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2020 BMW Z4 M40i

Sixth generation Z4 was unveiled at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2018.

Sport roadsters or Cabriolet cars may not be the best option if you live in northern states or in Canada. A decade ago, roadsters were really popular, and sales numbers were much higher than today. Unfortunately, we are living in a world where SUVs or Crossovers are much more popular than driving oriented cars, which is understandable as they try to provide everything in one package. Roadsters can offer one thing, and that’s where they are extremely good. Driving Pleasure. Could the BMW Z4 offer more than just one thing? Let’s find the answer.

BMW Z4 is one of the last roadsters on the road currently on sale in North America, but if you check their sales numbers, it is not that great. BMW decided to end the production of Z4 in 2016, but thankfully it’s back and better than ever. Our first impression was: Latest generation Z4 offers a great balance of fun, sportiness, roadster driving dynamics, typical BMW quality, comfort, and luxury.

However, due to decreasing sales numbers globally, this time they decided to share the platform with the new Toyota Supra, which was a legendary Japanese sports car in the 1980s and 1990s. And Toyota decided to resurrect the Supra last year. The Z4 was unveiled at the Pebble Beach in 2018. Like the Supra, it is based on the Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform which incorporates steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber. CLAR platform is widely used by BMW with different segments and powertrain options. BMW was able to achieve 50:50 weight distribution with the Z4, which is vitally important and difficult for a roadster that has an engine and transmission in the front. BMW also shaved approximately 50 kg as compared to the previous generation Z4.

Misano Blue Metallic turns the Z4 into a head-turner

Engine and Drivetrain

This is where the fun starts. We should start with the heart of the Z4. BMW Z4 comes with two different engine options. The first one is a 4-cylinder 2.0-liter engine that produces 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It has an impressive 0-100 time of 5.3 seconds. However, if you are looking for a more performance-oriented roadster, BMW offers a silky smooth 3.0 liter inline 6 cylinders turbocharged engine that produces 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of peak torque. The 6-cylinder engine is able to provide a flat torque curve between 1600 and 4500 rpm, which reduces 0-100 acceleration time to 4.5 seconds. In our tests, the 3.0-liter engine consumed 12.5L /100 km with mixed driving circumstances. It can easily go under 10.0L / 100 km with highway driving. Overall fuel consumption is great considering it’s a 6 cylinder performance-oriented engine with lots of power and a smooth torque curve.

As always, BMW’s 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission (which is made by ZF) is one of the best in its class, super responsive upshifts, downshifts and it has extremely precise transmission tuning. This is one of the few cars that you feel you don’t need a manual transmission to get engaging driving experience. BMW Z4 only comes with a rear-wheel-drive option. Although it doesn’t come with an actual limited-slip differential, M40i version comes standard with electronically controlled M Sport rear differential, which generates a locking effect that equalizes torque distribution between the inside and outside wheels when cornering with an electric motor.

Our tester had 3.0-liter six-cylinder in-line with a TwinScroll turbocharger

Exterior & Interior

For us, the exterior design is polarizing. You either love it or hate it. However, it still keeps the main BMW design features. It still has the famous BMW kidneys, relatively smaller than average, sharp lines and long hood. The hood is so long, it is almost bigger than the wheelbase. Other than that, our tester had the winter tire setup which were 17″ rims. It would have looked much better with 19″ rims, but safety first. There are some fake vents all around the exterior, especially the front and rear bumpers, but fortunately, there are no fake vents on the hood and the ones on the left-right front fenders are real.

Overall exterior design is a “hate or love situation”, but still carries traditional BMW design elements

When we get inside the Z4, this is where it becomes a generic BMW. It is 99% same as the other BMWs. It is almost impossible to see the difference except that there are no rear seats and less space. Though, overall quality and craftsmanship is excellent as always. There are lots of soft-touch plastics, aluminum, and leather all around the interior. The level of sound isolation & deadening is also excellent, surprisingly good for a roadster when the top is up. There is no problem with the overall legroom and headroom, even for tall people. Z4’s interior is top-notch, but the most boring part of the overall driving experience.

Excellent interior quality, but the design is too generic

Driving Impressions & Features

We are impressed with the driving dynamics of the Z4. It is not the fastest car in the world, but definitely fast. However, straight acceleration is not the most fun part about driving the Z4. Due to its shorter wheelbase, it is a blast to drive on back roads. You need to disable traction and stability control to get the most out of the Z4. It wants to oversteer if you push it hard, and it is really easy to get it oversteer even on a dry surface. If you disable the traction but leave the stability control on, it allows you to drive spiritedly and will not be intrusive until a certain level.

The rear design is as good as the front

It is a rear-wheel-drive and a roadster. What’s surprising about that?

The difference is, due to short wheelbase, that snap oversteer feeling comes quick, but at the same time, super easy to control the slide. It gets to a level where you feel natural driving a rear-wheel-drive car on its limits on a daily basis, even when you go to work or grocery shopping. The difference is, you don’t have to go to the track to have fun, Z4 offers it in all circumstances. It communicates with you extremely well when it’s on the limit which makes you feel overly confident, but never gets overwhelming or feels uncontrollable. There are three different driving modes, Sport – Comfort, and Eco, and we used it in Sport mode most of the time. The suspension is tuned extremely well. We did not detect body roll, but it is not going to break your back if you run over a pothole. When you drive it in Sport mode, it also changes the suspension settings, rebound stiffness, as well as steering wheel ratio, gets shorter.

As an overall package, with this chassis, 50:50 weight distribution, inline 6 turbocharged engine, the 8-speed automatic and M differential makes it one of the most “entertaining” driving experience and this is getting rare in the last few years, as many cars try to get more efficient, more mainstream, more electronics getting involved and try to be “do-it-all” type of vehicle. It is not going to break track lap records, but it can definitely offer fun factor which is getting harder to find this feeling in modern cars as they get more computerized. At the same time, it offers typical BMW luxury in one package with lots of features.

Hard to get in and out, but who cares? Once you get in, it is a blast to drive

Speaking of features, it is definitely a luxury roadster, but you need to take it easy. It has BMW’s latest infotainment system and it works pretty fast and easy to navigate. There are some missing features. For instance, there were no Adaptive+ Cruise Control which allows you to take your hands off the steering wheel for a longer period of time. To be clear, there is “Active” Cruise which fully stops and goes, but it is an option that you need to pay $1,650 for this feature. There is also no lane keep assist with cruise control, no blind-spot monitoring, and no 360-degree camera system. There is actually a lane-keep departure system that doesn’t work that well, we had to turn it off because it was extremely intrusive and annoying. As always, there is no Android Auto but Apple CarPlay is standard. In our book, those are not a deal-breaker as it is a driver-focused car, but it would have been better if they were available as an option for a car that costs over $80.000.

Pricing & Conclusion

The base Z4 with a 4-cylinder turbocharged engine starts at $65.904. It is a great option if you don’t need the extra performance of the inline 6 3.0 liter turbocharged engine. However, if you want the most out of the Z4, the M40i starts at $76,100 and it can go all the way up to high $80.000s. Our tester has the sticker price of $84,645 which has the Premium Package that costs $4,000, Driver Assistance Package – $1,650 and Special leather for $1,500 and $895 for this beautiful Misano Blue Metallic color. It is definitely not a cheap option, but if you are looking for a roadster that can offer fun factor, comfort and luxury at the same time, there is no cheap option. In fact, there are not many options out there, let alone finding a cheaper option. That’s why we would definitely recommend the Z4 if you are interested in getting into the luxury roadster world.

