of technology. Even if does not yield impressive results, I feel very optimistic. Because this is another proof that the internal combustion engine can be mated to advanced applications and there is so much room for the improvement in the future.

Inside the Chevrolet Malibu Eco

OnStar turn-by-turn navigation system worked well unlike my surprises in BC last summer.

OnStar turn-by-turn navigation system worked well unlike my surprises in BC last summer.

Blue ambient lighting is very cool. After very long hours of night driving on Interstate 95, this is, to me, one of the most memorable features of this Chevrolet Malibu. Add to that a very good sound insulation and you feel good inside the cabin. The front seats are solid and comfortable. With 8-way power adjustable driver seat, it is almost impossible not to find your perfect position. Move to the rear and see the landscape changing. Rear seat passengers will have to pray for the same level of comfort, hopefully get it in the next-gen Malibu. Even with the front seats located forward on their tracks, there’s little room for legs and feet back there.Four of us changed our seat positions and had more than enough time and opportunity to reach this conclusion: The rear seats of the Chevrolet Malibu are not up to the standards of modern midsize sedans and need improvement. More legroom and more comfortable seatbacks remain on the wishlist. My family and myself, four of us, three of us being drivers, felt the difference especially when somebody wanted to take an extended nap in the rear.

New York City, Manhattan in the Aftermath of Supestorm Sandy

Changa in South Amboy, NJ offers very good Asian food for probably half of the price you would pay in Manhattan

Changa in South Amboy, NJ offers very good Asian food for probably half of the price you would pay in Manhattan

Manhattan is very crowded and very expensive: Probably one of the most expensive pieces of land on this planet. Result: No fuel stations in South Manhattan. As I entered from the Manhattan Bridge to Lower Manhattan, I was running low in fuel. Asking the help of OnStar, I checked three places which were supposed to be fuel stations. But, they weren’t. A lesson to be taken: Fill up your tank before setting tire on the most densely populated island of the world, aka Manhattan.

Manhattan is very crowded and very expensive: 45 $ per day for parking. This was the amount an underground parking garage northest of the WTC asked for. Luckily, I managed to find a more reasonbly priced garage for 25 $. near the Word Financial Center. A short walking distance to the World Trade Center.

World Trade Center Gets a New Face

My son Burak and I visited the memorial pools in WTC. Long lines under the rain show that people still do not forget what happened here.

The memorial pools in the footprints of former twin towers bear the names of 9-11 victims

The memorial pools in the footprints of former twin towers bear the names of 9-11 victims

The new Oneword Trade Center is slated to open late this year and very probaly on the anniversary of 9/11. The new tower will be 542 mt (1776 feet) high and so the tallest building in Western hemisphere. It will probably be the most emotion-laden building in the world and pay tribute to 9/11 victims.

At its opening, the total cost will is expected to exceed four billion Dollars.

I know it sounds a bit ridicilous to navigate Manhattan by car. Traffic makes you crazy and you become the victim of your own homicide. While coping with this kind of guiltiness, I was trying to reach the Lincoln Tunnel almost one hour after my departure from Güllüoğlu, the famous Turkish Pastry Shop.

In Manhattan, as everywhere else, too much of a good thing is very bad thing: The good thing is almost all streets are one way helping the traffic to flow more easily. However, when the police diverts you to the next street, for whatsoever reason, it might turn to a nightmare, since you have rewind to horror film you are watching in the traffic.

Gulluoglu in Manhattan is worth visiting especilly if you missed Su Boregi

Gulluoglu in Manhattan is worth visiting especilly if you missed Su Boregi

Güllüoğlu in Manhattan: A good stop if you missed high quality Turkish pastry & desserts. The famous Güllüoğlu’s New York branch is a convenient place is you missed “Su böreği” and “baklava”, which are exceptionally delicious. Bu it is also pricey. Easy to leave 100 USD just for 2 kilos of Su Böreği, two types of desserts and some simit. Surprisingly, I could spot a short-term parking “availability” almost in front of Güllüoğlu. Probably worth this traffic torture especially after you returned home.

The Verrazano Bridge was once the longest suspension bridge when it was completed in 1964: With a length of 1298 meters, the double-decked bridge bears the name of Giovanni de Verrazzano, the first European known to enter New York Harbour and the Hudson River. As we were crossing from Staten Island to Brooklyn, the bridge was rusty at some points and reminded me of the aging infrastructure of the USA, even if symbolically. President Obama: Push the button of a new economic stimulus package if you can!

While in Brooklyn, I saw leftovers of the Superstorm Sandy, which had devastated the city a couple weeks earlier. Around the Belt Parkway and Emmons Avenue, several shops and businesses were closed due to damage and flooding. It was sad to see the Big Apple helplessly surrendered to the forces of nature.

