We may say -with some exaggregation- that we are on the threshold of the widespread electrification of the automobile.
While the market share of BEV’s (battery electric vehicles) is still well below 5 percent in North America, we are in a transitional period that Tesla triggered for less than 10 years ago. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles connecting old and new technology may play an important role in this transition. All major automakers, the Volkswagen Group, in particular, have plans and ambitions to launch several new models with varying degrees of electrification over the next 2 to 5 years. Hybrids to plug-ins and BEV’s (battery electric vehicle).
It will probably take at least another decade or two before we completely get rid of ICE and while relying more and more on supporting infrastructure. Hence, depending on your mobility needs and style, hybrids (and plug-in-hybrids) could be a sensible alternative for people who drive high-mileage, such as taxi or Uber drivers or people, who drive a lot in the city traffic or in general.
Mitsubishi is probably not a brand that you will immediately associate with electrification. The third and last member of the already troubled Renault-Nissan Alliance, Mitsubishi is tight on the R & D budget and keeps its models longer on the market. Anything beyond and except SUV’s and crossovers with a Mitsubishi logo is slowly dying. This old and reputable Japanese brand almost entirely focuses on SUV’S recently, which makes sense considering the direction of the market.
The Outlander is a compact SUV and can be counted as the backbone of its model range. And the Outlander PHEV, is the best selling- SUV in North America and Europe. Because the company was and is smart enough to offer a plug-in-hybrid SUV, a product that nobody else offers (at least until now)
The “three-diamonds” vehicle has twin 80 horsepower electric motors linked to a 12kWh lithium-ion battery complemented by a 2.0L gasoline engine with 117 horsepower. As per Mitsu, Outlander PHEV’s total torque is 250lb-ft.
The Three Diamonds
The Japanese brand called “Three Diamonds” (Mitsubishi’s meaning) has a rich and deep history with cars like Lancer, a frequent winner of rallies in 1980’s, Pajero, once one of the world’s best and most durable off-road vehicles and Eclipse, a great sports car. Mitsubishi says the Outlander is the world’s most technically-advanced four-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid that, among other things, offers 100 percent electric 4WD capability. It features a 2.0-liter gas engine (uses regular unleaded), two electric motors and they say it has DC fast-charging capability that provides an 80 percent charge in under 30 minutes). And this vehicle is an SUV. Do you want anything else?
The Outlander is not a brand-new model and honestly due for replacement. another mid-life refresh will not be enough. Considering Mitbubishi’s model policy, it will not be a surprise to see this model on the markets for a couple of more years.
This third-generation model is on sale since January 2013 as a plug-in hybrid model called Outlander PHEV. Cumulative global sales passed the 200,000 unit milestone in April 2019, and according to JATO Dynamics, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the world’s all-time best selling plug-in hybrid since December 2018. As of 2019, Europe is the leading market with 126,617 units sold through January 2019. The Outlander PHEV was the top-selling plug-in electric vehicle in Europe in 2014 and again in 2015, and has ranked as Europe’s best-selling plug-in hybrid car for four years running, 2015 to 2018. Both in 2014 and 2015, it also ranked as the world’s top-selling plug-in hybrid, and as the third best selling plug-in car after the all-electric Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf.
An impressive performance. Not because Mitsubishi is a leader in electrification, but that acted so smart to find a niche for an affordable, electrified and practical vehicle, which could only be an SUV.
We made the Outlander PHEV part of our daily life for one week.
Inside, everything you would need and want in today’s modern vehicles is there, whether standard or optional. As a compact crossover, its is part of the most popular and highly competitive segment in Canada. Still, you detect the (non-)existence of some features, such as a classic Radio button. We also noted something weird. Driving at night needs some improvement because interior lighting is weaker than it should be. I have to give credit to my son, who noted this first.
Our tester, top-of-the line had heated steering wheel and front seats which were very convenient in very cold mornings of January.
In terms of infotainment features, the Outlander is not short of its competitors. The 18-centimeter touchscreen, Smartphone Link Display Audio with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, FAST-key entry and push-button ignition system, rear-view camera, seven airbags, satellite radio (plus AM and FM for local stations), plug-ins for smartphones in its entirely offer all the conveniences a modern vehicle offers.
