Sunday, November 9, 2014

Subaru Outback review

If you wanted a car with all-wheel-drive you'd have to buy a bulky 4x4 that was inefficient and cumbersome to own. Now a days you can buy just about any car with all-wheel-drive and they come in array of shapes and sizes. The Subaru Outback should be on your short list though if you want all-wheel-drive on the cheap.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder produces 175hp and is all you'll ever really need with the Outback. Even though it is nice that you can still option for the 3.6-liter six-cylinder which has 256hp on tap. Those looking for the best value and lowest running costs will be much happier with the 2.5 which is also our pick of the range.

Previous generations of the Outback weren't really known for their driving dynamics. It has always but utilitarian first and refinement last. But with this generation of the Outback you'll be surprised at how improved the on road dynamics have become. It still won't be as sharp to drive as the sedan couterpart but it is still engaging to drive and is quite frankly enough for what it is. Handling is secure and the steering offers decent feedback. You'll never hurl this thing into tight corners and bends so for the smooth ride it offers it exceeds our expectations.

The interior has been improved dramatically over the years. Now it controls and dials are attractively designed but are very user friendly. We do love how easy it is to navigate through the infotainment system without all the fussy dials some of its keen rivals have. The front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of support. Rear passengers won't feel short changed for legroom or headroom, both are very good. The boot is massive and when you fold the rear seats down there's even more space. If you run out of space with this you don't need a car you need a transit van.

The 2.5 premium trim is the pick of the range. It offers extra kit the standard 2.5 doesn't have and is still within reason in terms of pricing. Although all forms of the Outback offer decent kit but for our money we'd stay closer towards the middle which offers the best of both worlds. Air-con, CD-player, keyless entry and daytime running lamps are standard. Those wanting leather will have to pay extra or step up to the top of the range 3.6 engine.

Buying one shouldn't break the bank too much and resale value will be through the roof because most Subaru owners don't sell their vehicles as quick as other automakers making the second hand market for Subaru a small catalog to search through.

It's standard all-wheel-drive means that it can make nasty weather feel safe and secure. It handles with confidence and is one of those cars you'll love taking on a camping trip or to the ski resort. It really is a jack of all trade and is our top pick for all-wheel-drive vehicles on the cheap. No other car can blend utilitarian and functionality quite well like Subaru. With the new updated styling and improved quality. It may even be harder not to resist taking a closer look.

Likes: Vastly improved over previous generation. Cheap all-wheel-drive yet its functional, cheap to run thanks to a efficient power-train.

Dislikes: Overly sensitive headlights. The rest are nit picking so we decided not to even bother.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Part one of four: Cars that are best avoided.

Cars we feel are best avoided. Part one of four.

Jeep Compass

This little Jeep was dreadful to drive. The standard 2-liter engine is sluggish with the automatic, while the 2.4 offers a bit more oomph off the line. Interior plastics were cheap feeling and the overall package the Compass offers isn’t compelling enough in our eyes. Unless you get one of these heavily discounted, you’re better off paying extra for its much better rivals. We highly suggest looking elsewhere.

Nissan Versa

Nissan prides itself in having the most inexpensive new car you can buy with the biggest rear seat in class. We do applaud Nissan for the roomy rear seat and low running costs, but those two features don’t really make up for how unappealing the styling of the Versa is. The 1.6 offers decent pace around town but you’ll struggle with it on faster paced roads. The standard trim offers an antiquated four-speed automatic and the higher trims don’t even feel worth the price tag. Paying more than $16k for is a false economy.

Smart Fortwo

The Smart Fortwo actually isn’t a bad concept. A small two-seat vehicle with dent resistant body panels for tight urban areas. We really do like that idea, but the execution of the car is appalling even for standards set by Mercedes. The gearbox is the biggest let down. Up shifts are woefully slow and jerky unless you ease your foot off the accelerator pedal between each shift. Ride comfort is firm due to the small wheelbase and yet the handling is sloppy if you push it anywhere near its limits. Running costs aren’t low either because the engine requires premium fuel. We strongly suggest waiting for the next generation Fortwo which will get a proper gearbox and hopefully a smoother ride.