Changa in South Amboy, New Jersey:

This bento box will feed your stomach and soul

This bento box will feed your stomach and soul

This restaurant offers very good Asian food (Japanese, Chinese & Korean) for reasonable prices. You do have the parking stress unlike Manhattan. Quality and speed of service is acceptable especially for a busy Saturday evening. Reservations are strongly recommended. And we were very punctual and were seated in less than 15 minutes.

Conclusion:

An extended weekend drive to New York City and beyond may easily exceed 1500 kilometers. This is not for everyone even if you drive a comfortable midsize sedan like the Malibu. With three drivers, it is a bit easier to swallow hundreds of kilometers.

Malibu is a good car in a very competitive segment where the best rivals have either recent upgrades (Toyota Camry) or entirely new models (Honda Accord and Nissan Altima). Add to those models other strong contenders like Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and VW Passat, life will never be easy for the bow-tie brand.

The vehicles was provided by General Motors Canada.

For more information, visit:

www.chevrolet.gm.ca

www.gulluoglu.us/en-us/subeler/newyork-manhattan.aspx

www.nycgo.com 

All rights reserved. This article cannot be copied entirely or partially without the prior written consent of the author. Links to the website (autoandroad.com) are allowed.

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JAGUAR XJ-L Supercharged: Flagship Carrier Cat

Jaguar XJ-L has a sleek and impressive style underlining its sportive character

 

Two Very Good Reasons to Drive to Niagara on a Sunday

 

Sometimes, a not-so ordinary car can turn your itinerary into a different kind of experience. This was the case when we wanted to meet a friend, whom we hadn’t seen for 28 years, on the American side of the Niagara Falls. Our friend did not have time to apply for a Canadian visa. So my wife and I wanted to see her on the US side of the river. This was a very good and pleasant reason to go there.

The second reason was that I had a Jaguar XJ-L as test vehicle at that week. A super car belonging to the elite class of executive sedans.

The cat waits to be awakened. The digital instrument panel with virtual round instruments

The cat waits to be awakened. The digital instrument panel with virtual round instruments

Since this US trip was in short notice, I need a permission to visit the USA. Thanks to great support of Mr. Richard Pickering of BHG Media Fleet, which manages the media cars of Jaguar and Land Rover, it took me less than two hours to get a border letter in order to take the Jaguar XJ-L to south of the border.

On our way to Niagara Falls on QEW, it was a pure driving pleasure to unleash  the enormous power reserves of the allmighty engine. I was smiling after each successful and instantaneous pass. Even at speeds of 120 km/h, the cabin was dead silent. Except the addictive sound of the Jaguar XJ-L superchargers during acceleration.

The History of the Immediate Past      

In early 2008, Tata Motors of India acquired from Ford two legendary, British brands, Jaguar and Land Rover. By then nobody was aware of the financial crisis on the horizon. For a company claiming to produce the cheapest car of the world, the Tata Nano, acquiring those premium brands was a major risk.

The TATA Group obtained external financing of 3 billion dollars to finance this 1,5 billion pound deal. Nevertheless, this amount was only the half of what Ford had paid for Jaguar and Land Rover about two decades ago. The company with the blue-oval logo invested significant amounts in those brands. Yet, it could not avoid annual losses of up to 600 million dollars.

After nearly five years which includes a big global financial crisis we can say that each party was a winner in this deal. The Tata Group now ownes two prestigious brands and has been gathering invaluble experience in advanced engineering and manufacturing, as well as high-level customer service. Ford, on the other hand, got rid of this burden and was able to focus on Ford, its core brand. Furthermore, Jaguar and Land Rover are now two valuble customers for Ford.  Finally, Jaguar achieved a healthy and balanced growth accross the five continents and the Tata Group will invest about 12 billion dollars for Jaguar and Land Rover in the next five years.

About the Jaguar XJ-L

Jaguar XJ-L has a sleek and impressive style underlining its sportive character

Jaguar XJ-L has a sleek and impressive style underlining its sportive character

A Jaguar XJ-L is the nirvana of the automobile experience. No doubt about it. I felt a bit sad when returning the Jaguar XJ-L to the JLR after about 600 kilometers in Ontario and New York.

The XJ series was introduced in 1968 and the current model, the 4th generation came to the market in 2010 as the 2011 model year.

Some conservative circles labelled the current design bad and even as infidelity. However, the current model proved its success. Our test vehicle, the Jaguar XJ-L, (long for L), which is 12.5 centimeters longer than the standard model is the top of the line. It is almost a tradition to offer a version with longer-than-standard wheelbase in the category of the super luxury sedan, I mean, Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series and the Audi A-8. The extra-leg room in the rear is good for CEO’S, princes and princesses and your VIP guests. The big cat offers a weight advantage of about 300 kilograms-thanks to its aluminium chassis and body- in comparison to the Mercedes S.

