Archive for Uncategorized

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T

When Hyundai introduced the first-generation Santa Fe in 2001, this was a milestone as the first SUV of the Korean brand and became a hit in North America. This was also a good move as the demand for SUV’s was going to grow exponentially in the following years.

In its 4th generation with the 2019 model year, The Santa Fe is a strong and mature contender in a hyper competitive yet growing SUV market.


The new gen Santa Fe’s design has even a name: “sensuous sportiness” is “visible” across the lineup. An elegant, fluid form, that gives (in my humble opinion) the vehicle a somewhat “organic” appearance. Particularly the front side has an untraditional look, where the headlights are located separately -and lower- than the daytime running lights. Rear design and taillights look more conventional, thus in total a great-looking SUV. Cargo space is one of the most appealing advantages of SUVs, and Santa Fe does not disappoint with a cargo capacity from 1,016 to 2,019 liters, which is larger than most of its rivals. It is offered as a 5-seater only, but an extended 7-seater version it will be offered soon. No rush, since The Koreans already have a full-size 7-seater already in the portfolio: The Palisade.

Inside Santa Fee

A well-designed and built interior increases joy of driving
The infotainment screen is well placed and easy to read

The interior offers lots of high quality – soft touch materials. Hyundai has one of the best infotainment systems, with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Santa Fe comes with lots of features, such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Forward-collision alert, Blind Spot Monitoring, Heated/Cooled seats – steering wheel, digital cluster, and GPS Navigation System. This Hyundai’s Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control work perfectly; as if well-prepared for autonomous driving especially on the highway. It is very smooth and accurate. Be aware, in Ontario (and most parts in the world) you are legally obliged to keep your hands on the steering wheel while you are driving, that’s why car reminds you to put your hands on the wheel after 15 seconds or it disables all driving assists. If they would’ve allowed drivers, I think Hyundai’s LKA and Adaptive Cruise system is capable of driving autonomously, at least on the highway.

Engine and Drivetrain

The 2.0L, GDI, turbo engine delivers good torque and you will never feel underpowered

Hyundai offers two different engines in Santa Fe. Base trim comes with naturally aspirated 2.4L four-cylinder engine which delivers 185 horsepower and 178 lb/ft of torque and available as FWD or AWD. Our tester comes with 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine generating 235 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission which shifts quickly and efficiently. It takes 7.8 seconds to get 100 km/h with the turbocharged 2.0L engine. Although it is not the fastest in its class, it is enough for the daily driving. It has a lot of torque in the mid-range, which is great for city and highways.

Driving Impressions

A beautiful design is a crucial selling point today more than ever

The 8-speed automatic transmission built in-house is not perfect, but good. It can get pretty hot if you try off-roading, especially on loose surface. It shifts fast, and it is a great match with the turbocharged engine.

Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive system works really well on pavement and slippery surfaces. However, you cannot disable the traction and electronic stability control completely, which causes some problems if you are willing to do lightweight off-roading. HTRAC system is a front-biased all-wheel-drive system, but you can change it and send it up to 50 percent of the power to the rear by changing the driving mode. When driving normally, the car pretty much gives power to the front axles only to get better fuel economy.

Speaking of fuel economy, you have to sacrifice a little bit, as you get more power with the turbocharger. Our test car consumed 13.5L per 100 km, which was a mixed driving in the city and highway. It is not a gas guzzler, but turbocharger plus heavy curb weight is not the best combination to save gas if you have heavy foot.


Santa Fe has a great ride quality with good handling characteristics. The suspension is comfortable, but not mushy. The steering feels nice and crisp, and it can be changed with different driving modes. The grip level is not as good as a sedan or compact car if you push it too hard when cornering, but potential buyers shouldn’t expect sports car level of handling anyway.  

The only part that we are not fully satisfied was the traction control system. The drivetrain and HTRAC system are really good, but their capabilities are severely restricted by the traction and stability control, which cannot be fully disabled and this is the reason why this car only belongs to the pavement or very lightweight off-road. If you don’t plan to take the Santa Fe off-road, then this SUV is for you.