BMW 320i

We have nothing against the idea of a cheap BMW. In fact we love the idea of a cheap BMW but not when it comes in the package of a 320i. It’s not the engine that we dread because it’s smooth and flexible with decent running costs. It’s the standard kit list which disappoints. Bluetooth doesn’t even come standard. You’ll have to pay extra to remove the halogen headlights and of course it doesn’t come standard with real leather. Driving this without the adaptive M suspension is disappointing too and that option isn’t cheap either. Plus you’ll want to leave the stop/start system off because there is no smooth transition when the engine reengages. Unless you have to have the BMW badge we strongly suggest looking at its indirect rivals first because you get more money for similar money and maybe even less.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Devon test drives the 3-series coupe replacement

BMW wants to separate the coupes from the sedan. Thus the 3-series coupe is no longer the 3-series coupe it’s the 4-series coupe, with a new platform to separate it from the 3-series sedan. Has BMW achieved new feat?

The 428 uses the familiar turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine pumping out 240hp. Top of the range 435 trim uses a 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder pumping out 300hp. Pick of the range is the more sensible 428 trim. You can have both trims with all-wheel-drive but we only suggest adding this option if you really need the traction or live in snowy areas where rear-wheel-drive will be cumbersome.

Our biggest gripe with BMW is the optional adaptive M suspension which is only optional and not standard. With this option the 4-series drives the way it is supposed to, we still have yet to drive a BMW without this expensive option and we’ve been put under the impression that BMW doesn’t want you to either. But at least with this option everything feels right and with the suspension set at comfort the daily commute with this car is actually quite comfortable. Slip it into sport mode on tight corners and bends you’ll be treated to an amazing experience as long as the road isn’t too lumpy and bumpy. This will bring out the firmness of the suspension which is to be expected of course.

The driver’s seat offers plenty of support and adjustments. You’ll find a seating position that best fits you to a tee. The dashboard looks like it was taken from a 3-series sedan. This is not a bad thing, however sticking a 4-series badge on this coupe we were hoping BMW would jazz up the interior more since the price tag has been jazzed up. At least there’s plenty of ample space four two in the rear seat and the boot offers decent cargo space.

All three trims are equipped pretty much the same. The only real matter of picking between all four is if you want a faster engine and do you want it with or without all-wheel-drive. We were a bit appalled that Bluetooth isn’t even standard across the range. You can buy pretty much a ton of cars not even in the same price bracket with Bluetooth standard. The standard form doesn’t even get real leather seats. But at least you get bi-xenon headlamps, rain sensing wipes and iDrive on-board computer with 6.5 inch display.

Buying a 4-series won’t be a cheap proposition because most of the options that you’ll want aren’t cheap. Plus you’ll have to pay to make the 4-series drive and handle the way it supposed to. Discounts will be hard to come by too, but resale value will be strong as will all BMW vehicles plus you won’t really have to worry about safety because BMW has that sorted well.

The 4-series maybe sleeker than the 3-series sedan but we still aren’t convinced that it’s any different from the 3-series sedan. Dynamically they feel the same and interior wise they look the same. Some may not be ready to fully accept the 3-series coupe new replacement. On paper the 4-series is a great coupe but in reality there are a few short comings we would strongly look into first before fully making up your mind.

Likes: Styling is sleeker and slightly more appealing design than the 3-serie sedan. With the right options the 4-series is a dream to drive.

Dislikes: So many options and so many of them are expensive. Bluetooth not standard is absurd. Interior doesn’t look or feel any different from 3-series sedan.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Devon test drives niche BMW

Looking for a vehicle that is truly unique without having to pick a typical coupe or sedan? The 3-series GT fits the bill perfectly. But is it worth the premium though?

The standard 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 240hp. You can step up to an optional 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder which produces 300hp. Both engines can only be had with all-wheel-drive. Pick of the range is a mere matter of taste here. The standard engine seems like a good deal until you compare it to the 3-series touring which is more versatile for similar money. The top of the range slowly enters into 5-series territory and only really makes sense if you want a 5-series with similar engine but don’t want to cough up the money.

On the road the 3-series GT is best had with the expensive adaptive M suspension. Without it the steering is heavy and the ride and handling are utterly disappointing. The adaptive M suspension lets you adjust the ride comfort for sporty and or comfort. We’d highly suggest leaving it in comfort mode because it really does help make the 3-series GT ride like a dream. In sport mode the ride is just too firm for our tastes.

The standard engine at idle sounds like a diesel engine, there’s just way too much clatter. The biggest disappointment is the stop/start system. When the engine reengages the whole car shutters. This is disappointing because the 3-series GT isn’t a cheap proposition to begin with. At least wind and road noise are well suppressed and with the adaptive M suspension the 3-series GT is a comfortable long distance cruiser.