Its coupé-like design makes the Jaguar XJ-L a direct competitor to Porsche Panamera and Maserati Quattroporte, as well as sporty super Germans; Mercedes CLS, Audi A7 and BMW Grand Coupé. This elite club has some other non-German members, like the Lexus LS.

The magnificient heart of Jaguar XJ-L. the 5-liter V8 engine

The magnificient heart of Jaguar XJ-L. the 5-liter V8 engine

When you sit behind the steering wheel of the Jaguar XJ-L, you are surrounded by a harmonious combination of wood, leather and carbon fiber. The ice-blue interior lighting creates a unique and luxurious atmosphere inside. You have to live it, to enjoy it.

The dark, black instrument panel turns to an opto-electronic instrument cluster with the roaring of the magnificient engine. The 614K thin-film transistor of the Jaguar XJ-L enables this magical change.

The 5-liter 510 HP engine of the Jaguar XJ-L delivers a maximum torque of  624 Newton Meters “sourced” from 8 cylinders in V-form. This is only the beginning. The heartbeat of the Jag will boost your adrenaline: Once you hit the road and accelerate the twin turbo compressor provides a power that rises you into the sky. No surprise that the 0-to-100 acceleration is under  five seconds.  Syntetic engine oil of grade 5 W 20 enables oil change intervals to 24 thousand kilometers.

Navigation is not up to the standard

Navigation is not up to the standard

You can shift the six-speed auto-transmission via a push & turn button in the centre console. If it is too-far away, shift –paddles behind the steering wheel are at your disposal. Rear-wheel drive is the logical option in this category and the Jag has it.

The two “unfortunate” passengers in the rear, who are only driven, have foldable tables for their laptops and remote controllers for the infotainment system.

The front seats of the Jaguar XJ-L are not only cooled-and heated, but also have a massage-function. That’s probably too much and will anger the owner of the rear seat, who is probably the boss. Who knows if there is a secret deal between the boss and the driver to exchange “jobs”. I expect to see a big cat driven by the boss with the official driver transported in the rear.

No matter at which corner of the Jaguar XJ-L you sit, you cannot escape the magnificent sound of the 1200 Watt Bowers & Wilkin’s audio system.

The only thing not up-to-the standard of this great car is the navigation system. Its response time is too long and the engineers must have noted in their lists to touch upon it, when the time for a model face-lift is due.

Niagara Falls, NY

Watching the horseshoe falls from the American side is another option to see the Niagara

Watching the horseshoe falls from the American side is another option to see the Niagara

After a not-so long waiting at the Rainbow Bridge, we met our friend and had a chance to see the falls from the American side. The officer just looked at the car and did not ask for the border letter.

The view from the observation tower was great, although it was not as impressive as standing beside the magnificent Horseshoe Falls.  The Americans built an observation tower extending towards the Niagara River and enabling a better view of the Canadian side.

Observation deck on the American side brings you closer to Canadian side and the bigger horseshoe fall

Observation deck on the American side brings you closer to Canadian side and the bigger horseshoe fall

We closed the day with a pleasant and delicious dinner at TGI’s Friday. Among other “worth-tasting” options, my favourite dish is boneless chicken wings with blue cheese dipping. This is not a separate item on the menu but is “hidden” in one of sampler plates.

Saying “goodbye” to our friend was the sad part of this beautiful day. While she was returning to Rochester, NY, we hit the road to Mississauga. This time, I took the somewhat bumpy and twisted Niagara Parkway between Niagara Falls and Niagara on-the Lake. The high-tech aluminium chassis, complemented by air suspension and the extra long wheelbase orchestrate a smooth driving on somewhat rough surfaces “less good” than a highway.

Conclusion

The MSRP for the Jaguar XJ-L Supercharged in Canada is 114,000 $. This price is 6 thousand more expensive than the standard XJ. Provided that you can afford to budget a six-figure amount for an automobile, you have to decide yourself that the Jaguar deserves so much money. Looking at the sales numbers and the pace of increase you can conclude that some people in different corners of the world at least think seriously about buying a fat-cat.

Thanks to Jaguar Land Rover Canada and BHG Media Fleet for providing the Jaguar XJ-L for this trip.

For more information, visit:

www.jaguar.com/canada

www.tgifridays.com

www.niagara-usa.com

All rights reserved. This article cannot be copied entirely or partially without the prior written consent of the author. Links to the website (autoandroad.com) are allowed.

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DODGE Grand Caravan Goes to the Deep South

We quickly visited the Nacar Racetrack in Daytona Beach

Trip to Florida

Plans for a Great Drive With Dodge Grand Caravan

 

How much can you “pack” into a 10-day automobile adventure as a family? I wanted to test this challenge and as I sat behind the steering wheel.

My father (R.I.P) had a dream: He wanted to take long journeys with a VW Bus once he retired. Unfortunately he passed away without fulfilling his dreams. And I pay tribute to his dreams whenever I take a long drive.

