2019 BMW 740Le xDrive

Another Face Of The 7 Series

BMW 7 Series with in Long-wheelbase version is a car to be driven.

BMW 7 Series, for decades, is a member of an elite class of luxury executive sedans. This is a territory occupied mostly by Germans such as Mercedes S Class and Audi A8. Some non-German models like the Lexus LS play in the same league. In its sixth generation, this BMW offers the fine driving in style and in traditional sedan format.

The typically elegant and functional dashboard is more an evolution rather than a revolution over the previous generation

The current model, launched in 2016 sets a benchmark in lightweight in particular. BMW engineers extensively used carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in the structure of the passenger cell. They reduced the weight while increasing the torsion strength and bending stiffness of the passenger cell.

Engine And Powertrain

Instead of an 8 or even 12 cylinder engine as usual in this class, the 740Le comes with a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder paired with an electric motor. The powertrain is completed by an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The system delivers net 322 horsepower and 369 lb-ft, thus less than a conventional 7 Series.

The combination of gasoline and electric motors gives

One advantage of the plug-in hybrid version is the ability to travel up to 40 kilometers on electricity alone when fully charged. And we tested this range up to the limit reaching 34 km. This was mixed use at around 23 degrees and with a maximum of two people on board.

And on electric battery alone, the 740Le will attain a maximum speed of 140 km/h before requiring assistance from the gasoline engine.

Driving Impressions

Before we sit behind the steering wheel, Dan and I had a slight doubt about whether a 4-cylinder engine (even with an added e-motor) can be an option for BMW’s flagship sedan. Doubts disappeared as I hit the road. This big sedan accelerates smoothly and the transition from e-drive to gasoline kick-in is seamless. And in a country where the effective speed limit is 119 km/h, this “green car” can easily keep pace with others.

As per BMW’s statement, the vehicle has a highly sophisticated, precision-honed chassis technology combined with 50:50 weight distribution. While driving, you can feel a sharp response and ride comfort. The double-wishbone front suspension, five-link rear suspension, and Electric Power Steering are three main components of the ride quality.

For the first time, carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) combined with steel and aluminium was used in the bosy structure of the new BMW 7 SEries with a completely new production processes aaplied in this unique mixed-material construction. The use of high-tech CFRP and advanced production methods enhance the torsional stiffness of the passenger cell and and lower the centre of gravity. All these features contribute to increased ride quality and comfort.

We would say perfect if one factor hadn’t blurred this picture: The tires: Pirelli Zero low profile, run-flat tires (275/30R/21) with 19″ M Double Spoke Wheels look great and very sporty. But there is a different story when the tires a pothole on the road surface. You feel like your bones are shaken in the well-insulated cabin. Such an expensive car deserves a much smoother hit and these tires are responsible. We think that BMW must do something about it the solutions seems to replace low-profile tires altogether.

The Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake is an impressive example of Victorian Era British Luxury

I had two distinguished guests who experienced this comfort: Mr. Durmaz, a film produced and designer and Mr. Guldogan, film director, both from Turkey were our guests at the Ankara Library of Toronto for the showing of their documentary, “Şık Derviş” enjoyed the tide. I took them for a Niagara Itinerary from Toronto and they enjoyed the ride as front and rear seat passengers. Who wouldn’t love to be chauffeured in a car with extended wheelbase where backseat doubles as an office with fold out table, footrest and massaging function and you control everything via a dedicated Samsung tablet.

Mr. Durmaz, our guest from Turkey enjoyed the rear seats and was impressed
A dedicated Samsung tablet is placed for the comfort settings of the rear seats and “surroundings”

Our tester, which was equipped with Executive Lounge Tier 2 ($10,000) and Executive Package ($7,350) offers every imaginable luxury for a ride “in the sky”. Please see the spec sheet for a full list of options.

With Executive Lounge & Executive Package, the rear passengers enjoy arguably the highest possible comfort money can buy.

As we got back to Toronto after a long day and more 300 kilometers, our guests were happy and impressed with this driving experience.