North America is turning more and more to a SUV-Land

Overall, we really like driving the Santa Fe, as it offers great comfort, lots of features, good build quality, good power and acceptable fuel economy as a whole package. Potential buyers should skip the base 2.4L engine because they are going to regret not buying the turbocharged 2.0L engine, eventually. The Santa Fe starts from $28.999 and goes all the way up to $46.000.

Article and Photos by Varol McKars and Dan Gunay

2019 BMW X5 xDrive 40i

A mature and solid product after 20 years

In its 20th year, the X5 is the backbone of the BMW SUV family as a mature and solid product

The X5, BMW’s SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle, the definition BMW prefers instead of SUV) was the first SUV of the German brand which was introduced 20 years ago.

The fully digital and configurable instrument cluster

BMW launched the current model last summer as the fourth generation. The X5 offers two engine options; xDrive 40i and xDrive 50i. Our tester was a 40i with a 6 cylinder TwinPower turbo engine that delivers 335 horsepower.
This is a well-selling model and since its introduction, 2.4 million X5’s has been built in Spartanburg, SC. This production site is a center of competence and also handles production of the BMW X3, X4, X6 and recently then flagship SUV X7

With 42 mm more wheelbase and 36 mm in vehicle length rear passengers have more room

Already, the previous generation was a great vehicle with its driving dynamics. BMW had managed to build an SUV (aka SAV) with the driving characteristics of a sports car.

The base MSRP for X5 40i is $71,500. The price of our test was $96,300 with all bells and whistles. The total of options is $25,000 thus the price of a well-equipped middle-class car. Well, we are in BMW territory and the figures have a different meaning.

Design-wise, this generation of X5 is distinguishable by a larger, restyled kidney grille and adaptive LED headlights or optional laser lighting. Taillamps wrap around for a 3-D look. The wheel arches are more angular, too. Overall, the new model looks like a perfect evolution of the former and already mature SAV.

We are already familiar with the impressive driving characteristics of the X5 since we tested this SAV in the previous generations.

BMW says that the biggest X5 improvement lies off the pavement. The 2019 model marks the rollout of the optional off-road package with enhanced modes for snow, rocks, sand, and gravel, plus a rear-locking differential. Push a button to raise the suspension for better ground clearance. When the engine control unit detects water, the kidney grille closes and ride height is locked in place. If the SUV senses wheel slip on a rock, it adjusts the suspension to reduce the load in that area—the same principle relieves pressure on a flat tire.

In early summer days in Ontario, we did not have a chance bad weather and challenging off-road conditions and refrain from giving our opinion.


The rise of SUV’s, in all the segments, looks unstoppable. And the Bavarians are well positioned with products across the segments, from X1 to X7. With the BMW-typical built quality, driving dynamics and the overall image, the success in the luxury category is well secured.

Article and photos by Varol McKars

2019 Hyundai Veloster 1.6 Turbo

The Veloster has a more “coupe-like look from the left due to “missing” rear door

Hyundai Veloster is a great option if you are looking for a hothatch with a unique design. Hyundai kept the main design element in new generation Veloster, which there is no rear-left door, not even as an option. However, new generation Veloster looks so good, even I would say it is one of the best-looking cars in its segment. Hyundai improved overall design of the Veloster, as the previous gen looks like an ugly duck.

Driving Impressions
Speaking of the hot hatch segment, new Veloster has to compete with some serious rivals, such as Mini Cooper S, Honda Civic SI, Golf GTI and Ford Fiesta ST. Second generation Veloster comes with 1.6 liter turbocharged and the direct-injected four-cylinder engine, which produces 201 horsepower and 195 ft-lbs of torque.

1.6 liter turbocharged, the direct-injected four-cylinder engine generates 201 horsepower and 195 ft-lbs of torque.

Although almost all cars produce similar power in this segment, Veloster has a flat torque curve from 2000 rpm all the way up to 6000 rpm. It is surprisingly lightweight, and you feel it when you are driving, as it is really nimble on the road. Paired with 6-speed manual transmission and short gear ratios, it is really fun to drive it daily.