As I brought a Florida trip to the family agenda, neither my wife nor my daughter was much willing to take a nearly 6.000 km drive. My son gave me some support and after some hot debates four of us hit the road. I counted on the support of two ladies as co-drivers and they did not disappoint me.

And for the first time in our lives, we welcomed the New Year in a country of non-residence.

Escaping the nasty Canadian winter was not enough. My passionate target was the southern tip of the continental USA. In other words: As deep to the south as it gets.

We quickly visited the Nacar Racetrack in Daytona Beach

We quickly visited the Nacar Racetrack in Daytona Beach

The Dodge Grand Caravan, still by far the bestselling minivan in Canada provides a long-range comfort and versatility that no ordinary sedan or even an SUV can offer: Stowable second and third row seats. For a seven-passenger vehicle (including the driver) hosting only four people was even more promising. We stowed the second row seats of the Dodge Grand Caravan under the floor (so, no disassembly is required) and created a “huge” middle floor on which two people somewhat comfortably sleep while the “substitute” driver could continue the trip. This meant almost a 24-hour, 3-shift driving schedule. We did not need a hotel except lunch, dinner and other outdoor breaks in case of necessity.

We started our journey on an icy morning in late December with the Dodge Grand Caravan as I ignited the engine in Mississauga. We complemented our homemade sandwiches with coffee and honey-lemon tea from the nearest Tim Horton’s.

Crossing the Border to the South

Sunset in Fort Lauderdale

Sunset in Fort Lauderdale

In less than 90 minutes we reached the US border in Fort Erie-Buffalo with our Dodge Grand Caravan. Upon the question of the US border officer, I admitted that we had some food for our own consumption. My “testimony” rang alarm bells and we were invited to the waiting hall for a vehicle search. After about 30 minutes, the Department of Homeland Security reached the conclusion that our remaining sandwiches and sliced fruits were not a treat to the US health and security and the chief officer wished us a good journey to the south. We even felt privileged although we lost precious time.

With Dodge Grand Caravan built-in Garmin GPS navigation system working precisely we crossed seven states before reaching Florida, “the sun-state”.

On our way with Dodge Grand Caravan we quickly visited Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh is a living example of the most glamorous times of the US steel industry and deserves the nicknames “the Steel City” and “City of Bridges.” With 446 bridges in the metropolitan area, it holds a world record as well. We had a very long way to go and left Pennsylvania, state of independence behind before sunset.

As we crossed the border to West Virginia with our Dodge Grand Caravan, we could not enjoy the scenery. It was dark and night. Continuing our journey in Virginia, I remembered the eight presidents selected from here and why Virginia is known as “Mother of the Presidents State”. Virginia also hosts two very important institutions, CIA and Pentagon.

In the somewhat endless beaches of Florida

In the somewhat endless beaches of Florida

As we left Virginia with Dodge Grand Caravan the first drops of rain were falling. In North and South Carolina occasionally under heavy rain and darkness of the night, our impatience to catch the sun grew.

As we set foot in Georgia, known to me as the State of Coca Cola and the CNN, I felt more as a southerner. And under a torrential rain, we had to take a three-hour break and had some sleep in the Dodge Grand Caravan. As my daughter and my son snoring in the middle floor of the Dodge Grand Caravan, my wife and I recharged our batteries in almost fully reclined front seats of the Dodge Grand Caravan.

We woke up, drove the Dodge Grand Caravan about two more hours and reached Brunswick near the border to Florida.

In Florida

Following a long and deserved breakfast in Brunswick, we finally crossed the border to Florida.

Florida, nicknamed as “Sunshine State” and meaning “Feast of the Flowers” in Spanish, is about the size of one-fifth of Turkey has a coastline of 200 thousand kilometers. With some 19 million people, it is the fourth most populous state in the USA. My daughter took over the steering of the Dodge Grand Caravan and we reached Fort Lauderdale. After about 33 hours and 3,275 kilometers, we completed the longest and furthest driving of our lives in one direction.

Discovering Miami and its Surroundings with Dodge Grand Caravan

A cruise ship leaves Miami for a Caribbean Itinerary

A cruise ship leaves Miami for a Caribbean Itinerary

Since it is not possible to see all the important places of Florida in less than one week, we had to be selective. We focused on Miami, the most famous city of Florida and its surroundings. Miami, with a population of around 400 thousand, is home to Spaniards of Cuban origin in particular. If this trend continues it is not difficult to foresee that the Anglo-Saxons and the English language will turn to minority.

America has not fully recovered from the global financial crisis yet. However, even nowadays, Miami is a perfect example of American wealth. After touring the region for a couple of days, you get used to super-rich neighbourhoods, like Biscayne Bay, where you can park your 100 million dollar plus mega boat in front of your house, like poorer people do with their cars.

The South Beach in Miami Island is a vibrant place with its numerous restaurants and bars especially after sunset.