During our one-week test drive, which was mostly on snowy roads of the GTA, it handled well and showed its performance as an AWD vehicle. The seats were very comfortable and honestly exceeded our expectations.
There is a reason (or a number of reasons) why the Outlander PHEV is so popular. The all-electric range of 35 kilometers is sufficient for many riders driving between home and work in the city. The distance between my home and work is 45 kilometers and I need some “gasoline boost, which is still good. I was also lucky enough to have fast-charging stations at Yorkdale Shopping Mall, which is three kilometers from my office. So, with somewhat good planning, I could spare a visit to the gas station for a long time. I love to have a break at Yorkdale for my daily walking routine which makes an excellent opportunity to charge the car in the meantime. Even if you need some gas to complete your trip, it will be very affordable and you will never have a problem with range anxiety like with a BEV. However, if you want to rely on your regular 110V outlet at home, you can almost forget it, since it may take very long and beyond any practicality. Of course, if you are dedicated to electric driving to such an extent, you may consider installing a fast-charging outlet in your garage.
With a starting MSRP of 44K, this model is affordable and offers a good value proposition. Our tester, in SEL trim level starts at C$ 47,500. (See the spec sheet below) Mitsubishi Canada’s 10-year, a 160,000-kilometre powertrain warranty, is also a strong argument to buy this or any Mitsubishi product.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL / Features andSpecifications
Canada’s first twin electric-motor SUV with Super All-Wheel-Control
Canada’s only plug-in hybrid SUV to offer 100% electric 4WD capability
Canada’s only plug-in hybrid SUV with DC Fast Charging capability, (providing – 80 percent charge in under 30 minutes)
Canada’s only plug-in hybrid with a remarkable 10-year or 160,000 km powertrain warranty, 10-year/160,000 km lithium-ion battery warranty and five-year or 100,000 km comprehensive warranty
8-inch Smartphone Link Display standard through price lines
Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
18” alloy wheels
Halogen head lamps
Mirrors with Turn lamp
4-wheel disc with ABS
Bluetooth + USB
Heated front seats
Power driver seat
8”-inch Smartphone Link Display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Okay, since the 1990s, SUVs are the most popular type of vehicle people prefer. They are selling like hotcakes. They offer practicality, comfort and all-wheel drive option altogether in one package. Practicality and comfort don’t sound that exciting, this is why there are many people who hate SUVs as they claim it makes their soul die when they drive it.
However, not all SUVs are the same. Premium brands such as BMW offer SUVs with some soul in it. This week’s tester is the X3M with Competition Package. It is a utilitarian vehicle with an animal under the hood. The question is, does it deserve the “M” and “Competition” badge? In this article, we will try to find it out.
Engine and Drivetrain
As always, we should start with the heart of a car with the “M” badge. It comes with a 3.0 Liter, 6-cylinder turbocharged engine which pumps out 503 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. Like many other BMWs, this has 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission. It only comes with all-wheel drive, and it is able to get to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, despite being heavier than 5500 pounds. These numbers are extremely impressive for a utility vehicle. However, if you don’t need all 503 horsepower to go to grocery shopping, you can opt-out the Competition package which comes with 473 horsepower with an only 0.1-second penalty for 0-60 mph. In our test, we couldn’t care less about fuel consumption as potential buyers also should not care about it, but we can definitely say it is over 15.0L / 100 km/h if you drive spiritedly.
Exterior and Interior
Are you a car guy, or average Joe? You will immediately identify the X3M if you are a car guy, as it comes with bigger wheels, sporty front bumper, unique black grille, grille in the front fenders, M side mirrors, unique rear spoiler, and different M specific rear bumper. Not only that, but it comes with M calipers which are significantly better and painted from the factory. Sorry, but it still looks like a regular X3 if you are an average Joe.