This is where the 3-series GT and any other BMW becomes an expensive proposition, the options list. Standard form offers rain sensing windshield wipers, power tailgate, automatic climate control and HD radio. You’ll have to step up to the top of the range to add xenon headlamps, auto-dimming exterior mirrors with power fold feature and Bluetooth hands free connectivity for your mobile phone.

Buying a 3-series GT like any other BMW isn’t going to be cheap and discounts will be hard to come by. We aren’t even sure of resale value with the 3-series GT due to the fact that it is still far too new to really say. Reliability is iffy with BMW. Most owners complain of things going array after the warranty expires and the extended warranty is pretty expensive choice too. So picking it is again a mere matter of preference if you plan on keeping your 3-series GT long after the standard warranty expires.

The 3-series GT is for those who want to be different and are willing to pay the premium to have it. All others should look at the 3-series touring.

Likes: Both turbo engines are punchy and smooth. There’s plenty of space for five and the boot is of decent size. It’s very distinct looking.

Dislikes: It’s very distinct looking. Stingy standard kit, expensive options list. Stop/start system makes the whole car shutter when engine reengages.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Devon test drives a Nissan Versa Sedan

The Nissan Versa Sedan prides itself in having the roomiest rear seat. Lowest starting price and low running costs thanks to a fuel efficient engine, but is all these things really worth bragging rights?
The sole engine offered with the Versa sedan is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder producing 109hp. City driving will be where you’ll want to spend most of your time with the Versa. It feels smooth and offers decent flexibility. Outside of the city you’ll have to really work the engine hard to get decent pace from it. Plus the CVT transmission really can make the engine drone when the revs are high.
On the road the Versa doesn’t feel composed when you feel like driving a little spiritedly. There’s way too much body roll in corners and bends, plus the front wheels feel like they are going to lose grip. Steering feedback becomes numb at highway speeds with poor directional stability. This car would be a great long distance cruiser but it’s far too unrelaxed outside of the city limits for us to recommend. However the Versa does offer the biggest backseat and boot space for a small sedan in this price category.
S trim comes with air-con, Bluetooth and optional five-speed manual gearbox or 4-speed automatic. S Plus offers cruise control, rear spoiler and CVT transmission. SV adds USB connection port, front map light with key linked illuminated entry and 60/40 split folding rear seats. Top of the range SL trim adds 16-aluminum alloy wheels, five-inch color display audio system and integrated turn signals on exterior mirrors.
The Versa Sedan has an attractive starting price and the roomiest rear seat in its class. Reliability should be good too and running costs will be low. However this car is far from great. This car feels more at home around the city. Outside of those elements the Versa sedan becomes a chore to drive and you’ll have to really rev the engine hard on faster paced roads. A big backseat shouldn’t be the only reason to persuade you into the Versa. It does offer good value but it’s just not the best.

Likes: Low running costs coupled with low starting price and the largest backseat in the segment.

Dislikes: Both automatic transmissions are dreadful. It becomes a chore to drive outside of city limits. Not sure if it provides a convincing enough case to buy one other than the low price.

Devon’s Choice: The S-Plus trim adds cruise control, rear spoiler and a smoother CVT transmission. It’s not much but its way better than the four-speed automatic in the standard S trim. For those who choose the S trim should stick with the manual gearbox which is much smoother.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Devon test drives a popular Toyota crossover