If you want to see the whole list of standard and optional features, please go to https://www.bmw.ca/en/all-models/bmw-z-series/roadster/2018/bmw-z4-roadster-inspire.html

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

2020 Infiniti QX50 AWD Sensory

QX50: Infiniti’s Strong Representative in The Compact Class

The QX50 is a wise choice for driving in the Canadian winter.

Overview

Compact SUV’s both in luxury and non-luxury segments make up the hottest automobile market in Canada and on most markets worldwide. Each major brand keeps a close eye on this segment and works to make sure to have a strong product in its portfolio.

Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand is no exception. QX50 is Infiniti’s best-selling compact crossover and had been completely redesigned for the 2019 model year. In this model year, it is still a brand-new and sought-after model. We tested a 2020 QX50 with the Sensory trim level with standard all-wheel drive.

QX50 has an identifiable silhouette and a beautiful design

Packed with an attractive style (somewhat subjectively speaking), the QX50 is a strong contender is the busy and very competitive segment of luxury SUV’s consisting of the brand-new Lincoln Corsair, Lexus NX, Acura RDX, GMC Terrain, Cadillac XT5, Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5, and BMW X3 and more.

The timing was perfect as our one-week test drive started almost at the same time with Toronto’s first snowfall around mid of November.

As soon as I sat behind the steering wheel of the QX50, I immersed into the congested evening traffic of the GTA.

Engine and Powertrain

We were also curious about QX50’s new high-tech variable compression (VC) turbo engine developed in-house by Nissan, the mother company. Despite all the excitement and publicity about the EV’s and alternative powertrains, the internal combustion engine is not only still alive, but also to stay with us for about another two decades or more. Infiniti’s VC engine is an industry first and looks like a milestone of innovation for a conventional powertrain. You do not notice much (if not at all) difference while driving this vehicle.

The 2.0L, Variable Compression turbocharged engine is a milestone innovation

Nissan engineers used a special multi-link between the connecting rod and crankshaft, and a small electric motor, that changes the compression ratio of the engine seamlessly between 8:1 on the low side and 14:1 on the high side. This is a very good compromise between power and torque (on demand) while keeping very low consumption when you do not need too much power.

The 2.0L, 4-cylinder turbo engine delivers 268 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque coming at as low as 1600 rpm. It generates enough torque to make you feel driving a powerful vehicle. Mated to a CVT transmission, which doesn’t look like a CVT. “Predefined” steps lock the gears at certain points thus mimicking a traditional planetary gearbox.

Interior

Except for the white quilted leather seats and some other minor features, the Sensory version is well-equipped and deserves to be a luxury vehicle except the heated rear seats which are not available even as an option. I assume that Infiniti will take care of this during the mid-cycle model refresh in two or three years.

The interior is well executed with high quality materials as expected from a luxury vehicle

The cabin is comfortable and feels luxurious. The rear passenger legroom is one of the best in this class. The cargo area has grown significantly over the previous generation. If offers now 881 liters of space and because the sliding rear seats and can be expanded to 1048 liters.

Designing the appearance and functionality of infotainment systems in modern cars turns more and more to a challenge. Drivers want to access the information on the screen quickly and easily with minimal distraction. Infiniti’s InTouch Dual display infotainment system splits duties between two touch screens presumably to keep it simple. The upper screen handles the navigation map and phone functions, but inputs are made on the lower touchscreen. There’s also a small rotary controller. However, it has limited functionality and use. Here, Infiniti must revisit this topic and better have a look at competitors, such as BMW’s i-Drive. The graphic designs ad resolutions of the two screens are different too. They do not look like parts of the same whole. Furthermore, neither Carplay nor Android are available, features that become more widely available even in non-luxury brands, such as Nissan Altima of the same group. This is another area Infiniti needs to look at for the next model refresh.

In general, we loved both the interior and exterior design of the QX50. Naturally flowing lines from the hood to the slim LED headlights, elegant use of chrome, the signature double-arch grille and distinctive D-pillar kink.

Driving Impressions

On the road, the ride was well-balanced between firm road-holding and comfortable cruising. I drove with winter tires on snowy or icy roads most of the time. And you can assume that in summer on the dry surface, the ride quality would increase further. This feature is a must when you pay a price north of 60 grand for a compact SUV and Infiniti did a very good job in this area

Unfortunately, the same perfect calibration does not apply to the steering. You expect a stronger connection between the driver and the front wheels. This is probably due to Infiniti’s steer-by-wire system, with a computer between you and the road. Human beings are not satisfied easily. Even if this system is continuously developed and now in its fourth generation, more direct steering would add to the sportiness and the driving pleasure of the QX50. It works seamlessly with driver assistance and semi-autonomous driving technologies like the ProPilot Assist system that comes standard on Proactive and higher trims.

ProPilot system, as we had extensively tested during our long-range test drive with the Altima, uses a myriad of sensors including the blindspot monitors and forward cameras to maintain a pre-selected distance from the car in front of you while simultaneously keeping you centered within the lane.

Fuel Consumption

After about six hundred kilometers of driving on the highway and the city, we reached an average of 9.7L per 100 km in wintry conditions and winter tires. I think that the modern, VC turbo engine deserves most credits for the impressive fuel economy. (NRC measurements are (Premium Gasoline ) 10L/100 km city, 7.8 L/100 km highway, 9.0 L/100 km combined)

Conclusion

With prices starting at just over $44K the QX50 comes standard with quite a lot of kit including AWD, 19-inch wheels, LED lighting, a huge panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, blind-spot monitors, forward collision warning, and a remote engine starter.

A harmonious and beautiful design with well-crafted details like the chrome applications

Our tester had Sensory (second to the range-topping Autograph) trim level with an MSRP of $57,098. Add to this $1,200 for optional triple clear coat paint, and $2,095 for freight and PDI, the full price reaches $60,393.

If you target a luxury, compact crossover, QX50 is definitely a wise choice with a powerful yer fuel-sipping engine, impressive road-holding and long-term reliability of Japanese engineering and product quality.

Article and Pictures By Varol McKars

For more and most up-to-date information, please visit http://infiniti.ca

2020 Genesis G70 3.3T

Great Car, Bad Timing

Genesis entry to the luxury market is based on sedans. The G70 is crucially important to the brand’s success as the best-selling model

10 years ago, nobody would believe that Koreans could make a luxury sports sedan that challenges with German cults. Genesis G70 is one of the best entry-level luxury sedans today with several awards, including 2019 North American Car of the Year. It is not an easy thing to achieve, as its competitors have been on the market for more than 30 years, such as BMW 3, Mercedes C, Audi A4, and Lexus IS.

Especially in the last 5-6 years, we have been seeing Genesis trying to compare with premium European brands. However, it is still missing an SUV/CUV and they are still pushing three different sizes of sedans into the North American market, where sedan sales are falling, while crossover sales are on the rise.