When you get inside the X3M-C, you feel high-quality materials and great craftsmanship, like a BMW tradition. Lots of soft-touch plastics, leather, aluminum and carbon trims placed all around the interior. Though it is heavily relied on infotainment system to use many of its features, there are still actual buttons that you can use for adjusting the air conditioning, radio, cruise control, suspension setup and so on. The combination of technology while keeping actual buttons for essential features mean you are not screwed if the technology fails in the future, so the X3M will still be drivable.
Interior wise, X3M-C differs itself from a regular X3 by few important changes. Different trims such as carbon fiber, M specific two-colored sporty seats, M buttons in the steering wheel, few “M” badges in the interior and that’s it.
Should I give you a spoiler? This feels like a sports car in every circumstance. You should not expect a super comfortable ride, however, the struts are super-complaint that it is not overly stiff, but there is no body roll at all. The steering feels like M3, chassis feels like M3, engine, and transmission are a beast to drive. However, the difference is, when you turn your head back, you have tons of legroom and cargo room. It is quite impressive BMW was able to offer M3 driving dynamics in an SUV. Of course, if you go to the track and compete with any M car, it would fall behind, but who buys an SUV for the track? This is an excellent car for public roads and overpowered for our highways, which are unfortunately limited at 100 km/h.
Let’s go back to the engine and transmission for a second. This 6-cylinder S58 engine has tons of torque in the whole rpm range. It is a rev-happy engine that goes all the way up to 7600 rpm and it shifts really quickly. Maybe not as fast as M3 or M4, but quick enough for an SUV. Regardless of which gear you are in, the car just wants to move without downshifting which makes it extremely easy to drive on the highway, back roads or city roads.
We think the all-wheel-drive system deserves a few words. Like most of the BMWs, this has rear-wheel drive biased AWD system. In our tests, there was a snowstorm in Ontario so we had a chance to see its limits and how capable it is. If you disable the traction and stability control, which is extremely easy to do unlike the other German vehicles, some even won’t allow you to fully disable, the X3M-C can easily go sideways and it is a joy to drive in every type of road surface. X3M-C offers two types of different AWD tune, which is Normal and Sport mode. In Sport mode, it can transfer up to 100% of the power to the rear whereas, in Normal mode, the car will send more power to the front. Either way, you feel that it always sends power to the rear first and then the front.
Pricing and Features
Fast & Good & Cheap – You need to pick two of them. This rule is also applicable to BMW X3M Competition. Like the other BMW’s, you need to take the “Cheap” part out of the equation. For X3M-C, the word “cheap” is replaced with “Practical”. Normal X3M starts from $86,454.73 and if you choose the Competition pack, it starts at $96,764.73 as of February 2020. If you choose the Ultimate Package, which comes with M Carbon Exterior Package, Front & Rear Heated and Ventilated seats, M Driver’s Package, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wireless Charging, Driving Assistant Plus, Parking Assistant Plus with Surround View, Manual Rear Side Sunshades that costs $10,000 extra and there are few more extras. So, we are looking at more than $110,000 before tax, PDI and delivery. Yes, that’s the premium if you want the “Fast, Good and Practical”.
Things could have been better:
Price – Our tester’s price is over $110.000 CAD. You should not expect a great deal if we are talking about an SUV, especially the one which is extremely capable of doing everything great. This “Fast SUV” is a niche segment and you have to pay the premium to play. If you opt-out for Competition package, which we doubt that most people need it, you can save a lot of money. However, at the end of the day, you are still paying a lot of money for an X3.
Adaptive Cruise Control – This was not as good as the latest generation 3 series. It always asks you to keep your hands on the steering wheel, unlike our M340i tester from last year. Though it stops and starts moving pretty smoothly, still we would expect the latest technology in the $100.000+ vehicle.
Exhaust system – We wouldn’t complain if this was not a Competition version. However, we were expecting a louder exhaust in our tester. This is perfectly fine for regular X3M, but it just needs to get louder for X3M-C.
Shifter paddles – Okay, for a true “M” and “Competition” car, it must not be plastic. Although it feels high quality, it must be metal, like the one in M3-M4 or any other M cars. You can always change with aftermarket ones, but why bother since you pay over $100.000 for a sporty SUV?