The Toyota Rav-4 was popular for a reason. If you wanted a to save a few miles on the gallon the four-cylinder was standard and very good one at that. Those who wanted power could opt for a silk smooth six-cylinder with sports car-like acceleration. With the new Rav-4 has Toyota lost that momentum by not offering the class rare six-cylinder engine?
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 175hp will satisfy most buyers needs. It's smooth and offers a good turn of pace when needed. Owners of the previous generation six-cylinder will be disappointed to learn that engine didn't carry over into this generation.
On the road the Rav-4 is smooth and comfortable which is great for a compact crossover, but those who want a little fun behind the wheel won't find it here. Steering feedback is completely numb and any idea of spirited driving is thrown out the window by the softly sprung suspension which is aimed more towards comfort. One thing the Rav-4 is good for is ferrying the family around and is quite easy to drive around town too thanks to light steering.
It isn't hard getting comfortable behind the wheel. All the controls and dials are within easy reach of the driver's hand and the infotaiment system offers a no nonsense layout. Much of the controls and dials feel upscale like you'd expect and overall quality is top notch too just the way a Toyota is supposed to feel.
LE trim adds a back-up camera, eco/sport mode for the ransmission and auto-off headlights. XLE trim adds auto climate control, roof rails and a premium audio system with navigation. Top of the range Limited trim adds 8-way adjustable driver's seat, keyless start system and a power liftgate.
The Rav-4 may not be the most engaging to drive and it may not wow you with its styling. The one thing that it does well is offer comfort for five with plenty of space to ferry the family around and is the most comfortable to drive as daily commuter car. It may not be a jack of all trade like the previous generation, but it still is a great option for those who want a no nonsense compact crossover.
Likes: Decent running costs, comfortable to drive and live with. Plenty of features for the money.
Dislikes: Not very engaging to drive as some rivals.
XLE trim is the pick of the range. It offers all you'll really need with the Rav-4 without being overly expensive. Too bad you'll still have to pay extra for all-wheel-drive on all forms. But it's not really needed though.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Devon test drives a VW GTI

The GTI is the original hot hatch and still is one of the best that money can buy.
You can still have the GTI with that thumping turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder producing 210hp and 258lb-ft torque. This makes the GTI a lot easier to live with than the even hotter Focus ST. Standard six-speed manual gearbox is the best way to have the GTI. The shifts are smooth and slick, for those who prefer the automatic the six-speed DSG gearbox is just as good and offers clutchless manual shifting. Want a little bit more power? You can add an optional power pack which adds an additional 10hp for a total of 220hp which is still far cheaper than the A3 hatch.
On the road the GTI feels very comfortable to drive yet agile when you want to get a little aggressive in the corners. Steering weighs up nicely and offers plenty of feedback. Interior quality is what you'd expect of a Volkswagen. Much of the materials used are high quality with excellent fit and finish. The boot has even more space than the previous generation which is also very helpful for those who want to use this as their daily commuter vehicle.
S trim comes with LED foglights, 18-inch alloy wheels, touch screen sound system with 5.8 inch screen and heated front seats. SE trim comes with rain sensing windshield wipers, keyless start and rearview parking camera. Autobahn package offers climate control, leather seating surfaces, navigation system and automatic headlights. Most buyers will be satisfied with the SE trim which is the pick of the range. It offers just enough kit without being overly expensive.
The new GTI is a large improvement over the previous generation. The turbo engine is smooth with plenty of torque to help make it more easy to live with as a daily commuter car. No other hot hatch blends these well like the GTI and is our top pick for hot hatches.

Likes: Smooth turbo engine. Plenty of grip and is very easy to live with. Offers plenty of features for the money.
Dislikes: Can get expensive with options.
Some may say the Focus ST is a better buy because it has 252hp for the same price. However, the Focus ST isn't as comfortable or composed as a GTI and it doesn't feel as classy in the inside. It's a no brainer here the GTI is a great package.
SE trim is our pick of the range. It has all the kit you'll want a a price tag that is affordable.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Devon test drives an Audi A3

If you acquire the taste of luxury but the price tag leaves you running for the hills. Fret not because the Audi A3 is here.

There are two engines to choose from. The standard 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 170hp while the top of the range 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 220hp. Picking between the two is all a mere matter of taste. The 1.8 only comes with front-wheel-drive and is our pick of the range. It makes the most sense financially and running costs are decent too. It’s nice though that you can have more power with the 2-liter turbo but you can only have it with all-wheel-drive. Both versions don’t even offer a manual gearbox, in both cases however you’ll have to go with the upcoming redesigned Volkswagen Golf/GTI to satisfy that desire.

Unless you’re downgrading from a Bentley, the interior won’t be as classy in comparison. However both are classy and both won’t disappoint. Audi's interior decors are some of the best in the industry. Even the optional infotainment display that sort of leaps out of the dash is a welcome touch; everything is within easy reach of the driver’s hand and the seats are comfortable with plenty of support. Rear passengers however may suffer a bit in legroom.

Premium trim offers leather seats, Xenon headlamps, dual zone climate control and a panoramic sunroof. Premium plus trim adds keyless start, 18-inch alloy wheels and heated front seats. You’ll have to step up to the Prestige trim to full LED headlights, 14 speaker 705watt sound system and voice control navigation system.