The interior has excellent build quality and materials

Regardless of the segment of a car, Koreans find the easier way to rise against the Germans, by working with a German automotive designer, Peter Schreyer, who was one of the three presidents and chief design officer at Kia/Hyundai from 2006 to 2018. If you take off the Genesis badge, this definitely looks, feels and drives like a premium German car with few important flaws. In this review, we will elaborate those flaws as well as which parts it outperforms it is competition.

Exterior and Interior

Genesis G70 looks not only premium but also, they were able to keep sporty design elements in the exterior. A chrome grille, LED headlights, 19” alloy wheels are some of the main factors why it can look premium, sporty and luxurious at the same time without being cheesy. We think this is one of the better-looking entry-level sedans, but this is a subjective matter.

Huge chrome front grille makes the car look more premium

Interior wise, they tried to keep it simple, but premium. Seats are comfortable, but at the same time, they are well-bolstered. Overall interior quality is excellent, everything sits perfectly with no weird gaps or cheap plastics. Unlike the bigger Genesis’, it has some sportiness. The dash and door panels have aluminum panels, soft-touch plastics, and leather. Everything is laid out perfectly, as soon as you get inside the G70, you can get used to the car quickly. Our overall impression about the interior is, they find a great equilibrium of ergonomics, being sporty, and luxurious at the same time as its German competitors.

The interior has excellent build quality and materials
The button layout is great, it is easy to get used to, and they feel high quality

One problem is the rear legroom. It is extremely tight in the back. Our test pilot is 6’1” and he is unable to sit in the back with his seat position in the front. This could be an important disadvantage as the overall legroom is less than the current generation Honda Civic, which is a smaller class. The trunk size also isn’t the best, it is not deep and the overall size is below the class dimensions. If overall interior space an important factor and you like this car, you may want to check out its sibling, called Kia Stinger.

If they are 6’1″ or taller, then the rear-seat passengers will suffer with head and legroom

Engine and Drivetrain

 Base trims come with a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. If you want the full G70 experience, it comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.3L V6 engine that has 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. Our tester had the bigger engine and we can easily say you should choose this engine over the 2.0L, as this one has much flatter torque curve and impressive acceleration. Both engines are matched with an 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission and an All-Wheel-Drive system. Our tested had the 3.3 L V6 engine and we are impressed with overall powerband and ease of use. It is not the fastest in its class, but super smooth and torque comes at the low rpm, you don’t need to change gears to accelerate. However, this “luxury” comes with an expense of gas consumption, as our tests show 14.5L/100 km overall fuel economy which is above average. With similar driving circumstances, we were able to see below 12.0L/100km with the BMW M340i, which has a comparable power figure. So, fuel consumption is significantly high and this is something needs to be improved. If this is a deal-breaker for you, you may want to choose the 2.0L 4 cylinder turbocharged engine.

3.3L Twin Turbo engine produces 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque

Like the other latest Hyundai and Kia models, this one comes with an 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission. It is identical to the other Genesis models and Kia Stinger as well. We have to say shift changes are not the fastest though, especially downshifting. It is falling a little bit behind the BMW’s 8-speed in terms of shifting and overall smoothness. After driving Hyundai Palisade, which has the same transmission with slightly different gear ratios, this one is definitely tuned differently, and downshifting is not as slow, but still not on par with the competition. Of course, this is not an equivalent of an M series, but it has definitely sporty characteristics which this 8-speed may not be the best option, as it is not lightning fast. However, it is able to provide a smooth and comfortable driving experience, and perfectly capable of handling spirited driving.

Unlike the underwhelming transmission, we are pretty impressed with the All-Wheel Drive system, as this is a rear-biased all-wheel drive. In Normal mode, it sends 60% power to the rear, but if you switch to the Sport mode, it sends 80-100% power to the rear, which means it can also be a rear-wheel-drive in some situations, which is extremely fun to drive. It doesn’t want to understeer too much when you are on the limit like most of the regular all-wheel-drive systems, as they are more 50/50 biased. The engine is placed longitudinally, it has always been fun driving a vehicle with a longitudinal engine, as they always offer rear-biased and better driving experience, even with all-wheel drive.

The rear side of the G70 reveals the car’s premium look

Features and Driving Impressions

Genesis G70 has a long specification list, depending on the trim. The good thing is, it is pretty flexible when it comes to choosing a trim, as it doesn’t force you to change the engine. If you are strictly looking for a smaller engine, you can still choose the top trim, though you cannot choose a bigger engine with the absolutely base trim, which shouldn’t be a problem for potential buyers. If you like to see and compare the specs, please click the link (https://www.genesis.com/ca/en/luxury-sedan-genesis-g70-specifications.html).

As expected from a luxury brand, Genesis offers the all-wheel-drive as a standard feature in Canada. (Unlike the USA.)

There are some important features missing in G70 though, which have been available in German competitors for many years. Those are Auto Start-Stop feature, blind view monitor and no digital instrument cluster. It is disappointing not to have the digital cluster and blind view monitor in a premium brand where it is already available in the latest Hyundai Palisade. Although we enjoy using Hyundai/Kia’s infotainment system, we would like to see Genesis specific or different infotainment system. As the infotainment system is actively used by the driver and passengers, this is where Genesis could have been different from a Hyundai, in order to make the user feel more premium.

Unlike the Hyundai Palisade, there is no digital cluster and blind view monitor

Pricing and Conclusion

When we test drove the G70, we immediately felt this is a multi-functional luxury sedan that offers sporty design and driving features. They found a great balance between being luxurious and trying to give you performance at the same time, and this is extremely hard to combine them at a reasonable price. Of course, you have to sacrifice to have both luxury and performance-oriented driving offered in one package, because it is not going to offer anything best in its class, but it does everything really well. Overall, Genesis G70 is an amazing car for what it is, considering the price-performance ratio is excellent. You get the top trim for almost the same price you get the German competitors base trim. G70 starts at $42.000 CAD and if you want the V6, it starts at $56.000 CAD. Top trim costs $58.000 CAD which also comes with limited-slip differential.

The G70 competes in the crowded segment of luxury sports sedans which includes strong contenders such as Mercedes C-Class, BNW 3 Series, Audi A4, Lexus IS and Lincoln MKZ

Unfortunately, as mentioned in the introduction, Genesis tried to penetrate the premium market with three different sedans, instead of SUVs and Crossovers. Although they did a great job with the G70 which offers excellent value for a luxury sedan, this may not help Genesis as an overall brand as global sedan sales are on the downfall, whereas SUVs and Crossovers are selling like a hotcake. This wouldn’t be a problem if we were in 1990s, but we believe the timing is wrong to fully focus on a luxury sedan model lineup. We are hoping Genesis comes with at least one or two different types of SUV/CUV or a Crossover to challenge with German competitors.

Our takeaways are:

Good

+ Excellent price-performance ratio

+ Rear biased All wheel drive system

+ Engine performance

+ Excellent interior quality

Bad

– Overall rear legroom, interior space

– Underwhelming transmission

– Missing some premium features such as auto start-stop and digital instrument cluster

– Gas mileage

For more detailed and most up-to-date information, please visit https://www.genesis.com/ca/en/genesis.html

Article and Pictures by Dan Gunay

2020 Nissan Altima AWD Platinum

The Sedan Is Here To Stay

Nissan brought its sixth generation Altima onto the market

Nissan Altima has always been a strong contender in the midsize sedan market in North America. With Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, it is a reliable Japanese brand, competing also against Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion. Unlike GM, Ford, and FCA, which all focus more and more on SUV’s, Japanese brands not only stay in the sedan segment but also build better cars (and SUV’s) with every generation.