Like any other BMW M car, the M4 (which was previously an M3 Coupe) is still perfectly capable of offering the Ultimate Driving Pleasure. So nothing really surprising here.
However, what makes it interesting is, BMW replaced the soft-top with a metal top, for more rigidity and road comfort, which makes it unique in its class. Same BMW used soft-top in its Gran Tourer, the 8 series, but not in M series. Isn’t that weird?
2020 is going to be the last year of current generation M4, which is based on the previous generation of 3-Series. In our test, we will see how does the M badge goes along with four-seat practicality and the bulky hard top.
Exterior and Interior
BMW M4 was first released in 2014 and it still keeps main design elements both interior and exterior. Convertible M4 comes with a metal roof, which offers a more comfortable and silent driving experience at higher speeds, at the expense of more weight. Though, when the roof closed, it looks almost identical with M4 coupe. There are some major differences compared to the regular 4 series. M specific wheels, bumpers, diffusers, fenders, hood, mirrors, quad tailpipes are all different and make the M4 look better and more special.
When we get inside the M4, it has typical BMW quality. Lots of leather, soft-touch plastics, and some carbon fiber trims. It is still a 4 seater but there is little to no rear legroom in the 4 series. This car is really not for 4 adults. Front seats are both supportive and comfortable which come with 14-way power-adjustable sport seats. Unlike the new 3 series, 4-Series hasn’t been updated yet, so it comes with older interior design which we still like it. There are still lots of physical buttons and they are pretty easy to use. It has a nice combination of technology implementation while still keeping buttons for essential features for longevity.
Engine & Drivetrain
This is the most fun part of this car. The M4 comes with a 6 cylinder twin-turbo engine that produces 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. However, as it is a cabriolet, it is approximately 500 pounds heavier which is over 4100 lbs. Surprisingly, M4 is available with a manual transmission option, but you can also choose a 7-speed dual-clutch DCT transmission. The transmission is a perfect match for a 6-speed inline engine, and they send power exclusively to the rear wheels. In the rear, it comes with M limited-slip differential, which is a must in this class.
If you choose Competition Package, it offers extra “whopping” 19 horsepower for a total of 444 horsepower. Though its extra weight, the M4 Convertible is able to reach from 0 to 100 km/h around 4.5 seconds. This level of power, feeding two turbocharges and added weight means more fuel consumption. In our tests, M4 consumed approximately 13.0L / 100 km in mixed driving circumstances.
Okay, at the end of the day, it is a true M car. This car is overpowered for public roads, and it will be dangerous for an average Joe if he turns off the stability control. However, if you are an enthusiast, you always appreciate having silky smooth inline-6, twin turbocharger, dual-clutch DCT (or manual), and a limited-slip differential. Unlike regular “sporty” BMWs, M4 comes with metal paddle shifters and they feel great when you shift manually. It literally encourages you to drive harder, and use it in manual mode all the time.
Driving a Convertible is fun in the summertime, but for an M car, there are significant disadvantages. It has less body rigidity, worse weight distribution. The M4 Convertible cannot beat physics, so this is where it gets confusing. You must decide if you need convertible, or need a true sports car, or both. If you need both, this is an excellent car, but you shouldn’t expect it to be perfect for being both.
As it is 500 lbs heavier than the coupe, it feels slower and heavier for a true sports car. It is not as sharp, or nimble. Not only it feels slow, but having so much torque and weight gives rear wheels hard time. As it is a twin-turbo, it has lots of torque in the low rpm and you must have great road conditions to successfully transfer that amount of torque when you are accelerating. You must be really careful with the throttle or it will constantly spin the rear tires in bad weather and road conditions. This should not be a problem as you shouldn’t get a convertible if you are serious about having the best lap time in track day or autocross. If having a convertible is your priority, this is an extremely fun and powerful car and it is capable of putting a smile on your face every time you drive it spiritedly.