The Ocean Drive, a 2, 1 km thoroughfare separating the magnificent South Beach from the town is the heartbeat of the famous city.  In this neighbourhood and along the Ocean Drive, there are some 800 buildings representing the “Art-Deco” style from the 20’s and 30’s under protection.

Trying a Cuban cigar before dinner in South Beach, Miami

Trying a Cuban cigar before dinner in South Beach, Miami

Ocean Drive is occupied by people watchers in the evening hours and a parade of super luxury cars fills the narrow street at any time of the day. Here, in just a couple of hours, I saw tens of Panameras, Astons, Ferraris, Maseratis and Ferraris declassifying  brands like Mercedes, BMW, Audi and even Corvettes to the ordinary car status. You eat at one of restaurants and bars on the pavement and suddenly a Ferrari instantaneously invades a tiny parking spot a few feet from where you seat and you smell the exhaust fumes of a powerful engine.

Little Havana, with a population of 76 thousand, as the name reveals is a neighborhood with a majority of Cuban Americans.

Smiling faces in La Camaronera

Smiling faces in La Camaronera

While touring this part of the city with our Dodge Grand Caravan, we imagined ourselves as natives, and visited La Camaronera for a late Sunday lunch. In this humble seafood restaurant and market we waited for about 40 minutes to get a small round table for four. It was worth eating though. Among the different tastes we tried, I liked the Empanada most, pastry filled with shrimps, paprika and vegetables and deep fried. In the same evening we met our friends, from Mississauga for an early new-year dinner in Versailles. We enhanced our experience about the Cuban and Latino cuisine in this historic place. Versailles, arguably the best Cuban restaurant on the planet opened its doors in 1971 by serving Cuban exiles in Florida. And even today, it is an important meeting point of the Cuban community in Miami.  The most memorable dish I ate here was “Seviche”, raw fish marinated and cured in lime sauce. Despite the vibrant atmosphere and long waiting times, I was not convinced that this place was the best you can have as a Cuban restaurant.

Empanada in La Camaronera is a great taste to remember

Empanada in La Camaronera is a great taste to remember

We continued to explore Miami with Coconut Grove ve Coral Gables, two neighbourhoods with the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture must definitely be in your itinerary.

Obviously we added a beach visit every day during our stay in and around Miami.

 

The Florida Keys (The Keys)

Subjectively speaking, the most memorable part of our Florida visit was our drive the Dodge Grand Caravan to the Florida Keys.

The Florida Keys are Coral reef islands stretching from the southern tip of Florida into the Gulf of Mexico and connected by natural and artificial bridges. The islands offer a truly natural beauty and spectacular sceneries. For a car buff, driving Dodge Grand Caravan on this route is an experience of a lifetime.  When we reached Key West, a town at the southern tip of the continental USA, we were 2,624 kilometers away from our home in Mississauga, Ontario.

On our way to Key West, we took a beach break in Bahia Honda, the most important state park in the Keys.

In Key West, a 300-km drive the Dodge Grand Caravan from fort Lauderdale, we visited the Hemingway Home, which is a museum and where the famous author Ernest Hemingway lived in the 1930’s. Even if Hemingway left this world several decades ago, his 40-50 beloved cats (namely the grandchildren of Snowball, the six-toed cat a ship’s captain gave Hemingway.) Those cats “circumnavigate” the house and do not care much about the visitors. There is even a cat cemetery in the backyard. Ernest Hemingway named all of his cats after famous people and the Museum Administration follows that same tradition today.

Key West is about 150 kilometers away from the Communist Cuba. The nearest Wal-Mart is further away.

Returning Home

On our way back home through the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia

On our way back home through the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia

On our way back home, we visited Palm Beach, known to be the richest town in the USA and originally built as winter escape for Floridians. Here we met a friend of us from Turkey as he and his wife visiting his son. This was an extraordinarily happy meeting.

We did not miss a visit also to Daytona, with its famous NASCAR Racetrack that can accommodate 160,000 spectators and with a century-old history.

When w returned home, we had 5,817 trouble free kilometers behind us.

Our Road Mate

The famous Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables

The famous Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables

Dodge Grand Caravan, with its 3.6 liter new-generation V6 Pentastar engine and with 286 HP output mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, was an excellent long-range people mover and perfectly suited with this “ultra-long” drive. Our average fuel consumption was around 12 liters. Even if the market shares of minivans in decline in Canada and the USA, the Grand Caravan is still number-one choice for tens of thousands of families. This vehicle also represents one of the milestones in the history of automotive innovation and rescued Chrysler from a total collapse in early Eighties. Thanks to an iconic figure, Mr. Lee Iacocca.

A Revolutionary Solution to Nasty Canadian Weather

The most difficult part of this trip was returning from the sunny beaches of Miami to the nasty weather of Southern Ontario in about 36 hours.