The A3 may seem expensive compared to indirect rivals such as the Mazda3 and even Volkswagen GTI. But for those who crave the Audi badge but can’t afford the A4 we strongly suggest sticking with the standard form and you’ll be fine. Resale value is too soon to call since the A3 is new to the market.

The A3 is a classy offering and is worth considering if you want a four-door sedan with premium image. However it’s just not as compelling to look at compared to the Mercedes CLA and it’s not as fun to drive as a BMW 2-series. It is the best between the two and we think it’s the top pick for those who want a classy well rounded sedan.

Likes: Both engines have strong pull. The standard kit is impressive for such a low asking price.

Dislikes: Bland exterior looks. There are so many indirect rivals that offer more for similar money.

Devon’s Choice: The A3 Premium 1.8t is where our money would go. It offers enough kit to satisfy most needs without being too expensive. Plus running costs are decent too.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Devon test drives a Mitsubishi Outlander

The Mitsubishi Outlander has a lot to prove in a heavily competitive crossover segment. There are some heavy hitters from Ford, Nissan and Toyota. Does Mitsubishi have what it takes to lure buyers away? Or is it all too late to save the ailing brand?
ES and SE trims both only come with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder which produces 166hp. The SE trim offers optional all-wheel-drive. While the top of the range GT offers a 3-liter six-cylinder producing 244hp. It’s nice that Mitsubishi offers the six-cylinder but we question if it is really needed. Unless you are looking at the more spec’d up versions of the Escape and Rogue, the SE trim is the pick of the range. It comes with just enough kit without being too expensive and offers all-wheel-drive optional.
The Outlander just doesn’t feel as composed to drive as a Ford Escape. The ride comfort however isn’t as firm as the Escape. But ride is too easily upset over some road surfaces, which causes the ride to feel bouncy especially at higher speeds on the highway. At least there’s plenty of grip, but the steering doesn’t really weight up at highway speeds. At least road and wind noise are well suppressed and you won’t really hear much from the engines at relaxed speeds.
There’s plenty of space for passengers to get comfortable. Drivers won’t struggle to find a comfortable seating position. All but the third row seat which is best left for children. With the third row seat folded down the boot space opens up and offers plenty of space. The dashboard is somewhat easy to navigate through. We dislike the fiddly to operate touch screen display which is too distracting to use on the go.
The ES trim comes with auto-off headlights, keyless entry, power windows and a hill start assist. Our favorite trim SE comes with climate control, alloy wheels, touch screen display with rearview camera, keyless start and an eco-mode switch. Top of the range GT trim adds HID headlights, all-wheel-drive and Sirius-XM satellite radio.
The Outlander is priced competitively among its keen rivals like the Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue.  Even though you get more kit than both vehicles, we think you’re better off picking one of the two. Running costs with the Outlander should be average but resale value should be a bit of a worry. Reliability is above average though.
The Outlander is a great option for those who want something with good value for the money. However the Outlander just isn’t as polished as its keen rivals and resale isn’t great. But if you want something a little different from its rivals and you really want seven seats at a discount this is your best option.

Likes: Seven seat crossover at a reasonable price, running costs with four-cylinder are decent. The kit level is very impressive at this price range

Dislikes: Resale value is questionable. Exterior design is on the bland side. This is not the halo car Mitsubishi desperately needs.

Devon’s Choice: SE trim offers optional all-wheel-drive, and comes standard with alloy wheels, keyless start and a rearview camera. It’s the only trim that makes the most sense without over paying for the GT trim.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Devon tries to find purpose for the BMW X6

Unless you really want the X6 and don’t mind paying the premium for it, the X5 is cheaper and much more practical. Here’s why:
The standard 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder producing 300hp already provides enough kick in your pants acceleration. So we question if the 4.4-liter turbocharged eight-cylinder producing 400hp is really worth paying the premium for. What separates the X6 from the X5 is the sweet handling and sharp steering. You’ll have to pay for the option to get the X6 to drive the way it should and at this price point it shouldn’t be an option. At least the engines are smooth in operation and are quite lovely to hear when under hard acceleration. Wind and road noise are very well hushed in the cabin.