Our average consumption in two days including Niagara was 9.2 liters. This is an impressive figure considering the size and weight of the car. Nevertheless, anybody who can afford a car with a base price of 118K, (our tester had an MSRP of $143,450), would not bother much about this consumption. However, this is testament that the high-tech hybrid system makes a difference.


This special BMW may be a good choice for executive class buyers, who value the luxury and prestige of the 7 Series while taking environmental concerns into account.

Conservative design with elegant details, like the well integrated exhausts

Article and Photos: Varol McKars & Dan Gunay

2019 Lincoln Nautilus 2.0T AWD Reserve

Lincoln’s bestselling model is, no surprise, an SUV

Ford’s premium brand Lincoln refreshed the MKX. Although the Navigator is probably the most well-known Lincoln, MKX has been the best seller of the brand. It was first introduced in the 2004 North American International Auto Show as a successor to the first gen Aviator.  It is the first Lincoln SUV which is in production since 2007. Second generation MKX went on sale first in 2016 and underwent mid-cycle revision this year.

Lincoln decided to phase out the “MK” model names, it adopted the Nautilus name in 2019. Although there is no radical change in terms of exterior and interior, it adopted front design from the Lincoln Continental. Rear design and taillights look similar compared to the previous year. Overall, exterior design looks great, especially refreshed front design along with the headlights and new grille used by other newer Lincoln models. The “Reserve” trim comes with LED headlights along with turbine style 21-inch wheels, and we think it makes the car look so much better than the base trim.

The floating middle console may be a reminder of former times as Ford used to own Volvo

Interior of the MKX/Nautilus isn’t changed that much in 2019. There are minor changes, but the main design elements stayed the same. Of course, vertical shift buttons for gear selection is the signature of Lincoln interior design. It takes a little bit time to get used to, but once you get used to it, you will love it. And it saves a lot of space in the middle console too. The interior with a combination of soft-touch plastics and real wood has high-quality craftsmanship. Reserve trim level comes with leather seats, with massage function.

The massaging function adds more comfort to the driving experience especially in long drives, but the design of front seats isn’t the best. The base part of the seat is narrow so it may not be good for overweight people. Luckily, base trim offers wider seats, but you must opt out of massage seat option. You need to visit your Lincoln dealer and see if it works for you before deciding. Not only that, but the center console also has a floating design, which looks amazing, but it takes a lot of space. We felt cramped while driving which may be a deal breaker for some people, as it is one of the most appealing features in the SUV market. Rear legroom is excellent and there is no problem when it comes to the trunk size at all.

The infotainment system still has some deficiencies. and a bigger screen would be good among other features

The refreshed Nautilus comes with the 4 cylinder 2.0L Ecoboost turbo engine as a base option, produces 245 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. This engine replaces the MKX’s 3.7 V6 engine, which was also used in many Ford vehicles. If you are willing to pay extra $3000, you can still choose V6, which is a 2.7L twin turbo Ecoboost that has 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired with new eight speed automatic transmission and it works extremely smooth. Our tester has the 4-cylinder option, which is good on gas, and it also has start-stop feature. The acceleration and overall power are adequate for daily driving and as long as you stay within the speed limits, we think that you may not need the V6 engine, as the inline 4 turbocharged engine has plenty of torque in the mid-range and it also offers extremely silent and smooth driving experience with no turbo lag. All wheel drive system works pretty well, it is FWD biased system, but it works flawlessly on slippery surface. The tester also has an adaptive suspension system, we tried different driving modes, but it didn’t make a huge difference as there is always tons of body roll if you push it to its limits. Comfort driving mode is the way to go.

As expected from a luxury brand, Lincoln Nautilus is great when it comes to comfort. Sound isolation is at S-Class level, and it is full of features. Our tester has adaptive cruise, heated-cooled seats, infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, digital instrument cluster, adaptive suspension system, parking assistant, lane keep assist, front collision warning, 360-Degree camera, keyless entry, wireless charging pad, active noise control, blind spot monitoring and so on. We are surprised with the sound system and you should get that feature with the car. Revel Ultima Audio system has 19 speakers with 20-channel amplifier, and we think this is one of the best sound systems we ever tried so far. As always, we are not a fan of Ford’s infotainment system, it is not the worst, but it works slowly and the 360-degree camera belongs to 1990s, the resolution is not acceptable for a luxury SUV. Fortunately, they decided not to use same screen specs for the digital cluster, it works perfectly, and the screen resolution is great.