I am so jealous of the beautiful weather in the Deep South. Well, here is my solution to this problem: Rotating the 9,000 km-long Canadian-US border 90 degrees would give us our fair share of sun and warm weather, provided we convince our big neighbour.

For more information, you can visit the following websites:

www.visitflorida.com

www.miami.com

http://www.garciabrothersseafood.com

www.versaillesrestaurant.com

http://www.fla-keys.com

http://bahiahondapark.com

http://www.hemingwayhome.com

www.chrysler.ca

Varol Karslioglu is a Certified Travel Manager licensed by TICO (Travel Industry Council of Ontario). He is a partner and Marketing Director of ATS Academy Travel Services Inc., in Toronto, a TICO-registered travel company.

All rights reserved. This article cannot be copied entirely or partially without the prior written consent of the author. Links to the website (autoandroad.com) are allowed.

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FORD Fusion: Which One is the Perfect Midsize Sedan?

The Ford Fusion is fun to drive

In and around Toronto with Ford Fusion

 

The market share of midsize sedans in Canada is 20 %, vs. 25% in the USA. In either country, a product in this segment plays a crucial role in the overall success of the brand in question. Ford was the leader with its Taurus in this category in the Nineties. Currently, Japanese players are leading the game: The Camry of Toyota, The Accord from Honda and the Nissan Altima share the top three position in this highly competitive category. And The Fusion is the biggest (non-Japanese) challenger on the market. The current Taurus is positioned higher than its predecessor competing against Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima and Chrysler 300.

The Fusion is fun to drive

The Fusion is fun to drive

The Ford Fusion launched last year in Detroit is almost identical (except the powertrains) with the European Mondeo. This is the outcome of the global One Ford Strategy. In North America, Ford still does not offer a diesel version whereas two hybrid engines are available in this continent.

In the last five years, the blue oval brand made a huge progress in terms of small, economical and yet still powerful engines usually known as “ecoboost”.

Recently, four cylinder engines practically become the new “six” and gained a large market acceptance. Nevertheless, it is still somewhat surprising that the model with small, 1.6 litre, 4-cylinder ecoboost engine is the best selling Ford Fusion.

The 1.6 liter ecoboost engine is the most preferred option in Canada

The 1.6 liter ecoboost engine is the most preferred option in Canada

As we conducted our test drives, Ford’s sales in the USA were up 18% as of April and compared to the previous year.

In January of last year during the launch of Ford Fusion, I had conducted an interview with Jay Mays, Ford’s Global Design Chief and the focus was the new Ford Fusion.

The blue oval brand from Detroit once owned a number of premium brands like; Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. When you look at Fusion’s face, it is almost impossible not to detect a connection to this rich heritage. The front grill of the Ford Fusion reveals a resemblance to Aston Martin. From the rear of the Ford Fusion, you find design elements from Jaguar. Even inside, the floating middle console may emotionally connect you with Volvo.

With Ford global design chief

With Ford global design chief

I drove two versions of Ford Fusion for a total of more than thousand kilometers in two weeks.

After the double test drive I will admit that my favourite model was (and is) the 1.6 litre turbo-charged ecoboost engine with 175 HP. This engine of the Ford Fusion delivers its maximum torque at 2500 rpm and mated to a six-speed auto. I never had a feeling of underpowered with this powertrain combination. Nevertheless, the average consumption was not very impressive with 10.4 liter per 100 kilometers. (Mixed use of total 578 kilometers)

The 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder hybrid engine with Atkinson cycle is provocative with its instrument panel and green leafs and makes you a bit obsessive to save fuel. The switch between gasoline and electric power is seamless. The regenerative braking charges the battery. A softer touch on the brake pedal improves your performance and at the end of your trip, you may read a congratulations message in your dashboard. The average consumption with the hybrid model as 8, 5 liters. Not bad for a hybrid vehicle even if the theoretical value is significantly lower. It is a bit problematic to apply the theoretical consumption values to real life and it is wise to use those for comparison purposes only.

The gps navigation system provides 3-D maps with high visual quality

The gps navigation system provides 3-D maps with high visual quality

The design of the Ford Fusion is simply outstanding and impressive. The high beltline, a well-thought design element gives the car a strong coupe character. The interior of the Ford Fusion is well-crafted and nothing seems boring.

And the contemporary midsize sedan from Ford is simply fun to drive. No coincidence that it is the biggest threat to the Japanese trio.

It is worth remembering that Ford started perfecting chassis and suspension tuning with the past generation of the Focus in the late Nineties. The smooth drive on the highway and rougher surfaces is the work of several years not only in North America but also across the Ocean.

The MSRP for 1.6 litre ecoboost Ford Fusion starts at 24,500, for the 2.0 liter hybrid at 35,800 (CAD)

In and Around Queen’s Park

The Provincial Parliament, aka the Queens Park is a long-term tenant of the University of Toronto

The Provincial Parliament, aka the Queens Park is a long-term tenant of the University of Toronto

During our double test drive, I stayed relatively close to Toronto.