The Altima, in its sixth generation, is Nissan’s first AWD sedan in the North American market. This is an intelligent AWD system that can sense different driving conditions for optimum torque distribution. Normally, it is a front-drive setup, but as the conditions require, up to 50 percent of the torque can be transferred to the rear wheels. It is even more important for Canada, where harsh winter conditions matter and AWD is a strongly demanded feature. Nissan also states that with the Altima, they had the highest investment for a platform over two decades. With an all-new 2.5 liter, direct-injection 4-cylinder engine delivering 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque mated to the Xtronic (CVT) transmission, this is not only a modern car but also can offer a more affordable alternative to an SUV.

The all-new 2.5 liter, direct-injection 4-cylinder engine delivering 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque is mated to the Xtronic (CVT) transmission,

I am not a fan a CVT’s and did not like much this type of transmission in my previous test drives. However, this new generation gearbox not only gives a driving pleasure similar to conventional planetary transmissions but also very good on fuel too, as you will read later.

Nature Of Our Trip

I and my business partner had planned a business trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia with a stopover and private visit in Fredericton, New Brunswick. This was probably not the best alternative considering the unpredictable November weather in the Atlantic provinces. However, despite the long-distance, we could not resist the freedom and flexibility a road trip offers.

The Protruding US State Main extends our route from Toronto to Halifax for about 400 kilometers but is still the fastest route

Our roadmate was a Nissan Altima, provided by Nissan Canada in “Sunset Flair Chromaflair” colour and in the range-topping Platinum version with all-wheel drive. 

Leaving Toronto

We left our office on Monday, November 4th afternoon. It was difficult to stay away from the evening rush hour traffic. We spent almost one hour to reach Oshawa, the “eastern gateway” of GTA. In this stop and go traffic, the first obvious advantage was having a car with automatic transmission. In fact, after so many years, I cannot think of any other alternative. And of course, if you flow in the heavy traffic with an average speed of 40 to 50 kilometers per hour, comfortable seats and good sound isolation make a difference too. So we started paying attention to Nissan’s so-called “Zero-Gravity Seats”.

Zero-Gravity Seats are comfortable, but the seat cushions could be slightly wider. Water and energy drinks should also be counted as driving assists.

Nissan says that “there’s a whole lot of science behind it. In fact, they’re inspired by the weightlessness of space. In a weightless environment, the human body assumes a neutral spinal posture—a natural position where the least amount of stress is placed on our bones and joints, so we’re less likely to become tired. Nissan engineers used these findings and—over the course of a decade—developed Zero Gravity Seats, fundamentally changing the entire seat design to optimize comfort on longer drives. To reduce muscle fatigue the human body naturally slumps, which then increases spinal bending, puts pressure on the lower back, and leads to even more fatigue. Built with 14 different pressure points to put you in a neutral position, the Zero Gravity Seats’ unique shape and patented structure provide continuous support from your hips all the way up to your shoulders. This natural, ergonomic design helps to maximize blood flow and keep your energy levels up. Before Zero Gravity Seats were put into production, the seat concept went through extensive testing using a driving simulator, real-world long. Distance and overnight evaluations, as well as biomechanical analysis. Testers included men and women of different heights and body types. Even medical tests were taken—like blood samples measuring lactic acidity levels—to confirm a reduction in muscular strain and fatigue.”

With this bold, long and promising statement in mind, we were excited to have our own experience during this about the 4,000-kilometer-long drive. I revisited this topic at the end of our article.

Driving in Ontario and Quebec

Once we left GTA behind and heading towards Cobourg, the traffic started flowing much more smoothly and soon it was dark.

Our first fuel stop was in Odessa, near Kingston.

After a short stop for dinner in Belleville, we set Montreal as our next stop. The Altima easily swallowed kilometers. With two fuel stops and the advantage of having two drivers, we reached the outskirts of Levis and Quebec City (we later decided not to stop in and around Montreal) and had a three-hour sleep break at a parking lot with 820 kilometers behind us. The front seats, in fully-reclined positions were comfortable enough to have a “power-nap”.

The road quality along Highway 401 in Ontario and Autoroute 20 in Quebec were very good. We almost did not see any road repairs or lane reductions and the route was ready for the upcoming winter.

Driving under Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine Tunnel in Montreal.

I specifically enjoyed driving the section between Montreal and Riviere de Loup. Under heavy rain and the dark early hours in the morning, the Altima firmly stuck to the road surface and confidently moved forward. I gave credit also to Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires on 19” alloy wheels. Thanks to its high silica compound these tires had a good grip and traction on the wet surface at speeds between 110 to 120 km/h. Later we were going to love these tires even more as you will read further in this article. The high beam assist was a very functional help in dark and somewhat empty roads. It always switched to the low beam every time a vehicle from the opposite direction entered our vision and I could concentrate more on driving the vehicle.

Driving in New Brunswick.

As the night gives its place to daylight, we had left Riviere de Loup behind and heading towards the provincial border between Quebec and New Brunswick. As a testament to the size of our country, we switched from Eastern to Atlantic time zone and suddenly “lost an hour time”.

Blockhouse at The Little Falls, Edmundston, NB.

Breakfast in Edmundston

Not far from the border, but 1,100 kilometers from Toronto, the city of Edmundston was our next “natural” stop.

A small Francophone city with a population of about 16,000 people, Edmundston is the centre of the Madawaska Region northwest of the Province.

During the early colonial period, the area was a camping and meeting place of Maliseet (Wolastoqiyik) Nation during seasonal migrations. From the mid to late eighteenth century, one of the largest Maliseet villages had been established at Madawaska and had become a refuge site for other Wabanaki peoples. The Maliseet village was originally located near the falls at the confluence of the Madawaska and Saint John Rivers. Currently, the City of Edmundston surrounds a federal Indian Reserve (St. Basile 10/Madawaska Maliseet First Nation). Originally named Petit-Sault (Little Falls) in reference to the waterfalls located where the Madawaska River merges into the Saint John River, the settlement was renamed Edmundston in 1851 after Sir Edmund Walker Head, who was Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick from 1848 to 1854 and Governor-General of Canada from 1854 to 1861. Originally a small logging settlement, Edmundston’s growth is mostly attributed to the city’s strategic location.

Blue Lotus Cafe in Edmundston, NB

We were hungry and tired. After a quick Google research, we arrived at the Blue Lotus Café in Downtown Edmundston. Opened in July 2007 and thus more than 12 years old, this place serves breakfast and lunch and a popular place among the locals. We had also some nice conversation with the young and friendly couple running this business. The breakfast was delicious, and we were happy with this thoughtful escape from the routineness of a franchised coffee and donut place.

Friendly Owners of Blue Lotus Cafe in Downtown Edmundston. A perfect place for a soul-filling, healthy and delicious breakfast.
Breakfast at Blue Lotus Cafe.
Happy locals enjoying coffee and a morning chat at Blue Lotus Cafe
Blue Lotus Cafe in Edmundston, NB

For more information, please visit: http://lotusbleucafe.ca/en/            

Lunch In Fredericton

Following a quick discovery, we hit the road for Fredericton, the provincial capital. On Highway 2, aka TransCanada Highway, it was relatively quiet. I had the impression that this highway was built too early and to accommodate the “traffic of the future.” However, the low volume of traffic was also due to the low season.  