With the new generation Veloster, structural rigidity is increased with the new multi-link rear suspension, which is getting harder to find it in newer cars. Hyundai also added gas pressurized struts. It comes with 225/45/R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires, and it definitely helps with overall cornering ability. The car handles great on the street with torque vectoring control feature. TVC acts like limited slip differential which electronically applies braking force to the inside front wheel when you drive it hard. Although it is a more cost-effective solution rather than using a real limited slip differential, but it works really well in public roads. Overall riding quality is really good and on par with the other sporty hothatches.

Interior & Features

Interior design and quality are the most surprising part for me. A few years ago, Korean cars were not able to compete even with their Japanese rivals. It is not the case anymore. Of course, you would not expect luxury features or high quality in this segment, there are lots of hard touch plastics in Veloster, but it feels sturdy and there are no panel gaps on the dash. It would be better if they used soft-touch plastics, however, this is not a deal breaker for potential buyers. Other than that, you will find heated seats, steering wheel, leather seats, heads-up display, Infinity sound system, and navigation system in the top trim.

What Hyundai makes really good is the infotainment system. Screen resolution is great, software looks modern, and it has all the information driver may need. It also comes with Satellite Radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. My opinion is infotainment system in the Veloster makes the biggest difference against its rivals, and it is really easy to find what you are looking for.

Overall, Hyundai Veloster is not only a hot hatch for spirited driving, but also it can be great daily car with its features. It starts at $20,999 and goes up to $28.899 MSRP. We think it is priced fair and it offers great bang for the buck. It may not be the best option for families, as it has to sacrifice rear passenger area due to its coupe design, but the rear-right door helps people utilizing rear seat area. If you are not into driving a manual, you can choose 7-speed DCT transmission which is $1000 extra.

Article and photos by Dan Gunay

2019 BMW i3

Entering The EV Era

The design, to me is not far from a minivan, especially in the front. Inside, you feel a bigger vehicle that it actually is

On July 29th, 2013, as a 2014 model, the first i-BMW had its global launch simultaneously in London, Beijing, and New York.

This was a big step for the Bavarian manufacturer to enter the EV-market and create the i-subbrand.

With the 2019 model year, BMW introduced a better i3. Compared to the first model, the current i3 has 120-ampere-hours (Ah) battery, doubled from 60. The gross energy content is now 42.2-kilowatt hours (kWh) enabling a range of up to 246 kilometers, nearly a 30 percent improvement from the previous, 94Ah model. Our tester, the i3 REX has and a range extender, a small, 2-cylinder gasoline engine acting as a generator to charge the battery.

My first encounter with the i3 was in BMW Museum in Munich in 2015

My first driving experience with the i3 was in 2015, in Munich, Germany. As I was leading a group of international students from Seneca College on a European tour with many car fans, we did not skip the BMW Museum. During this visit, I accepted an invitation to be driven in an i3. This short drive was within the museum, indoors. It was a bit weird experience. I was sitting in a car with a simple, light and not so luxurious interior. The hidden rear doors opening in the opposite direction without the fixed B-pillars gave comfortable access to the not-so-roomy back seats.

Lack of fixed B-pillars allows easier access to the tight rear seats

After four years, we, as the AutoAndroad Team had the opportunity for a closer look. First of all, this car will not disappoint you when it comes to driving pleasure. The acceleration and road-holding are great. Even if it is the nature of EV’s due to instant torque and low center of gravity, BMW refined the powertrain and chassis as you would expect from a luxury manufacturer. The airy cabin with a distant sitting position from the tall windscreen makes you feel sitting in a bigger car than it actually is. BMW meanwhile has given the i3 an interior that’s unlike any other small car there’s ever been, with panels made from recycled plastic, optional wood inserts that curve along the top of the dash, and not one but two TFT screens giving it a somewhat contemporary feel.