BMW has a minimalistic approach to their interior designs, and the X6 is no exception. Everything is very easy to locate and everything is within easy reach of the driver’s hand. The new iDrive system is much more user-friendly. Drivers in the front will find comfort very easily while rear passengers may struggle for headroom and legroom. Plus the boot space is just down right disappointing. This is all due to the slopping roofline.
The X6 does come well equipped for the money. Keyless entry is standard, as well as iDrive infotainment system and Xenon Headlamps. Climate control and leather seats are also standard. One annoying thing about BMW is that you’ll have to pay for extra that should be standard. Such as heated front seats, keyless start and rearview parking camera, which you will need because rearward visibility is appalling!
 Buying an X6 isn’t a cheap proposition. But your investments should be well secured as BMW resale value is strong thanks to the badge. Running costs will be high unless you stick with the standard turbocharged six-cylinder which should be somewhat decent. Quality of the interior feels high class and well put together. Reliability should be good as with all BMW vehicles.

The X6 is aimed for those who seek something different. It’s quirky and odd way to be different too. It’s expensive too and you don’t get some premium features that should be standard. Plus you’ll have to pay the money to make it drive and handle the way that it should. Unless you really just have to have an X6 the X5 is cheaper and much more practical than the X6.

Likes: Handles and drives with the right options. It’s different and quirky yet holds its value well. Turbo engines both are powerful. iDrive system has been vastly improved.

Dislikes: Why does being different cost so much? You’ll pay an arm and leg to make the X6 drive the way it should, and some options at this price point shouldn’t be optional. You're better off with an X5.

Devon’s Choice: The standard 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder is all the engine you will ever need. It’s still expensive but running costs won’t be too bad.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Devon test drives a Ford Fiesta ST

The Ford Fiesta ST is best pocket rocket that money can buy.

The 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 197hp and is mated to a super slick six-speed manual gearbox. You desire oomph this engine won’t disappoint. Acceleration is more than just brisk it’s downright bonkers on the highway. Even when you are not driving like a total hooligan the Fiesta ST is still a refined enough for daily commutes. Steering and handling are among its sweet spots. You can hurl it into a corner and feel virtually no torque steer. The engine exhaust is contagious and wants you to keep the revs high and demands to be pushed harder. Wind noise won’t be an issue, road noise will thanks to the low profile tires. But it’s far from annoying.

Interior space is decent with plenty of space for both front and rear passengers. Taller passengers in the rear seats will find legroom and headroom slightly cramped. The boot offers decent space too. The dashboard is just too fiddly to navigate through at glimpse. There’s just way too many similar looking buttons and the SYNC MYFORD touch screen display is just too confusing to navigate through. 17 inch alloy wheels, blind spot warning system and temperature control all come standard. You’ll have to pay extra for a sunroof, navigation system and heated front seats. For the money though the Fiesta ST is well equipped.

The Ford Fiesta ST is worth every single penny. Unless you want to have the few add on options we strongly suggest sticking with the standard kit because you’ll be pretty satisfied with what you get. What makes the ST even more appealing is it still offers decent running costs and strong resale value. However it won’t be as strong of a Mini Cooper S but it should be strong thanks to popular demand of this vehicle.

The Fiesta ST is a great all round hatchback with plenty of zip for very little money. If you want to most fun to drive hatchback for very little cash the Ford Fiesta is the most compelling option you can have. It may not be a Mini Cooper S but it does what it’s designed for better plus it’s more practical than the Mini.

Likes: Thumping turbo engine and excellent chassis makes this Fiesta a win-win.

Dislikes: Fiddly infotainment system but that’s just nitpicking.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Devon test drives a large Chevy SUV

Picking the Chevy Suburban means that you need space and lots of it. It offers seating up to nine and can tow up to 8,300lbs. The Suburban will put minivans and crossovers to shame. But with high running costs and bulky image will it be enough to justify buying one?

The sole engine on hand is a 5.3-liter Eco-Tec eight-cylinder which produces 355hp. Rear-wheel-drive is standard while four-wheel-drive is optional. We strongly suggest getting the four-wheel-drive which really does help out in snowy areas and adds a bit of traction in towing. But for those who won't need all-wheel-drive the rear-wheel-drive is just as capable. Acceleration is smooth and brisk but remember this is a large nine-seat sport utility vehilce so it's not going to be race car fast.
The sheer size of the Suburban makes it a chore to live with. Rear view vision camera really does come in handy when reversing out of parking spaces in the mall and in the city. But it's still tricky to navigate on anything but large Blvds and highways. Steering is okay but it feels rather heavy at times and the Suburban is about as aerodynamic as a tower block so wind noise will be an issue. Road noise is very well hidden though.
The Suburban can seat up to nine but we reckon that most will find that even the seven seat configuration is more than enough. With the third row in place the boot space is decent but it grows enormously with the third row seat folding down. Fold down the second row seat too and you've got a massively large boot. The LS trim is the way to go it's the cheapest of the range and offers enough for most buyers needs. Automatic climate control, rear view parking camera, remote start and rear park assist all come standard. You'll have to step up to the LT trim which adds leather seats, power tailgate and forward collision warning. Top of the range LTZ offers HID headlights with LED daytime running lamps, keyless start and 20 inch alloy wheels.
The Chevy Suburban isn't cheap to buy nor is it cheap to run. The large thirsty eight-cylinder engine will be a welcome visitor at the pump. Resale value should be good thanks the Suburban nameplate and the fact that people will always still buy these even if gas prices shoot past $6 per gallon.