Features and Pricing
As always, it has lots of optional features. Our tester comes with the Ultimate Package, which is a hefty $26,000 premium for Adaptive M suspension, 20″ wheels, Storage Compartment Package, M Seat belts, Park Distance Control, Adaptive Full LED Headlights, High-Beam Assistant, Active Blind Spot Detection, Surround View, Head-Up Display, SiriusXM, Wireless Charging, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Black Kidney Grille, Competition Package, M Driver’s Package, Carbon Fibre Front Inserts and Mirrors, Titanium Exhaust with Carbon Tips, and Carbon Fibre Rear Diffuser. For all features list, please visit www.bmw.ca
The infotainment system is user-friendly and easy to search around. However, it still lacks Android Auto. Unlike the 3-series, this generation 4 series hasn’t been updated yet, so it still has older technologies, so some of them are not on par with the other (newer) BMW models. For instance, the Adaptive Cruise control system is not as good as the new 3-Series. However, when it comes to features, you can’t go wrong with BMW as long as you pay the premium.
The M4 Convertible starts at $89,000 CAD and if you choose the Ultimate Package and M DCT automatic transmission, it goes all the way up to $118,900. It is true that you are paying a huge premium to have a true sports car heart with a convertible body. Unless you really need a convertible car, you can get a lot faster M cars for significantly cheaper. For the price, you are getting into M5 / M5 Competition territory which offers way more horsepower, more fun, more precise driving experience, more functionality, and more daily driveable car.
It Started With A Surprise. And Not A Pleasant One
Our first encounter with the Pathfinder was something unexpected. As we were going to pick up the vehicle in Mississauga on Monday morning of the Christmas week, the vehicle was back from a very long journey deep in the USA. The windscreen got small chips along the legendary Route 66. And the hot, pressurized water at the automated carwash station turned these chips to three large cracks intersecting on the driver side of the windscreen. Bhu Kapur of Media Fleet, the company managing media fleets of several makes, acted fast and coordinated the same-day ordering of this critical part and made an afternoon appointment with Nissan Willowdale in Toronto.
As we arrived there around 5.30 p.m., John Lim, the service manager took the matter into his own hands and the Pathfinder got a brand new windscreen in about half an hour. At the same time, they also removed the rooftop cargo carrier that we wouldn’t need during our test drives and would be a problem when entering underground parking garages. So, before we really drove Nissan’s SUV, we happened to experience a service visit to a dealership, which was great.
Drivetrain & Driving Impressions
Nissan Pathfinder comes with one engine option. It is a 3.5L V6 naturally aspirated engine that produces 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. This engine has been used by Nissan for a really long time, including the other models. However, this one is heavily updated few years ago with new direct-injection, new pistons, and variable valve timing. It comes with Continuously Variable Transmission which mimics gears of traditional automatic transmission.
This CVT transmission, unlike the other Nissan models, has more towing capacity. Pathfinder can tow 3,500 lbs weight which is quite impressive for a CVT. Engine and transmission are matched well and they operate extremely smoothly, which you would expect it from a 3-row SUV. In our tests, Pathfinder had 11.5L /100 km fuel consumption, which is average in this class, but not too bad for a V6, considering there are some entries switched to turbocharged 4 cylinders in this segment.
Although Nissan Pathfinder doesn’t have a front or rear locking differentials, it offers center locking differential system which distributes 50/50 of power equal to the front and rear. There are three different options and it is pretty easy to use. The first one is 2WD mode, which the car moves with only front wheels. The second one is the Auto mode, which distributes the torque front and rear depending on the situation. The third one is the locking mode, which always sends same power regardless of the terrain. In our tests, it improves overall traction when you are in the mud. This locking feature is also getting rare, as all SUVs are getting softer and less off-road capable.
When we drive the Pathfinder, we immediately felt that it is a big SUV, and it is not trying to hide this. It has a front biased all-wheel-drive system as the V6 is a transverse engine, this won’t offer a fun-filled driving experience. This is an SUV meant for comfort and being smooth. With the 3.5L V6 engine and CVT, this is one of the most comfortable entries in this segment. The V6 engine likes to rev, and it has lots of torque in the mid-range rpm. The suspension is tuned extremely well, it is not too stiff or too soft. The overall ride quality is excellent for this price range.