The Provincial Parliament (Legislative Building) was one of my photo shooting destinations.

I also navigated the Saint George Campus of the University of Toronto (U of T).

U of T is a public research university and consistently ranks among the most prestigious universities worldwide. Situated on the grounds that surround Queen’s Park. It was founded by the royal charter in 1827 as King’s College, the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada. (To be named Ontario afterwards). Originally controlled by the Church of England, the university assumed the present name in 1850 upon becoming a secular institution. As a collegiate university, it comprises twelve colleges that differ in character and history, each retaining substantial autonomy on financial and institutional affairs.

The University of Toronto has educated two Governors General and four Prime Ministers of Canada, four foreign leaders, fourteen Justices of the Supreme Court, and has been affiliated with ten Nobel laureates. The university ranks 21st in the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 27th in the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and 19th in the QS World University Rankings.

Very few people know that the Provincial Parliament Building, is part of the university campus and was rented out to the Province for 999 years.

The St. George Campus of the U of T is woth visiting to discover the architectural heritage of the city

The St. George Campus of the U of T is woth visiting to discover the architectural heritage of the city

Designed by Richard A. Waite, the Provincial Parliament Building is an asymmetrical, five storey structure built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, with a load-bearing iron frame. This is clad inside and out in Canadian materials where possible; the 10.5 million bricks bear the blood and tears of the inmates of the Central Prison who built it, and the Ontario sandstone—with a pink-hue that has earned the building the colloquial name of The Pink Palace—comes from the Credit River valley and Orangeville, Ontario, and was given a rustic finish for most of the exterior, but dressed for trim around windows and other edges. The edifice has a multitude of stone carvings, including gargoyles, grotesques, and friezes. The exterior is punctuated with uncharacteristically large windows, allowed by the nature of the iron structure. Heating costs for this building must be quite high in such a cold country like Canada.

You as readers will decide if the contemporary metal sculpture of the Ford Fusion and the timeless architectural beauty of the campus buildings and the Parliament Building look good in the same picture frame.

 

For more information, you can visit the following websites:

www.ford.ca

http://www.utoronto.ca

http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/home.do

Varol Karslioglu is a Certified Travel Manager licensed by TICO (Travel Industry Council of Ontario). He is a partner and Marketing Director of ATS Academy Travel Services Inc., in Toronto, a TICO-registered travel company.

All rights reserved. This article cannot be copied entirely or partially without the prior written consent of the author. Links to the website (autoandroad.com) are allowed.

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FORD Flex: The Blue Oval With Great Driving Pleasure

Ford Flex
With the Flex, Ford offers a vehicle tagged as "people mover" at the prototyping stage. and this name is very appropriate.

With the Flex, Ford offers a vehicle tagged as “people mover” at the prototyping stage. and this name is very appropriate.

Ford Flex specifications

As Ford had introduced the current model Ford Flex as “Fairlane” concept eight years ago, the definition of this prototype was “people mover”. Ford then had planned to discontinue the not-so successful Windstar and exit the minivan segment. The aim of the blue oval was to create a new segment which was a synthesis of the traditional station wagon and the SUV.

Finally Ford launched the Ford Flex in the New York Auto Show in 2007 and since then has been selling Ford Flex in the USA, Canada and in some Middle Eastern countries.

The Ford Flex provides place for six passengers. However, with the extra foldable middle seat in the second row, it becomes a 7-passenger people mover. The legroom in the second row is comparable to executive German sedans; BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S Class and the Audi A8. The Ford Flex, which shares the same platform with the Explorer, together with the MKT, its Lincoln Sibling, is produced in Oakville, Ontario.

With its white roof and boxy design, the Ford Flex resembles to a  Mini on steroids. Who knows, maybe its design may also be an inspiration coming from the boxy Volvo stations of the Nineties. Volvo by then belonged to the Ford Group.

The twin-turbo V6 Ecoboost engine generates a smooth torque curve

The twin-turbo V6 Ecoboost engine generates a smooth torque curve

Ford Canada provided us a top-of-line model for a one-week test drive. The 3.5 liter V6 Ecoboost engine with its twin-turbo provides 365 HP and 344 Nm of torque at 4000 Rev/min. Combined with the full-time-AWD system, the road-holding is simply impressive. The slightly soft suspension is well-suited to North American standards and roads.

I can tell you that Ford Flex was a vehicle with a memorable driving pleasure.

In terms of fuel economy, Ford Flex meets or exceeds expectations. The average consumption was 11.7 liter and thus very reasonable for a car weighing more than two tonnes.

The digitally configurable instrument cluster (which is used in all current Ford and Lincoln models) with the central taco is very practical, once you get used to it. For instance, if you cannot do without a rev counter, you can select and “install” it.