   

Wəlastəkw means “Beautiful River.” in native language which English colonists later named it the Saint John River. The namesake restaurant near the river provided a great eating experience.

In Fredericton, our long-time friends Semra and Irfan invited us for lunch at Wolastoq Wharf, a seafood restaurant. In North Devon Region close to St. John River and across the downtown, the restaurant is easy to reach and has parking too. The food was fantastic, the service was very friendly and professional. Once you are in Atlantic Canada, you always give priority to seafood and in this regard, this restaurant was a perfect choice.

Our friends Irfan and Semra hosted us at this beautiful place for a long lunch and warm and friendly conversation.
Seafood Platter is one of the signature dishes of Wolastoq.

For more information please visit: https://m.facebook.com/WolastoqWharf/

Arriving in Halifax

We stayed at Chateau Bedford in Halifax and were happy with location, facility and service.

Following the lunch, we hit the road again. After another 430 kilometers via Highway 2, 104 & 102, we arrived at our hotel in Halifax.

We drove a total distance of 1,813 kilometers from Toronto to Nova Scotia’s capital. Our average consumption was 7.6 liters, which was very good for a midsize, AWD vehicle. Also, the seats proved to be very comfortable. Nissan’s Zero-Gravity Seats made a difference. However, our advice for the next generation seats would be: “Make them a lit bit wider. You have enough space to put wider cushions.

About Halifax

Halifax, the capital of Canada’s Ocean Playground is a thriving city.

Nova Scotia’s marquee port-of-call is situated on one of the deepest and largest natural, ice-free harbours in the world. Welcoming guests for more than 260 years, Halifax offers the exciting pulse of Atlantic Canada’s largest city, coupled with the culture and heritage of one of Canada’s most historic communities. 

A view at the harbour.
St Paul’s Anglican Church is the oldest building in Halifax, built in 1750, the year after Halifax was founded.

It is a major business centre and known for its maritime history. In the evening, we had a look at downtown from hilltop Citadel, a star-shaped fort completed by the British in the 1850s. Waterfront warehouses known as the Historic Properties remind us to Halifax’s days as a trading hub for privateers, notably during the War of 1812. In the 20 Century, Pier 21 witnessed the arrival of nearly one million immigrants from all over the world between 1928 and 1971.

Canadian Museum of Immigration is a must-see place when you visit Halifax.
Tens of thousands of immigrants traveled from Halifax to inner parts of Canada in train cars like this to find their ultimate destination in the country.
Ataturk’s message to mothers of fallen ANZAC soldiers in Gallipoli during WW1 is engraved in this small monument across Pier 21. The founder of modern Turkey was one of the greatest leaders of the 20th Century.

This historic building now is the Canadian Museum of Immigration and to me personally, it is the number one place to visit in Halifax.

View from the Halifax Citadel at night.

Following a series of business meetings on our second day in Halifax, we had a seafood dinner at the Five Fishermen Restaurant in Downtown. The restaurant is housed in a building that was originally constructed as a schoolhouse in 1817. Across the street is St Paul’s Anglican Church, the oldest building in Halifax, built in 1750, the year after Halifax was founded.

Chef Greg, a native of Toronto, comes from a family that was built around the dinner table. It was a time to unwind, laugh and indulge with great food so it comes as no surprise that he decided to become a chef at the young age of 16. Chef Greg’s lifelong love affair with food began at an early age. Growing up in Toronto he was exposed to different cuisines from around the world. His future was clear at the age of 16 years old when he started following famous Canadian chefs and was attracted to the various cultures in the city.

Five Fishermen Seafood Restaurant in Downtown Halifax a good address for a memorable dining experience.
A lobster sandwich made my day
An evening memory from Halifax with Sehnaz and Murat
Finding a parking spot on the hills between the Citadel and the Harbour in Downtown Halifax was a challenge.

We ate on the ground floor which was relatively quiet.

For more information please visit:https://www.fivefishermen.com/

Peggy’s Cove

Driving from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove gave us the opportunity to test the Altima on winding roads leading to this beautiful town

Like Halifax, I had visited this place 11 years ago for the first time. The iconic lighthouse and the rocks around it were spectacular. The weather was sunny but quite windy. Since the Swissair 111 disaster in 1998 where 229 souls perished just a few hundred meters off the coast, visiting this place reminds me of this tragedy.

Peggy’s Point Lighthouse is one of Nova Scotia’s most well-known lighthouses and maybe the most photographed in Canada. Located in the quaint fishing village of Peggy’s Cove along the South Shore, Peggy’s Point Lighthouse was built in 1915.
With its wooden houses perched along the narrow inlet, Peggy’s Cove is a beautiful and post-card perfect place in Atlantic Canada

Returning to Halifax, we chose Athens a Greek restaurant for lunch. Specializing in Greek and Italian dishes, this family-run place offers a memorable eating experience at affordable prices.

Athens Restaurant was a wise choice to have lunch near Downtown Halifax.
A place for delicious Greek and Mediterrranean food at affordable prices.
A place for delicious Greek and Mediterranean food at affordable prices.

For more information please visit: https://www.athensrestaurant.com/

Returning home

Before the departure in Halifax.

Murat, our third partner, who had joined us on Wednesday evening by flying from Toronto to Halifax was the first driver of the day as we left Halifax. As we navigated to the 240-kilometer portion between Amherst NS and Fredericton NB, we drove through a snowstorm. This section was another and much tougher test for our Hankook tires. The Altima handled this treacherous section of the route pretty well. Intelligent all-wheel-drive combined with good tires on 19” wheels (even if these are not winter tires) created a safe driving for us. Without Murat as an experienced and cautious driver, this would still be more difficult.

A truck trailer went off the course just 100 meters ahead of us.
With the help AWD and Hankook tires, the Altima had a confident road holding even under snow storm.
With Apple Car Play, you have the option of using Apple navigation instead of Nissan’s own.
With Android Auto, you have the option of using Google Maps instead of built-in navigation system.
After nearly 300 kilomtertes of drive through the snowstorm in NB, we deserved a lunch break at Boston Pizza, Fredericton.
Bearing the name pizza in its name doesn’t mean that you cannot have a perfect burger at Boston Pizza.

The pro-pilot assist system shut down as expected in this bad weather. While this was no surprise to us it is time to say something about this driving assistance feature.

As with all other manufacturers, Nissan designs these systems very carefully with the safety of the passengers in mind. Nissan states that Pro-pilot assist is NOT a self-driving feature. Even in good weather with no visibility issues, the Pro-Pilot has its limits. You can leave the streering wheel “free” for up to 15 seconds only. Unless you grasp the steering wheel, a visual and then an acoustic warning pops up, then the car brakes. Nothing wrong with that. It is also a good reminder about how far fully autonomous vehicles (AV’s) are from today. Considering the changing weather, a very long transitional period with human drivers and AV’s sharing the road and other safety issues, fully AV’s are decades away.