Charging the i3 at the Yorkdale Shopping Mall in Toronto. A problem with my Chargepoint account caused some stress and waste of time

The i3 is a small yet important product for BMW to build its i sub-brand of electric vehicles. But, this is not a car for everybody for sure. The i3 is a car purely for city driving. A second or even third vehicle of a wealthy family that chooses to leave its powerful and big SUV at home sometimes. Only those families can afford to spend north of $60K as our tester costs. Acceleration is impressive. This is first of all the nature of EV’s. The maximum torque is instantly available as you hit the “gas” pedal. BMW added spice of sportiness. It feels good. Combined with the effortless and silent nature of its electric powertrain it makes driving an i3 a unique experience.

The Model X of Tesla costs more than double the price of BMW which already has a price north of 60K. Without subsidies, EV’s will not be cheap anytime soon
As I spent more than six hours at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto for the Childrens’ Festival, I could only find a charging spot one hour before leaving. The infrastructure is not ready for widespread use of EV’s

For all these features BMW i3 makes is an expensive car of its size. This is probably even more expensive for us, Canadians regarding the weather. Weather affects EV’s range and Canadians suffer a lot from long and cold winter months. Cold weather shortens the range.

BMW says that over 80 per cent of surfaces visible to the passengers are made from recycled or renewable resources


Our fully-loaded tester had a base MSRP of $53,600. As it is usual with a press fleet vehicle, BMW included almost all options, Premium and Driver Assistance Package as well as stand-alone options; namely leather seats, metallic paints and Star-Spoke Light Alloy, mixedtires bringing the MSRP to $62,245


Varol and Dan had a close look to understand how the future of e-BMW’s would be like

Most car manufacturers today are in some kind of alarm situation. Nobody is sure how quickly the EV era will surround us and how much longer the ICE will survive. So, everybody wants to have an EV portfolio.

In this regard, the BMW i3 may be your choice if:

  • You want to experience the upcoming EV era today in a smart way
  • Can afford an expensive second vehicle to emit your bold, environmental message or
  • Need a cool, smart city car that has a prestigious nameplate.

Article and Photos by: Varol McKars and Dan Gunay

For more info please visit:

2019 BMW 530e X-Drive Plug-in Hybrid

Overvolting Luxury

The blue colour makes on nice contrast on the frozen Lake Simcoe

The electric-hybrid market is getting more popular, even BMW, which has been called “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, now offers electric in all of their model lineup. Back in the day, even base trim 5 series came with a 6-cylinder engine, but time has changed. Now you find more luxury, more features, more technology, but fewer cylinders under the hood. We had a chance to test drive the 530e X-Drive on a frozen lake, which was a great opportunity to see how the X-Drive system works.

Exterior – Interior

A driver-oriented, ergonomic cockpit is a BMW feature over many generations. The big infotainment screen can be controlled easily via i-Drive.

BMW 530e differentiates itself from the other 5 series by having charging port on the left front fender and e-Drive badges on the rear quarter panels. Our particular test car has an M Performance package, so it comes with sportier bumpers, and 19” Rims. Other than that, the exterior is identical with the other 5 series models.

Interior of the 530e is really good and you immediately feel that you are sitting in a premium car. Soft touch plastics and leather parts are everywhere, no panel gaps, no hard plastics. You would not expect low quality parts in a $60.000 car, so nothing surprising here.

The car has many features, and many of them are integrated into the infotainment system. There are some dedicated buttons for air conditioning and heated seats, which are separate from the infotainment system. Other than that, you can control everything by a knob and you must use the main screen for radio, navigation, even car settings.

Engine – Drivetrain

Don’t let 530e badge fool you. Unfortunately, it is not a 3.0 liter 6 cylinder engine like it used to be in the good old days. It comes with 2.0 liter 4 cylinder turbocharged and direct injected engine with an electric motor. The engine produces 180 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque itself, and the electric motor produces 111 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. When they are combined, the total output is 248 hp and 310 lb-ft. 530e X-Drive feels slower than 250 hp due to its weight, which is over 4500 pounds. Although it is not surprising as it has both electric battery/motor and all-wheel drive system.

The combined output of the gasoline engine and electric motor is 248 hp and 310 lb-ft.