Lincoln MKX/Nautilus is one of the most successful SUVs in Ford-Lincoln’s SUV lineup and we think there is a reason for that. It has a lot of space, it is all wheel drive, luxurious, comfortable, and practical for families while offering everything in a premium packaging. It is the underdog alternative of premium luxury 2-row SUV class, as it has really strong competition. The refreshed MKX a.k.a. Nautilus starts at $48.950 CAD with the Select trim and goes all the way up to $54.050 CAD if you choose the Reserve trim. Since it is a luxury SUV, you should also add some optional features, so the total comes up to $65.000 level which is a bargain compared to its German rivals.

Things the Nautilus is good at

+ Comfort
+ Excellent premium sound system – but optional
+ Smooth and fuel-efficient engine

Things the Nautilus needs to improve

– Front legroom

– Infotainment system and screen resolution

Sharing the same platform with Ford Edge, Lincoln Nautilus has its own design language and identity after about ten years

Article by Dan Gunay, pictures by Varol McKars

2019 Ford Mustang GT

Better than ever

Unmistakebly Mustang, the Pony Car

The term “Pony-car” was very popular in the 1960s, which is still known by many people today. Ford Mustang was the creator of the Pony-car segment which was originally introduced in 1964. Ford Mustang was a pioneer which offered affordable, compact, good styling, and of course, good performance along with rear wheel drive. After the oil crisis, pony cars suffered from declining sales, as smaller and fuel-efficient cars started to get more popular until the beginning of 21st century.

Retro styled resurrection of the pony car segment started in 2005. Fifth gen Mustang was released, and eventually Dodge introduced the third gen Challenger and Chevrolet revived the fifth generation Camaro in 2010. Since then, it has been an evolution, rather than a revolution.

Current generation Ford Mustang was first available in 2015 and this is the first-generation Ford decided to use the independent rear suspension on a Mustang. This may not sound like an important change, it significantly increased handling capabilities of the current gen. In 2018, Ford redesigned the exterior and it looks modern, whereas it keeps its design elements from 1960s. It even looks more retro compared to the pre-facelift version. In our opinion, Mustang looks gorgeous like its rivals. It is hard to choose which one looks best in this segment.

The modern dashboard reveals its deep roots in the original Mustang

The interior also has some design features resembling 1960s, especially the steering wheel. The diameter of the wheel is definitely larger than usual for a sports car. There are some soft-touch materials used, but it is not that hard to find hard touch plastics especially on the door panels, something can be improved. Refreshed Ford Mustang now comes with a digital instrument cluster, which is a great feature and customizable for your needs. You see lots of information about the car, such as oil pressure, oil temperature, differential/transmission temperature, intake air temperature, G meter, lap timer, you name it. The tachometer can be changed independently or depending on the driving mode.

Speaking of driving mode, it has Normal, Sport, Track and Snow/Wet modes. Each driving mode adjusts the suspension, throttle response and the steering feel. Track mode disables the traction and stability control as well as it stiffens the suspension. You can also customize a mode for your driving needs. We personally used the steering and suspension in normal mode, and the exhaust in track mode. You read it right, you can adjust the exhaust sound by switching modes and there is a noticeable difference. I really don’t think people need aftermarket exhaust to get better sound, as it is readily available from the factory. If you opt for the Performance Package Level 2, it comes with the MagneRide magnetic suspension, and it is a well worth investment if you take it to track. Other extras come with the Performance Package are special 19” wheels along with Michelin Cup 2 track tires, Brembo brake calipers and larger rotors, unique front splitter and rear spoiler, larger radiator, strut tower brace, Torsen Limited Slip Differential, track-tuned springs and sway bar. Also, there are many advanced features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist and so on. We are glad that performance-oriented cars can also keep up with the luxury cars in terms of tech and safety features.