Upon arrival in Fredericton under snow, we rewarded ourselves with a lunch at Boston Pizza.

During this long trip, and for the first time in a test drive we tested three different navigation systems: Altima’s standard onboard navigation, Car Play for i-Phone and Android Auto for Samsung.

Ice-covered grill after a long drive through NB. At our stop in Riviere du Loup, QC, we cleaned the grill.
Windscreen cleaning at a fuel stop in Levis, QC
Our long drive from Halifax to Toronto end after 1841 kilometers and nearly 20 hours at 5 a.m. in the morning.

Conclusion

Twenty years ago when Renault took control of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of both companies by then had said: “From a design point, a Nissan car would be interesting only for those, who see a motor vehicle for the first time.”. Since then, things have changed significantly. Attractive design inside and out is a feature of Nissan cars.

Our top-of-the-range tester in Platinum trim had an MSRP of C$35,098. The only option was the three-coat-paint for C$300. Adding C$ 1,815 freight and PDE, the total price comes C$37,213.

This is a good value for money considering a fully-equipped midsize sedan with AWD. Japanese quality and durability come standard.

Article And Pictures by Varol McKars

For more and most up-to-date information, please visit www.nissan.ca

The car was provided by Nissan Canada

The travel costs were sponsored by:

Academy Travel Services Inc. and Nova Scola Education Consulting Inc.

Academy Travel Service (www.academytravels.com) and

Nova Scola Education Consulting Inc. (www.novascola.com)

Nova Scola is the mother company of www.AutoAndRoad.com 

2020 Hyundai Palisade Luxury

Filling All Gaps

Once claimed to be late for the SUV party, Hyundai now has filled almost every gap in its model range

Hyundai is arguably the most passionate automobile brand of this century. Starting with the “dirt-cheap” Pony in North America about 40 years ago and with a quality level below average, the Korean company today (we should better say the Hyundai-KIA Group) produces cars and SUV’s with top quality and sold all over the world. And we should add Genesis, the group’s rising luxury nameplate.

Engine and Drivetrain

Hyundai’s newest and biggest SUV comes with a 3.8L naturally aspirated V6 that produces 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Without the turbocharging, the engine delivers the torque at the high rpm ranges, so you need to rev the Palisade out to go fast. We would say, this car is borderline fast, as it weighs more than 2.5 tons, the V6 engine is barely enough for it. We wish it comes with forced induction, even with slightly smaller displacement would be fine but it would have offered way more usable and flat torque band. In our tests, we see 12.5L / 100 km average fuel consumption, which is not too bad for a 3-row huge SUV that weighs over 2500 kgs.

Hyundai’s 3.8L, the six-cylinder engine offers 291 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m. and a still-healthy 262 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,200 r.p.m.

Hyundai decided to match this 3.8L V6 engine with their 8-Speed torque converter automatic transmission and as soon as you start driving, you realize it is 100% tuned for comfort. It takes a lot of time to downshift, even if you use paddle shifters, there is a lag which causes 1-2 sec delay to accelerate. Having a slightly underpowered engine and slow response transmission is not the best combo for short burst acceleration, which you shouldn’t expect to be the fastest in the straight line anyway. Quite frankly, the transmission is extremely smooth and it doesn’t “hunt the gears” to get better fuel economy.

The Palisade comes with an all-wheel-drive except for the base trim. Unlike in the USA, it comes with more off-road modes, although this is not a rock crawler, it is quite capable in light off-road situations. The Canadian version comes with Mud-Sand-Snow modes which tune the drivetrain in different ways. For instance, in Sand mode, it keeps the revs high, and distributes the torque 50:50, and mimics if it has a limited-slip differential. Hence, it transfers the power to the wheel with more traction and brakes the wheel with less traction. No matter how capable this system is, it is still front-wheel biased and rear wheels activate when the front loses traction, which helps the fuel economy overall.

Our tester comes as Luxury, the second-highest trim level.

Features and Driving Impressions

As a cost-cutting strategy, the Palisade shares the same platform with Kia Telluride, but also with Kia Sedona and Sorento. So, you should not expect any sporty driving experience, because as soon as you start driving this vehicle, you feel it has zero sporty pretensions.  Also, it is a huge 3-row SUV, but you don’t feel like you are driving a huge vehicle as the suspension is tuned well enough so it feels like a car more than a truck driving dynamics. Driving smoothness level is also paired with lots of new technologies, which is one of the strongest points of the Palisade. As typical with recent Hyundai models, the Palisade offers the best bang for the buck in its class.

The dashboard is well-crafted with high-quality materials

Hyundai offers four² different trim levels. If you want to get the all-wheel-drive (which you should), you need to skip the base trim. Our tester was the Luxury trim, which was missing few more features compared to the top trim called “Ultimate”, such as better looking rims, LED tail lights, Nappa leather, 4-way lumbar support, ventilated rear seats, head-up display, wireless charging pad, 12.3” instrument cluster, double sunroof (additional sunroof for rear seats), and LED interior lights. You can choose captain chairs in the top two trims, which is a huge plus for people who want their rear-seat passengers to be more comfortable, and it would be easier for people to get access to the third row without folding down the second-row seats.

Second-row seats in bench-setup offer enough spaces for three passengers
The third row offers reasonable leg and headroom. However, minivans still offer a better third-row seat

Nevertheless, the Luxury trim is more than enough as you can save $3000 by opting for those features out. The Luxury trim comes with regular leather seats, driver memory seats, power seats for both sides, heated rear seats, 10.25” infotainment system, Harman/Kardon premium audio system and so on. As always, Hyundai’s adaptive cruise control and infotainment systems are really good. It is so good that it makes you want to buy this vehicle as it comes with even more advanced adaptive cruise control system, so it recognizes that you are driving on the highway and it allows you to keep your hands off the steering wheel for several minutes, not like 5 seconds for most brands. At the same time, lane keep assist is able to keep the car centered, it is not like bumping it inside the lane when it’s out. So, this is a revolutionary step going forward. It stops and starts moving smoothly and this is one of the best parts about driving a Palisade. Another interesting feature is, when you use your right/left indicator, it automatically switches the camera on that side, so you will see what’s going on in your instrument cluster. This safety feature was awarded as the best by AJAC.

Interior

Overall interior space with material quality and craftsmanship is one of the best in its class. There are lots of soft touch-plastics and some hard touch plastics on the dashboard. Although we are not a fan of shifter buttons as you have to make sure you pushed it properly every time, or you can go the way that you shouldn’t, that’s why there are tons of interior space and they utilized that well. The third row has plenty of space, not as good as a minivan but one of the best in 3-row SUV segment.

One thing that Hyundai must change or improve, not only in Palisade, but all in their model lineup is the blind spot monitoring system. It is extremely annoying and intrusive. It beeps so loudly the first thing you want to do is disable it. Palisade’s blind spot cameras make this system obsolete; you don’t really need it. But if you don’t have that camera option, then you are pretty much stuck with this annoying system. Another bummer is especially if you are an Android smartphone user, you won’t get a full-screen experience like Apple users. We had some connection problems with Android Auto but we believe this was a problem unique to our tester.