Since it is a plug-in hybrid, it can travel up to 30 miles – 50 kilometers on electric power itself. In our test, you must drive really slowly to get that advertised 30 mile range. If you drive it like you stole it, you will get worse results. However, gas powered engine matches with the electric motor really well, they operate quiet and very smoothly.
There is an eDrive button which offers three different driving modes. They are called Auto eDrive, which the car decides how to optimize the powertrain interaction, Max eDrive which prioritizes electric mode, and Battery Control mode which allows you to save battery power for later usage.

Along with eDrive driving modes, there are three another driving modes, which are called Sport – Comfort and ECO. The good thing about these modes are, you can customize them whichever way you like. For instance, they stiffen the suspension and steering in Sport mode, but I found that steering feels more natural in Comfort mode.

The 530e comes with slightly modified 8 speed ZF automatic transmission. They changed the torque converter with an electric motor for more efficient shifting in all-electric mode.

Handling – Suspension

Our test car has an M suspension, which offers stiffer ride than regular model. Although an Electric car with sports suspension sounds like a paradox, the suspension is tuned extremely well for public roads. We were really impressed when we found that the car comes with 19” rims, Run flat tires and it is still comfortable. The equilibrium of comfort and stiffness are adjusted really good, as there is little to no body roll in the corner.

Our test car is an All Wheel Drive version, which is a rear-biased AWD system. It operates as a RWD when you don’t need extra traction. As soon as the car oversteers or understeers, AWD system activates and it sends power to the front wheels. Handling limits are really high and you must do something really wrong to get the car out of control on the pavement. On snowy roads, rear-biased All Wheel Drive really shines and makes the driver happy. It really likes to oversteer and easy to control.

Price and Overall Driving Experience

Overall performance of 530e is not bad at all, although it is not the fastest car in its segment. Both gas and electric powered motors provide enough torque to move the car. As soon as you get in the car, you feel that this car is made for people who prioritizes not only comfort, but also quality and brand image. If you want to have all of them in one car, you must pay the premium for that.

Our test car costs $80.000 Canadian OTD. For this price range, there are many alternatives on the market. BMW 530e is definitely not a bad option, but it has a weak 30-mile range with fully electric mode, which is not appealing for potential buyers who are looking for electric alternatives. If you are not interested in electric-hybrid cars, then for a very similar price, you can step up to 540i X-Drive and enjoy the extra horsepower.

Article and photos by Dan Gunay

2019 MINI Cooper S Convertible

Driving a convertible also in winter is possible, even if occasionally

Convertibles may have a small portion in a new car market, but Mini Cooper S Convertible is one of the best-selling convertibles in the world. Sales numbers are high, not because it is cheap, but it offers fun factor with lots of features and great interior quality.

When first retro Mini was released in the beginning of 2000, it reshaped the hothatch market. Today, it has many versions such as Coupe, Cabriolet, Clubman, Countryman, Paceman and so on. Let’s see how Cabriolet version performs and see if it is a good option for you.

Overall Design – Interior and Exterior
At the end of the day, it is a Mini Cooper. You wouldn’t expect a radical change. Since R50 – R53 era, the design is very similar and seems like they are following Porsche 911, Fiat 500, Jeep Wrangler or Mercedes-Benz G series cult, the design is their “branding” strategy, which is understandable. If you are not really into the automobiles, it may be really difficult for you to differentiate 2018 Cooper S than the older models. Of course, there are some design changes but you really have to look into the details. British-flag shaped tail lights are a good example of this situation. I have to admit, it looks gorgeous and “different”. I wish they’ve kept the hood scoop for the S version from the older generation, but unfortunately, it became useless as they stopped using top mounted intercooler. Compared to the other versions, Cabriolet comes with a different trunk, you have to pull it down to use it. Other than the fabric top, it looks the same.

When you sit inside the Cooper, regardless of the version, you feel like it is not only a Mini, but also a BMW. The quality of materials and craftsmanship is top notch, at least for this price range. The cabin is not too small if you sit in the front, but rear seats are just for carrying small bags. No human can sit there, which is not surprising in a compact cabriolet car. Fabric top can also be used as a sunroof, which is a great feature. Unfortunately, it cannot isolate road and tire noise coming around when driving over 50 km/h, which is a common disadvantage for “entry level” cabriolets. Another disadvantage of a cabriolet car is the trunk space. It is so small that even a backpack can barely fit. If you are on the market for a compact cabriolet, trunk space should not be your priority anyway, but something worth considering before the purchase.