Exterior & Interior
The third-generation Pathfinder, which was launched in 2013, was refreshed in 2017. Most changes were made on the exterior, which still looks modern especially for a platform that is 7 years old. In the interior, it cannot hide its age, as the design gets old. There are no soft-touch plastics on the dashboard. There are only some soft-touch on the door panels, which falls behind the competition. However, where you usually touch is usually leather, soft-touch plastic or well-padded surface so you won’t feel any cheapness.
Pathfinder is a big SUV, and that means it has tons of interior space. We were able to put 65” TV and there were even lots of space left. It is an extremely practical SUV if you are looking for carrying big stuff or hauling people. Both the second and third rows can fold down and it can be a fully flat surface all the way to the front seats. Access to the third row is easy, and it is easy to fold back the seats when you need more space. There are lots of legroom in the second row and the third row is not too bad. However, the third row is not the most comfortable as the floor is located high so you need to keep your legs in a higher position, which is not good for long trips. However, if you are planning to have more than 5 people regularly, maybe you should take a look into a minivan segment.
Features & Pricing
Our tester was the SV Rock Creek trim, which is a special edition that comes with few more exterior and interior visual features. However, there is no mechanical difference compared to normal version. All trims still come with center locking differential. Rock Creek model comes with unique 18-inch dark-finished wheels and black-molded fender guards, as well as roof rails with black accents.
OK, let’s go back to our tester. As mentioned previously, the infotainment system looks old, as it has been on the market for more than 6 years. However, it is easy to use and not too slow compared to today’s standards. It is unfortunately still missing the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which could be a deal-breaker for some people. Considering they are readily available in almost all other Nissan vehicles, this should have been included for a car costs more than $40.000. Not only that, but there are some half-baked technologies implemented in the Pathfinder. For instance, Adaptive Cruise control is available, but it doesn’t have fully stop and go technology. It will disable itself once the vehicle fully stops, and it starts to creep. Also, the car comes with LED low beams, but it was missing LED high beams. We would expect fully LED headlights from a 3-row SUV.
There are some safety features that are available in Pathfinder. For instance, Blind spot monitoring, front collision warning are some of them. Also, there are memory seats, heated steering wheel, Bose premium sound system, tri-zone climate control which are some nice comfort features. Overall this is an SUV fully focused on the overall driver and passenger comfort. It can still keep up with the competition if you are not a tech-savvy person and looking for driving smoothness and comfort. Nissan Pathfinder starts at $36,500 with the S trim and it goes all the way up to $49,500 with the Platinum trim. Since this has been on the market for a long time, it is easy to find a great deal if you shop around as there is intense competition in the SUV market. This could actually be a great option if you find a great deal in Nissan dealer.
Article and Pictures by Dan Gunay and Varol McKars
Hyundai’s SUV Family now consists of five models. This is an expression of Hyundai’s success and passion to fill every gap in its model range. With the recent addition of Venue, The Korean company has no reason to complain. There is a Hyundai SUV for every budget and taste now. As per Automotive News, in the USA in 2019, SUV’s made up 53 percent of Hyundai sales south of the border. In Canada, the picture should not be much different. The Kona, introduced in late 2017 and sold in North America since 2018 in one of the three top-selling models in Canada.
Exterior and Interior
Kona has Hyundai’s main design elements. It looks similar to its bigger sisters, Santa Fe and Palisade. It has daytime running lights on top, and low/high beams placed at the bottom. It is a small sized SUV, but it has sporty design elements. That being said, there are some design features such as side plastic protection covers to make it look more rugged.
The interior of the Kona looks similar to the Veloster. There are lots of common parts used in many Hyundai models. There is some soft and hard touch plastics, which is expected for this price range. Where it falls behind is the overall legroom, especially in the rear. It is one of the smallest entries in the subcompact SUV class. However, front seats are really comfortable and have sufficient legroom and headroom. The driver’s seating position is also comfortable, and it feels more like a car rather than an SUV, this is where you feel that it is a driver-oriented SUV.
Overall user-friendliness is very good. You only need few minutes to get used to layout if you are new to a Hyundai. The instrument cluster and the infotainment screen are easy to use. Important features have dedicated buttons, so it is not 100% relying on the digital screen/infotainment system.