Competition

When we check the other alternatives in this class, surprisingly the strongest contender is its cousin, Kia Telluride. Although they use the same platform, they look completely different. Hyundai / Kia tried their best not to use the same parts except the drivetrain, which means the Telluride also has underwhelming but comfort biased drivetrain. Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot get really old and they will be renewed soon, but they keep their values better than Hyundai. Subaru Ascent is also a strong contender with its symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, but it comes with a CVT transmission which may be boring for some people. Hyundai comes with torque converter 8 speed instead, which is more preferable. Ford Explorers’ new generation is also on the market for a few weeks (and we expect to test drive it soon). With a higher MSRP. Overall, Hyundai was able to enter the 3-row SUV market with a great price-performance proposition.

Conclusion & Pricing

With a stronger-than-ever product portfolio consisting of cars, CUV’s and SUV’s, the Korean automotive giant looks confidently into the future. The Palisade is a testament to this self-confidence.

Our takeaways are:

+ Great comfort and driving smoothness

+ Advanced adaptive cruise control and great infotainment system

+ Good fuel economy despite being a heavy vehicle

+ Great bang for the buck in its class (at a price of higher depreciation – almost premium German brand level)

Things need to be improved

– Intrusive Blind Spot monitoring system

– Underwhelming engine and transmission

– Shorter warranty in Canada, compared to the USA.

Article And Pictures By Dan Gunay and Varol McKars

For more and most up-to-date information please visit: https://www.hyundaicanada.com/

2019 Nissan Rogue SL AWD

Aging gracefully. Launched in 2014, the Rouge still looks modern

Overview

Nissan Rogue, aka X-Trail in some other markets, is the best-selling Nissan model in North America. It was first launched in 2007. The second and current generation was introduced in 2014 and got a mid-cycle update in 2017. Although the Rouge is still a best-seller, it is harder to stand out from the competition as the vibrant and very competitive SUV market has seen updated models recently such as the brand-new Toyota RAV and the Ford Escape.

The unmistakeably front fascia for all modern Nissans

Exterior / Interior

Nissan changed the exterior design of the Rogue significantly in 2017. Now it looks like the rest of the Nissan lineup. Most of the Rogue models come with halogen headlights unless you go with the higher trims. Rogue is one of the biggest crossovers in the compact segment and has an above-average interior space. The Rouge once offered an optional and very tight third row, which is not available anymore. The exterior design has aged well and still has a modern and fresh look.

Interior design, like the exterior, is not very exciting but functionally good. The Rogue has one of the smartest combinations of legroom and cargo area in its class. The second-row seats can also slide forward and backward so you can set up both cargo area and rear seats according to your needs. The dashboard has leather, soft-touch plastic and some hard-plastic at the bottom. It shares lots of parts with its smaller sister, the Qashqai. (See our test review)

The interior and dashboard are ergonomically well designed
The legroom in the rear is above class average

With 40 cubic feet of cargo space, it offers an above-average size in this segment. Also, when it comes to cargo practicality, Rogue is a strong contender. It offers dividers in the cargo area which you can utilize and put those dividers in different positions to get the most space out of it. Our tester was the top trim, which is called the “SV” that has a panoramic sunroof that allows more daylight inside the Rogue, but you must sacrifice a little bit of headroom in the rear seat.

With 40 cubic feet of cargo space, the Rouge offers an above-average size in this segment.

Engine & Drivetrain

Nissan Rogue comes with 2.5L Naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine which produces 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission as well as an all-wheel-drive unless you go with the base trim, which is a front-wheel drive. Overall powerband falls a little bit behind the competition as most of them switched to the forced induction and provides way more torque in the mid-range. However, the engine is extremely smooth and “communicates” well with the CVT transmission. For those who are not convinced with the CVT reliability, Nissan doubled the warranty period, it comes with a 10-year 200.000 km warranty.

The 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. A turbo-charging engine at least in the upcoming generation would be a good option

Although the Rouge is not the fastest in this segment, it has a good fuel economy. During our test, the fuel consumption was around 9.0L / 100 km with about 75 percent highway and 25 percent city driving.  Of course, it uses front wheels only to move forward most of the time, as it is an on-demand all-wheel-drive system, but rear wheels can get involved when the car loses traction in the front. Overall, it is a super comfortable and smooth platform that you can enjoy it if you are not looking for a fast crossover. Obviously, there are better options in the market with more horsepower and torque and usually with turbocharging. We hope Nissan would also add a turbocharged engine option in the upcoming generation to make the Rogue more competitive in this class.

Overall driving impressions & features

Our tester with the top trim level had every feature that Nissan offers with the Rogue. Nissan ProAssist works really well and it is super easy to activate adaptive cruise control, which also fully stops and can move the car forward by clicking “+” button. The 7” touch-screen display is responsive, but the infotainment system looks dated. The SL trim also comes with LED headlights, built-in Navigation system, 7.0” touch-screen display, Voice Recognition, SiriusXM, Push-button start along with Intelligent Key System, Remote Engine Start, Blind Spot Monitoring, 360-camera parking assist, auto brake hold, 6-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, optional Bose Premium Audio system, and so on. Although our tester had the ProAssist, not all the trims have this safety feature and we think Nissan could do better as the competitors have been pretty aggressive bringing their latest active safety features down to every trim. Currently, it is just on the top trim with the Rogue.

Pricing and conclusion

Nissan Rogue is a strong contender in the crossover segment. It has been doing pretty good in this class, as sales numbers are still high. Remember, this was first launched in 2014 and still can keep up with the competition. However, as it gets older, it has some disadvantages, but if those are not important for you, it is a decent option with great pricing. It is comfortable, it offers great interior space, and super smooth-quiet driving experience and we believe it is one of the best bangs for the buck in its segment. The Rogue starts at $26,898 with the S trim and it can go all the way up to $37.698 if you choose the top SL Platinum trim. We believe you should go with at least SV trim, preferably the top trim as it is the only trim that offers Adaptive Cruise Control.

It is a good alternative if you are looking for:

+ Comfortable well-tuned suspension

+ Smooth Drivetrain

+ Large interior & cargo space

What can be improved?

– Needs forced induction engine, more torque, more power

– Adaptive cruise control should be available in all trims

Article and Pictures by Dan Gunay and Varol McKars

For more detailed and most up-to-date information, please visit: www.nissan.ca

2019 Nissan Micra S

Affordable and Fun

Fourth generation Micra was first released in 2010, but still looks fresh

We have been test-driving some expensive cars since 2010, but we are also aware that not everybody has the same budget. If you are looking for a commuter, or just a reliable car can take you to work, there are still decent options in the market. Nissan is one of the few manufacturers that offers affordable options for almost $10.000 CAD, called Micra. It is a global success story and there is a reason why it is so successful all over the world. It is affordable, good on gas, small enough you can drive around narrow European and Asian streets. It is one of the cheapest cars we have ever driven as a press car, but surprisingly it is really fun to drive.

Nissan Micra was first released in 1982 and it has been on the market ever since all around the world, with different names, and engine options. For instance, our tester is not the latest generation globally, as fifth-generation Micra is released in Europe in 2017. In Canada, we still get the fourth generation, which has been on the market since 2010. It is available in Canada since 2014 and recently underwent a facelift and it still looks fresh. Our tester is the S model, which only has absolute basic features to keep the price low.