It comes with many features like touchscreen infotainment, automatic climate control, heated leather seats, wireless charging, cruise control, and Harman Kardon premium sound system. It also comes with Apple CarPlay, but unfortunately Android Auto is not available. There is a huge optional features list, as expected from BMW, so there are many personalization options but it may severely increase the MSRP. Our test car is the Premier+ version, which has almost everything.

Engine and Transmission: Technical Aspect

The 4-cylinder 2.0 L engine with Direct Injection and turbocharger produces 189 horsepower and 207 ft/lb torque.

No matter what type of engine it has, Mini Cooper has always been considered as a hot-hatch car. The Cooper S has 4-cylinder 2.0 L Direct Injection with a turbocharger which produces 189 horsepower and 207 ft/lb torque. The numbers are not mind-blowing, but good enough to put the Cooper S into the “sporty” hot hatch category. This particular car comes with a 6 speed Automatic – Dual Clutch Transmission, again, it is not “mind-blowing” but gets the job done and it matches the engine really well. During our test, the car consumes approximately 9.2L / 100km gas, which is not bad considering we do not drive it slowly. For daily driving, I would expect to see 8.0-8.5L / 100km fuel consumption because the engine likes to say in the midrange, as it offers 90% of torque in the low rpms. This engine definitely has a small turbo for more torque at lower rpm and it makes it really fun when driving in the city.

Driving experience – Impressions
When I first started to drive, I am really not surprised. It is not really much different than the 2000s except the engine characteristics. The torque is impressive and linear enough but definitely focused on low-midrange RPMs. In the good old days, Mini Cooper S with a supercharger used to have more torque in higher RPMs, which makes it more fun when you drive it hard. Unfortunately, there is no best option for both scenarios.

Handling and driving feel wise, it is really good. It wants to oversteer when you reach its limit, although not recommended for public roads. As a front wheel drive car, it is really surprising when it wants to oversteer rather than understeer, but this is what makes Cooper unique in its class. I really cannot comment on how high traction limits are, as the car came with Pirelli Winter tires and Toronto roads aren’t the best when it is -10C out there, but I’d definitely say once you reach the limit, the communication between the driver and car is great, you feel the car obeys each input and if you make a mistake, it is not going to bite you in the back. Despite the engine, it is really fun when you drive it hard, and I am really glad to say, it is still a great option if you are looking for a driver-focused car, which is nowadays getting harder and harder.

Steering feeling isn’t great though, the car has multiple modes, and it doesn’t feel right when you switch to “Sport” mode. The car stiffens the steering when you choose this mode, but it makes it overly stiff and gives synthetic feel to the driver. Again, stiffer doesn’t mean sportier. It just makes harder to steer for a driver. I usually stayed in the balanced mode, which gave more neutral feedback when driving either normally or spiritually.

Brakes are excellent, I have absolutely no complaints about it. Initial bite is great, braking performance is great, it does not fade quickly, brake lever feels neutral (no synthetic feeling, etc.), it really shines when it comes to braking performance.
What this car really lacks is, at least for A/T version, is paddle shifters. I know Automatic transmissions are getting better to the level which they mostly outperform the stick shift, but I am still a huge advocate for manual transmission cars in the hothatch class. For a premium, automatic transmission also makes sense though. However, it has to have a paddle shift to make things more engaging. This is not a truck or luxury sedan. Why is there no paddle shift in a Cooper S which supposedly is a sporty car? I think this is the biggest flaw of Mini Cooper S, I’d even say it is a deal breaker for me. You don’t like manual transmission? That’s fine, Automatic transmissions are as good as the stick shift nowadays, but paddle shifters are must in this class, even the plastic cheap one.