Speaking of the infotainment system, it is very good. For this price range, it is one of the best in its class. It also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is a car that is designed for Millennials and young people, so that’s why there are lots of modern features available. If you choose the top trim, it comes with an 8-way power-adjustable driver seat, lumbar support, a head-up display, an 8-inch color touchscreen, wireless charging, heated steering wheel, sunroof, lane keep assist, and so on. Please visit https://www.hyundaicanada.com/en/showroom/2020/kona/specs for more details.
Engine and Drivetrain
Hyundai Kona comes with two different engines depending on the trim. Lower trims come with a 2.0L naturally aspirated engine which produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. If you choose upper trims, it comes with a 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 175 horsepower and 193 lb-ft of torque. This 1.6 turbo engine offers the most horsepower in the subcompact SUV class, and due to its size, it makes the car really peppy. It is not super fast, but it is fast enough for daily driving and easy to use due to its torque curve. Our tester’s fuel consumption was 9.5L / 100 km which is quite impressive for an All wheel drive vehicle.
Kona also comes with two different automatic transmission options. The base engine is matched with 6-speed torque converter automatic transmission, whereas the 1.6 turbo engine has the 7-speed Dual-clutch transmission. In our tests, the 7-speed transmission is almost as smooth as torque converter automatic, but there are few occasions where you feel jerkiness and rough shifting especially when it gets hot.
Speaking of getting hot, if you are planning to take the Kona to off-road, dual-clutch transmissions are not the best option. As it is an automated manual transmission, it still has clutch operation, and if you do off-roading, it will overheat. This is where you should consider regular torque converter automatic transmission option.
Regardless of the transmission, Kona is not a heavy-duty off-road vehicle and the AWD system is not designed for that. It is an on-demand system and it activates rear wheels whenever it needs. If you drive it normally, it sends power to the front wheels only.
This is where Kona shines, compared to some other subcompact SUVs. Due to its peppy engine, it makes Kona fun to drive. This is one of the most driver-oriented option in this segment. What we didn’t like about Kona is, you are not allowed to fully disable the stability control. You can disable the traction control and stability control, but the car will get involved whenever you try to go sideways. We would like to disable it fully to get the most out of the all-Wheel Drive system, especially from a driver-oriented SUV.
Overall steering feeling and handling are nice, though you are sitting noticeably higher in Kona, than a compact hatchback or sedan. That means you have a significantly higher center of gravity, so it is not a corner carver by any means. However, it is quite impressive considering this is a subcompact SUV.
Pricing and Conclusion
Hyundai Kona starts at $21,249 and goes all the way up to $32,249. If you want absolute base trim but need All Wheel Drive, it starts at $27,149. Kona offers great features for the price range, we believe this is one of the best bang for the buck in its class. If you need a small SUV that offers lots of features and easy to use, definitely check out the new Kona.
Great engine and transmission combination (on pavement)
Great driving dynamics
Lots of features for this price range
Ease of use – buttons, infotainment, gauge cluster
When the MINI Cooper came back to North America in 2002, it offered driving excitement and British design elements together. Since then, it has matured a lot, but it still keeps its basic design features in 2019. Small size, boxy body lines, contrasting roof, big LED round headlights are the main features which every people can recognize it from miles away.
Although BMW decided to go with different body types of MINIs, this is the original design dates back to 1960s. Yes, it should still be considered as a hot-hatch in our book. This MINI still feels like go-kart which differentiates it from the others while still having BMW features and tech. The S badge makes it the sportier edition.
To be honest, there are not many things changed in the interior lately. If you are a MINI fan, you know this interior already. The big infotainment screen placed right in the middle, gauge cluster is fixed to the steering column, infotainment controls located in a very inconvenient location where your armrest gets in the way, and a handbrake which is placed right beside the infotainment buttons and you always end up pressing infotainment buttons while you are trying it to pull the handbrake. The priority of MINI is more of the looks than being functional, and we totally get it.