Although technology-wise, everything is not perfect. We didn’t like is Ford’s infotainment system, it feels and looks outdated. This is something Ford needs to improve, as the other manufacturers have better infotainment systems available even in cheaper cars. It is leggy, low-resolution and works slowly. It would have been acceptable 3-4 years ago, but nowadays many manufacturers have not only faster and more user-friendly software but also so many features such as gesture control, Ford falls behind when it comes to the infotainment system. Rear-view camera resolution isn’t the greatest, too. At least, it comes with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The sound system is decent though, which is made by B&O. Overall, it is not the best, but not the worst either. Our tester comes with the Recaro sport seats as a part of Performance Package. However, you have to sacrifice the heated and power seats if you go with Recaro, it could be a deal breaker for some people.

Recaro sports seats are perfectly suited for a sports car like the Mustang GT

Current generation Ford Mustang comes with both coupe (or called “Fastback”) and cabriolet, as well as two different engines (except the GT350 model range) with a 10-speed automatic transmission and 6-speed manual transmission, so there are lots of combinations to choose. In regard to the engine, there is a 4-cylinder 2.3-liter turbocharged Ecoboost as a base engine, and GT model gets the big boy, which is a 5.0L naturally aspirated V8 engine which produces 460 horsepower and 420 lb/ft of torque. Unfortunately, they ditched the V6 engine few years ago, now the base model gets the inline 4-cylinder engine.

The V8 engine sounds great and lots of torque, however, it likes to keep the revs up in the mid-high range. Although the torque is more than enough for daily driving through the whole rev range, if you like to get the most out of it, you should keep the revs over 5000 rpms. We personally really like the 5.0L V8, known as “Coyote” engine, which is a quite rev-happy and sounds great. Power is overkill for public roads, it can get you in trouble on the highway if you don’t check your tachometer frequently, as it is easily capable of reaching over the speed limits. Of course, you must deal with the fuel consumption when you have eight cylinders to feed, and to keep the revs high. You can easily see more than 16.0L / 100 km if you drive spiritedly. In our tests, we see average fuel consumption of 15.5L / 100 km which is a mixed driving of highway, city and some spirited driving. Our test car comes with 6-speed manual transmission, no matter how good the automatic transmission is, the manual is always more fun and more engaging.

Dan, our test driver was not fully satisfide with Ford’s infotainment system

Overall driving impressions about Ford Mustang GT is, it is hard to find a flaw as a sports car, considering its price. Unlike the previous generations, Mustang is now a corner carver and the grip level with 305/30/R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are insanely high. Magnetic suspension is a great addition which surprisingly provides comfy riding as well as great road feedback. It is not harsh when you hit a pothole, but there is absolutely no body roll when you are cornering. This is something that regular suspension setup wouldn’t be able to handle, as you must pick either stiff suspension to avoid body roll, or mushy suspension to get a comfortable ride.  Mustang GT’s MagneRide gives you best of both worlds.

If you treat the throttle pedal and steering like ON/OFF switch, the car wants to oversteer all the time, so it definitely requires some rear wheel driving experience or you have to be really easy with the throttle if you are not careful enough. The steering feel is not the greatest with extremely wide front tires, and a steering wheel with large diameter though, but still acceptable. The car is also extremely sensitive to road imperfections due to the wider front tires, it wants to dive in which requires a lot of steering input when driving normally. To be honest, it is a complete package if you are looking for an iconic fast car fun to drive, looks sporty, rides great, handles extremely well, with excellent brakes and can also be a track toy (with the optional Performance Package, indeed), look no further in this price range.

Mustang GT starts at $37.289 CAD but can go all the way up to $44.525 if you get the Premium package as of June 2019, which includes Aluminum foot pedals, ambient lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and cooled leather seats, chrome interior parts, selectable drive modes, power seats, and SYNC 3. In our opinion, if you are willing to get the Performance Package – either Level 1 or 2, you should skip the Premium package since you lose heated-cooled power seats. Level 2 PP makes the Mustang even a better track car while keeping it as street-legal with Michelin Cup 2 tires and MagneRide Suspension system. If you opt for the 10-speed automatic transmission, it is $1,500 CAD extra, but you cannot choose automatic with the Performance Pack Level 2.