Taillights in British sytle as the light signature

Pricing and Conclusion:
MSRP for MINI Cooper S Convertible starts from $33.990. Our tester, with Starlight Blue Edition Package ($2,900) and Automatic Transmission ($1,400) costs $38,290. The price can go up to 43K if you tick all the possible options.
I can’t really say it is expensive or cheap as there is little to no competition in this class. Mini Cooper S is a British premium retro car which has BMW features and overall build quality. I’d be in love with this car if I was 18 years old again. It has most of the features for young people, it looks great, it handles great, good on gas, lots of design gimmicks, and it is a convertible.

Ready for a still distant summer or questionable spring

Text and photos by Dan Gunay

2019 MINI Cooper 3-Door

MINI in its most classic form: 3-door, red with white roof

For the 2019 model year, MINI comes with a bunch of technological and design improvements such as:
* LED rear lights in Union Jack design.
* New MINI logo, new body finishes, Piano Black interior.
* New light alloy wheels.
* Extended range of leather trim.
* Unique individualization.
* Multifunction steering wheel and radio with a 6.5-inch color screen, USB and Bluetooth interface as standard.
* Optional radio and navigation systems with touchscreen monitor.
* Telephone with wireless charging.
* MINI connected and MINI Connected XL with new functions.
* MINI logo projection from the exterior mirror on the driver’s side

Our tester, the base model (with manual transmission) in Chilli Red and optional White Bonnet Stripes and White Roof and Mirror Caps had a great appearance (my subjective opinion) that very much reflected the character of this British icon.
As I had several test drives with earlier models, body styles and engines, there was no room for much of surprises.
The sporty, dynamic and go-cart like driving characteristics remain. And this was the first MINI I tested with manual transmission. Although not for everybody in North America. (with a preferred rate of less than 10 percent overall), it boosts your driving pleasure and gives you more control over the vehicle.

The turbocharged three-cylinder engine works well with the six-speed manual transmission. You never have the feeling of underpowered with 134 hp and 162 lb-ft, delivered at as low as 1,250 rpm.

The turbocharged three-cylinder engine works well with this six-speed transmission. You never have the feeling of underpowered with 134 hp and 162 lb-ft, at as low as 1,250 rpm.
Despite the short wheelbase, thanks to relatively vertical A-pillar and a non-sloping roofline, the room economy is very good for this class even for the rear-seat passengers.
You are surrounded by a lot of plastic inside, but it doesn’t feel cheap or boring due to classic and beautiful dashboard design.

For MINI fans as well as for those who want to join a brand with a lot of history and character, this model offers an affordable alternative.

And having BMW as the mother company is a big bonus in terms of technology and production quality. The British automobile industry is now in good, German hands.

Article and photos by Varol McKars

2018 Lincoln MKC 2.3T

A weekend escape to Bracebridge in Muskoka Lakes was an opportunity to enjoy an out-town test drive

Lincoln’s compact SUV, based on Ford’s well-selling Escape is a contender in the arguably most competitive class, compact, luxury SUV’s.
This model is somewhat aged (even if gracefully) and you should expect the next-gen MKC around 2021. From a fairer point of view, we should say that there are brand new and arguably better models on the market, such as Acura RDX and Audi Q5.

My tester had the optional 2.3Liter 4-cylinder turbo engine generating 285 horsepower and offering AWD.
During my testing week, (in the city during the week and cottage country at the weekend) the most memorable part of my experience was “range anxiety”, sort of. The tank is small and the average consumption is around 14 liters. So, it is not unusual to have another tank stop in less than 450 kilometers.

I drove this vehicle to Muskoka Lakes for a weekend escape. A nice, comfortable drive on the highway, without being too sporty (even if the MKC had a sports mode). Sportiness is not a Lincoln domain and nothing wrong with this.

The technology, from settled ride to well-functioning sync system, well-isolated cabin, and good brakes make a very good over impression.

Ford was a bit late to recognize the importance of having a luxury brand (maybe, they were too busy to reinvent the mother brand in the first half of this decade). Now more work is necessary to improve on finer details and continue to build the Lincoln image.

MKC versus Escape: FoMoCo has two strong contenders in the traditional and luxury compact SUV segment

Article and photos by Varol McKars

2018 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L

An American, full-size SUV invites you for long and majestic drives

It came as a very pleasant surprise: Because I hadn’t planned it in advance.