Synch, the infotainment system co-developed with Microsoft enables voice commands from navigation to music and different settings. However, the voice recognition system of the Ford Flex is still premature and often, I had to use to conventional buttons.

The surveys of independent and reliable sources, such as the Consumer Report reveal that the Ford Flex customers are very satisfied with their vehicles. Nevertheless, the people mover was and is far from achieving the annual sales targets of around 100,000, as once projected. The Ford Flex is trailing with distance competitors like Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander.

Sadly, a lot of people resemble Ford Flex a hearse. A testament that the boxy, yet very roomy and practical design is not everyone’s taste.

One of the design features, new for 2013 model is the removal of the Ford Logo from the hood. The Flex on the hood is an attempt to distinguish Ford Flex more from the masses, or other Ford models. Time will tell how much this change will help.

MSRP for our fully equipped press vehicle is 57,500 CAD and this price includes an option package worth 6,800 CAD.

You have a better and higher sitting position then the low body implies

You have a better and higher sitting position then the low body implies

For this price you get a six-speed automatic transmission, navigation system with voice commands, cruise control with distance monitoring, blind spot warning, HID headlights, rain sensing wipers, leather upholstery, a four-peace sun-roof, 20” light alloy wheels, power lift-gate with remote control, towing capacity up to 2-tonnes and inflatable safety belts.

The third row offers reasonable legroom but could be better

The third row offers reasonable legroom but could be better

A Trip to Dunnville, Ontario

On a sunny side in May, we set our destination as Dunnville, a small town near Lake Erie, which was called as a Cayuga settlement. Dunnville is less than two-hour driving from the GTA upon the Grand River near Lake Erie. It is in Haldimand County.

Mudcat is the symbol of Dunneville

Mudcat is the symbol of Dunneville

The Europeans settled in this area and built a village as the entrance to the Welland “feeder” canal. The town flourished as a canal port with several water-powered mills. In 1900 Dunnville was incorporated as a town. However, the destiny of the town changed dramatically when the feeder canal closed in the late 1880’s. When the last mill was destroyed and replaced with a condominium complex about ten years ago, this was the last nail in the coffin of Dunnville, as we know it.

The impassable dam which regulated the level of the Grand River at Port Maitland also helped regulate the level of the Welland Canal (from 1829 until 1887 when the (3rd) canal began to intake its water directly from Lake Erie).

Only a few kilometres from Lake Erie, Dunnville has many private vacation properties. In fact, with old good days already gone, the future prosperity largely depends on tourism.

There are many events and natural attractions. In June the Annual Mudcat Festival is held to celebrate one of the Grand River’s most well-known inhabitants. The festival includes a parade, strongman contests, midway, fireworks and more. Another popular event is the Dunnville Agricultural Fair, held in late August which includes heavy, light and miniature horse shows; sheep and goat shows and much more.

Dunnville at Welland is an interesting but not-so-much noticed escape point for weekend or daily trips from the GTA

Dunnville at Welland is an interesting but not-so-much noticed escape point for weekend or daily trips from the GTA

Dunnville has tennis, golf, lawn bowling and swimming facilities and many Bed & Breakfasts to stay in while enjoying these activities. Tuesdays and Saturday are Farmers Market days. We could not see it, since we visited Dunnville on a Sunday.

The former World War II RCAF Training Base, the Dunnville Airport, offers a unique window on history with its massive hangars and runways now used for recreational flying and skydiving. The airport is also home to Haldimand County’s newest museum, the No. 6 RCAF Dunnville Museum. Unfortunately, on the day of our visit, the museum was closed and we could not much more than taking a few pictures from the outside.

The Grand River and nearby Lake Erie offer a host of aquatic activities from swimming, sailing, wind-surfing, canoeing and feature prime locations for fishing.

You can hike through Byng Island Conservation Area or Rock Point Provincial Park or enjoy a stroll along Port Maitland’s beautiful, brand-new pier. In the fall, Rock Point hosts thousands of Monarch butterflies heading south. Dunnville is also the site of one of the largest expanses of provincially significant wetlands in Ontario and is perfect for bird watching and nature photography.

The infotainment screen is big enough for easy reading but could be designed better to avoid sun glare

The infotainment screen is big enough for easy reading but could be designed better to avoid sun glare

For more and most up to date product and pricing information, please visit:

www.ford.ca 

For more information about Dunnville, please visit:

www.ontariossouthwest.com

 

Varol Karslioglu is a Certified Travel Manager licensed by TICO (Travel Industry Council of Ontario). He is a partner and Marketing Director of ATS Academy Travel Services Inc., in Toronto, a TICO-registered travel company.

All rights reserved. This article cannot be copied entirely or partially without the prior written consent of the author. Links to the website (autoandroad.com) are allowed.

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