Interesting fact: It is the most affordable race vehicle in Canada, called Micra Cup car. Micra Cup is a race series located in Ontario and Quebec. The drivetrain is exactly the same compared to the street-legal Micra, but there are some crucial suspension upgrades. The race-ready version of Nissan Micra comes with Racing Suspension Kit, 5-point harness, modified (probably straight-piped) exhaust, roll-cage, racing seat, track-oriented brake pads, and wheel/tire combo suitable for track racing. You need to purchase the Micra Cup car to be able to race in the Micra Cup which is around $20.000 CAD.

For more details, please go to https://www.micracup.com/main

Micra Cup Car has important changes for track racing

Engine and Drivetrain

Let’s start with the heart of Micra, as this is the most surprising part for us. It comes with 1.6 Liter 4 cylinder naturally aspirated engine, which produces 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. These numbers may sound low, but the car is so lightweight that we would even say this is a quick car within the speed limits. The engine is tuned to have maximum torque in the low and mid-range, and more than enough to move this tiny car. Our tester comes with a manual transmission, and gear ratios are short. As a small car designed for narrow city roads, this is not surprising. We wish it had 6th gear, it revving almost 4000 rpm on the highway while you are driving at 120 km/h, so that means more engine noise and more fuel consumption. Speaking of fuel consumption, our tests show 8.5L / 100 km city, 6.5L / 100 km highway driving. Overall, it is extremely easy to drive and park it around the city as steering, clutch is soft and low turning radius (4.6 meters) helps in tight corners. It is not a highway cruiser by any means, but short trips are doable and can handle speeds over 100 km/h.

Nissan’s 1.6L 4-cylinder engine produces 109 HP and 107 lb-ft of torque

Driving Impressions

One of the first things we realized when we started driving the Micra is, it feels they shared some parts with its French-European partner Renault. This Micra platform was jointly developed by Nissan and Renault. Steering, shifter, clutch feels exactly driving like Renault Clio. This is definitely not a bad thing, as Clio is also very popular and known as a reliable compact hatchback in Europe, this is how Nissan keeps the costs low when manufacturing the Micra.

The suspension is tuned softly, as expected for a commuter/small hatchback. It isolates big bumps successfully. Not only that, but it is not making weird noises when isolating road imperfections, which is quite surprising for this price range. When you are pushing the Micra to its limits in the corner, it wants to understeer a lot. You can disable the stability control but not the traction control. However, the traction control is not too intrusive. Once you disable the stability control, TCS gets involved a few times and leaves you on your own.

Tiny 15″ wheels and Firestone tires are not good for spirited driving

One of the reasons why it easily understeers is the inner tire loses the traction quickly. So definitely not a corner carver by any means. If you like to drive your car spiritedly, you should be more careful and patient when turning at high speeds, as there are tons of body roll and it has higher center of gravity. Base trim Micra comes with tiny 15” wheels and Firestone tires, which are not helping for handling, too. However, comfort-wise, it definitely feels more expensive than its actual price.

Interior space is one of the best in its class

Overall interior materials aren’t the greatest, as you would expect from a small hatchback that costs almost $10.000 brand new. There are only hard plastics all around the dashboard, and door panels. The only soft-touch plastic is available in this car the steering wheel. There are also not many features, as this is the base trim. It only has absolutely basic features and whatever is required legally to have in a car. Computer trip, ABS, Traction Control, Front-Side and Curtain Airbags, Electronic Stability Program, Rear-view Camera, and a colored 7” screen which also has Bluetooth connection feature. Yes, there is no air conditioning, no power locks, no remote keyless entry, no electric windows or mirrors. You need to step up to SV trim to have those features. You immediately feel the 1990s vibe when you get inside the Micra S, and we enjoyed the experience of driving it. If you don’t need these features, then you can save a lot of money by choosing the S trim and still be safe, as safety features are exactly the same as the top trim. The only thing needs to be improved about this interior is the seat cloth quality. It feels really cheap, even for a car worth $10.000.

The interior space, legroom, and headroom is one of the best parts about the Micra, regardless of the trim you choose. It offers a larger cabin than the competition. We were able to sit in the back keeping the driving position of the front seat, and our knees were not touching to the seat (6’1″ height), it was close though. It would not be the best option for 4 passengers especially for long trips, but more than enough for daily driving.

It has surprisingly good rear legroom space
Trunk is really tiny and not that deep

Price & Conclusion

Long story short, Nissan offers one of the most affordable cars in Canada. It costs $10.488 if you choose manual transmission as of October 2019. Last year it was cheaper than $10.000 but they added rearview camera and 7″ screen which bumped the price around $500. If you want to get the automatic, which increased the price up to $14,298. Actually, it is a big bump, to be honest, but it also comes with air conditioning, as well as cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls. If you want everything that is available in a Micra, you need to choose the SR trim, but it costs $17.598 + tax.

When we check the competition, there are a few important differences:

Toyota Yaris: It is a strong contender with proven reliability and good resale value, but it has significantly higher MSRP. In fact, you can get the Micra with Automatic transmission for the same price Yaris with the manual.
Mitsubishi Mirage: It is $500 more expensive than the Micra, and it has worse resale value, fewer cylinders & horsepower, significantly less interior space. However, it comes with a better warranty.
Chevrolet Spark: It is the only option in this class cheaper than the Micra ($9995) in 2019. However, it has a smaller engine with less horsepower, significantly less overall cargo space, legroom, and headroom.
Fiat 500: This is an iconic Fiat model that starts at $22.495. So you can literally get two Micra S for the price of one 500. Although they are in the same segment, their target market is completely different and not comparable to each other.

For the price, Nissan Micra is a strong contender in its class

Our overall takeaway from our Micra test drive is, some people just need to get from A to B. Nissan Micra with the S trim is a great alternative if you are that kind of person. This car is a great example that an affordable car can also be fun at the same time. Of course, you won’t find many features inside, but it offers the most interior space in this price range, as well as a comfortable ride and peppy engine which can easily get you around the city and some short-trips on the highway.

Some of our takeaways are

+ Good fuel economy

+ Price

+ Peppy engine characteristics

+ Suspension is tuned really well for this price range

Things can be improved

-It needs 6th gear, as gear ratios are short for better acceleration

-Seat cloth material feels cheap

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

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

2019 BMW M850i xDrive Cabriolet

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

Exterior and Interior

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engine and Drivetrain

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

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

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

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

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

Overall driving impressions & features

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

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

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

Pricing and Conclusion

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

Some of our takeaways are:

+ Great driving comfort

+ Overall interior quality

+ Excellent drivetrain and performance

Things need to be improved:

– No Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is not free

– Hardtop option must be available for refined driving experience

– Despite being great in most parts, it lacks character

– Base MSRP is higher than the competitors

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

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

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

Mitsubishi Then And Now

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

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

Engine and Powertrain

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

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

Interior

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

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

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

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

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

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

A beautifully designed vehicle overall

Driving Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

Pricing

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

http://www.mitssubishi-motors.ca

Article and Photos by Varol McKars

2019 Ford Explorer Platinum in Thousand Islands

Overview

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

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

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

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

Engine and Powertrain

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

A visit to Kingston usually starts near the historic City Hall

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

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

Driving Impressions

Driving WB at 401 around Trenton while facing the sunset

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

Crossing the Cataraqui River in Kingston

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Article and Photos by: Varol McKars