Although it is made in Germany, it is harder to find the typical BMW interior quality as there are semi-hard touch plastics all around the cabin. It is still better than the competition, but if you are looking for high-quality materials or craftsmanship, MINI may not be the best option for you.
MINI is trying to be “Mini”, and you will immediately feel that there is no rear legroom or cargo space in MINI Cooper. The front legroom and headroom is not bad. Considering its small dimensions and its driver-focused design, this should not be an important problem for potential buyers.
Engine and Drivetrain
2019 Cooper S has still the same drivetrain, nothing really changed. 2.0 liter 4 cylinder turbocharged engine produces 189 horsepower and 207 ft/lb torque which BMW also uses. You can adjust the torque curve by choosing different driving modes, and we really like the Sport mode as it allows the most torque down low RPMs which makes it super fun and agile in the city. It also comes with 6-speed Steptronic transmission which shifts pretty quickly and smoothly. However, we are hoping that BMW offers paddle shifters as this is still a sporty hatchback, it definitely deserves it for sporty driving. In 2020 models, BMW ditched the 6-speed Steptronic transmission and changed it with a 7-speed Dual Clutch transmission which is more suitable for sporty driving.
Another thing that BMW should offer at least as an option with Cooper S is it also doesn’t come with limited-slip differential but stability control system mimics the limited-slip by applying the brake to the inner wheel when you are cornering. However, if you completely disable the traction and stability control, it also stops applying brakes which means you are on your own with an open diff front-wheel drive hatchback, which is not the ideal combination.
Speaking of cornering, this is one of the best parts about owning a Cooper S. It handles really well, despite having no limited-slip differential. Although it is a front-wheel drive, due to its short wheelbase, the car is always tail-happy at the limit, and understeers less than a regular front-wheel-drive car. The suspension is tuned on the stiffer side, which is good for sporty driving but not the best if you daily drive it as you have to be careful with the potholes. The steering feel is on the heavier side as well, it can get softer by switching comfort or eco mode, which I felt more natural when it was softer. Unfortunately, you cannot customize your selections, so you have to go either Sport mode for best low-mid range torque usability and best throttle response or Comfort mode for the best steering feeling but then you have to deal with delayed throttle response.
Many people would want to stay either in Comfort and Sport mode depending on their driving circumstances in a sporty hatchback and this is totally understandable. However, BMW offers an interesting quirk with MINI. In Eco mode, MINI allows you to coast when you go downhill. Normally if you go downhill and leave the car in D, it will keep the RPMs at a certain level but that means engine braking so the car will eventually slow down. However, in MINI’s Eco mode, the car decreases the RPMs almost to idling level so that the car will engine break less that means it can coast more without giving any throttle input, this is a really smart way of implementing Eco mode, despite it requires a lot of patience driving it every day especially when climbing uphill.
Our particular tester is the 60 Years Edition which is a special edition for the 60th Year Anniversary of the first MINI Cooper on the road. This unit also has the most traditional color combo, called British Racing Green and Pepper White roof & Mirror Caps as well as hood stripes. This special edition comes with special 17″ rims, Leather Steering Wheel with 60th Anniversary badge, as well as special interior surfaces, Leather Seats, 60 Years sticker on the hood and so on. You have to pay the premium to get the special edition, which costs around $6900.
MINI Cooper S starts at $27,390 and there are three different trims. There are also endless different options and color combinations. It shouldn’t be hard to get closer to $40,000 range if you choose all the options. Our tester is priced at $35,690 and we think it is not overpriced considering you are getting one of the most popular hot-hatches on the market which is made by BMW (in Germany) with great driving dynamics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Strong Representative in The Compact Class
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
+ Excellent price-performance ratio
+ Rear biased All wheel drive system
+ Engine performance
+ Excellent interior quality
– Overall rear legroom, interior space
– Underwhelming transmission
– Missing some premium features such as auto start-stop and
digital instrument cluster
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Halifax, the capital of Canada’s Ocean Playground is a
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.
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.
This historic building now is the Canadian Museum of Immigration and to me personally, it is the number one place to visit in Halifax.
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.
We ate on the ground floor which was relatively quiet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.