Long story short, no car is perfect, and Ford Mustang is definitely not. It has come a long way compared to 10 years ago. However, the GT offers BMW M4 level of performance for the half price, which makes it a bargain sports car and it is still one of the best alternatives in Pony class.

You can also read our review about the Bullitt. Please click the link below:

Article and pictures by Dan Gunay

2019 Hyundai Elantra 2.0L A/T Ultimate

The Elantra has a beautiful, face-lifted design in its current generation, even if our tester Dan has some nostalgia for the earlier version

There is a reason why compact cars are really popular in Canada. It is affordable, easy and cheap to maintain and good on gas. Hyundai Elantra has been on the market for several years, and it is one of the best-selling compact cars in North America.

This is the sixth-gen Elantra, which was introduced in 2017, is now refreshed and it has significantly different design. In my subjective opinion, the pre-facelift design (2017 and 2018 MY) looks better. Nevertheless, the current gen Elantra maintains its simplicity and attractiveness. In the rear, the model name pops up in huge letters in the middle of the trunk, which looks to me less appealing.

Material and build quality inside is one of the best in its class. All controls are well placed and the infotainment screen is easy to navigate.

The interior is spared from almost any change. The dashboard and cabin have mostly soft touch plastics, and impressively good finishing making the Korean almost a segment leader. Our tester car had 8-inch infotainment system with navigation. The layout is simple and easy to navigate. The 8-inch screen only comes with the top trim we tested, whereas lover trims come with 7-inch screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all versions.

Elantra is a strong contender especially offering more features than its competitors. The car comes with Leather and heated seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, automatic climate, lane keep assists and adaptive cruise control. As we have seen in other models, Hyundai’s lane keep assist and adaptive cruise system work perfectly and glad to see these features offered in the compact sedan segment.

Engine / Drivetrain

Hyundai Elantra comes with naturally aspirated 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, which produces 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. The engine is extremely smooth and sometimes hard to feel if it is on when idling. It is a great engine if you are looking for a car gets you from A to B. Otherwise it is boring. It is sad that Hyundai does not offer the turbocharged 1.6L engine in Elantra Sedan. The 2.0-liter engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which gets the job done. It shifts crisply and smoothly. During our test, our average consumption was 8 liters of regular, which is good in its segment.

Driving impressions

Elantra has a great ride quality, despite the torsion bar in the rear. Many manufacturers use twist-beam suspension to cut the costs, as Hyundai does with Elantra sedan. Their engineers tuned the suspension so well that it is hard to feel it during daily driving. If you push the vehicle to its limits when cornering, it clearly understeers, as you would expect from an entry-level compact sedan with a torsion bar in the rear. It is not a corner carver and the suspension is more comfort-oriented, which is normal for a car made for daily driving.

Lava-Orange, our tester’s colour costs 200 CAD as an option

It comes with three drive modes; Normal, Sport and Smart. Smart mode selects Normal, Sport or Eco mode depending on how it is driven. In Sport mode, it gives stiffer steering feeling, which is just a synthetic feel that you should keep it at Comfort mode all the time.

Overall, the “refreshed” Elantra is one of the best alternatives in the compact sedan segment. It has been on the market for a long time. The Ultimate trim offers “mid-size” features in a compact class.

Elantra has also has Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ rating, a passive safety standard only few cars can achieve in this segment.

MSRP starts at 17,100 CAD and goes up to 27.549 for the top version. Our test car was in Lava Orange color option, which costs 200 CAD extra. We really like that it offers great fuel economy without relying on a boring CVT transmission as many of its competitors prefer. With a price tag well south of 30K, it is reasonably priced and, in our opinion, offers more car for your money.

Most Elantra drivers will not bother for the minor “flaws” we mentioned above and will enjoy their vehicles. It is not a sports car, but a reliable daily driving machine.

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: www.bmw.ca

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