As a board member of the Ankara Library of Toronto, a cultural non-profit organization promoting Turkish culture and literature in Canada, I had to deal with two special guests from Turkey. Mr. Nebil Ozgenturk, a writer and a director/producers of countless documentaries, and Mr. Soner Olgun, a musician, singer, and playwright were in Toronto. With them, we celebrated the 111. birthday of Mr. Sabahattin Ali, a Turkish poet, and novelist.
During their short stay in Toronto, I had the pleasure to drive them with one of the most impressive and luxurious SUV’s available on the market. They were happy and glad to have this driving experience (even if only as passengers) that they could probably not have in Turkey or Europe.

The giant Lincoln Navigator in the extended version (Reserve-L) is the top end of Ford’s luxury brand’s SUV family.
FoMoCo’s efforts to build its luxury brand started bearing its fruits. For example, the Continental (that we tested last year) is the return of the big, comfortable and powerful American sedan in an age of SUV’s. And the new Navigator is another turning point for Lincoln to bring back its glorious times.
Based on the Ford Expedition and with its revolutionary aluminum body, Lincoln’s flagship offers comfortable and luxurious transportation.

With its class-leading power (450 hp, 510 lb.-ft. of torque from its twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 and biggest-in-the-class cargo room behind the second and third rows of seats, and the quietest interior, the Navigator is much more than another big SUV. The smooth and powerful engine is mated to a 10-speed transmission and moves quietly and effortlessly.

The 3.5L twin-turbo V6 engine delivers a class-leading power of 450 horsepower a torque of 510 lb.-ft

Several auto journalists commented on the seats and critics were in abundance. I also think that simpler design would probably be better than the ultra-modern “seat-in-seat” configuration. (my personal definition). They were comfortable and adjustable in many ways. However, the question remained in my mind: (It could be better and probably it is due for a comprehensive mid-life update around 2021)
As fully-equipped and with an MSRP north of 100K the value proposition of the Navigator is reasonable. However, Ford can do a better job of explaining the rich and glorious history of Lincoln. So far, I think the message in Lincoln ads was weak and somewhat unclear about the product and its background. The current, young generation who can afford a luxury SUV now, does know little about Lincoln.

Bisha, the new and trendy hotel in downtown Toronto welcomes the Navigator

Article and photos by Varol McKars

2018 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

My test drive with the Escape included a visit to the St. Catharines and the Welland Canals Centre

The Escape is the second most important model (after F-150) in the model range. The compact SUV segment is the fastest growing segment in Canada. And the competition is very fierce. The Toyota RAV, the segment leader is about to introduce a brand new RAV and Honda had a very recent update of the CR-V. GM’s Chevy Equinox and the GMC Terrain are also relatively new models selling well. VW’s new Tiguan and Mazda’s CX-5 are also very well-built and hot-selling vehicles. Add to this the brand new Forester from Subaru and you understand why Ford has to hurry up in bringing a brand new Escape to the market soon.
Some journalists spotted early prototype(s) on the road and we will have the next-gen Escape probably in the first half of 2020.
Until then, Fords has a mature, well-built and still popular Escape in its model range.
We drove the top-of-the-line Titanium with 2.0L Ecoboost engine and 4WD.
This is not the best-selling Escape due to its relatively high price.
The base-price for Titanium is $37,199. Our fully-loaded tester had a sticker price of $42,689 including $1,790 destination charge.

A dinner break at the Liberty City in Toronto

Driving Impressions 
Well-calibrated steering and good brakes. These are the two features that made a lasting impression after my one-week test drive. The powerful, 2.0L Ecoboost engine with twin scroll makes 245 horsepower and delivers 275 pound-feet of torque. This engine is only available in the top Titanium trim and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This more power than necessary in your daily average commute from home to work to the grocery store.
I reached an average consumption of 13.8 liters.

Despite newer models on the market, still, a wise choice considering Ford’s expertise in building SUV’s and crossovers and the fact the Escape ironed out all its weaknesses since 2013.

The two best sellers of Ford side-by-side: The F-150 and the Escape

Article and photos by Varol McKars