The Chevy Suburban is a great workhorse of a vehicle. It can seat up to nine offers plenty of comfort for people and can tow up to 8,300lbs. It's a great vehicle if you stick with the standard form which is the cheapest. Paying more than the LT trim means you'll be entering territory with choices like the Mercedes GL which is an all round better option. The Chevy Suburban is a great family car for those who want big but there are premium rivals that do the same tricks better and save a few miles on the gallon too.

Likes: The sheer size of it intimidates other drivers. Lovely eight-cylinder rumble under heavy acceleration.

Dislikes: Sheer size makes it a chore to live with. Running costs are high. There's no diesel engine option. Top of the range trim is expensive and isn't as great as some rivals.

Devon's pick: LS trim is all the Suburban you'll ever really need. You'll have to pay extra for four-wheel-drive but rear view parking camera and rear parking assist are standard as well as automatic climate control and a remote start system. Most will be satisfied with those features.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Devon test drives a Volvo S80 sedan

Image result for volvo s80 2017 no copyright image
The Volvo S80 may appeal to Volvo Fans, but the real challenge is can the S80 lure the Audi, BMW and Mercedes buyers away from their German Sedans?

The S80 offers two engines to pick from. The 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 240hp while the 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder produces 300hp. Picking between the two is a mere matter of taste. Our money goes to the turbocharged six-cylinder. It's not that much more than the four-cylinder plus it offers standard all-wheel-drive which still manages to undercut all its German Rivals.

On the road the S80 offers secure handling. It isn't really as sharp to drive as a BMW 5-series but most won't ever push it to its limits. At least the cabin is classy and refined with very little wind and road noise. The ride however can be a bit firm over some bumps and poor road surfaces. It's far from being a deal breaker. Sadly steering is numb and lacks feedback that its German rivals have.

Volvo's floating dashboard has made its way into the S80 and it's classy. The infotainment system is simple and easy to use, all the controls are within reach of the drive'rs hand. The seats offer superb comfort with plenty of adjustments for all drivers of all sizes to get comfortable. There's plenty of space for five passengers with decent leg and headroom. The boot offers decent space too. Standard features include rain sensing windshield wipers, auto lights, power adjustable fronts seats and climate control. You'll have to step up to the T6 to get all-wheel-drive, navigation system and Xenon headlamps.

The S80 is much cheaper to buy than its German Rivals. Plus running costs are much lower too. However you'll be a little worried about resale value which isn't as strong as its German Rivals. Volvo is known for safety and you shouldn't have to worry too much with the S80. Stability control, anti-lock brakes and traction control are standard as well as curtian airbags. Anti-whiplash head restraints and anti-submarining seats are also standard. Security is just as good too with plenty of anti-theft aids to keep theft at away.

The S80 sedan is a classy offering that really does deserve a second look. It may not be as sharp to drive as a 5-series or hold its value as well. It's still cheaper to buy, offers more kit and is much more satisfying to own. We can't find any reason not to consider the S80.

Likes: Both engines are smooth and flexible. The standard kit list is pretty good for such a low asking price. It feels safe and secure on the road.

Dislikes: It's rather bland compared to German Rivals. Plus it doesn't hold its value well either.

Devon's Pick: T6 comes with all-wheel-drive and a smooth turbocharged six-cylinder. We have nothing agaisnt the four-cylinder which is just as smooth. But to get a 5-series with this type of horsepower and all-wheel-drive system you'll pay double the price. Plus the amount of kit really does pay for itself. What more can you ask for?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Devon tries to make sense of a Prius-V

The Prius-V adds a splash of interior room and boot space over the standard Prius hatchback. The Prius-V may tick all the right buttons. But is it worth the premium?

Likes: The interior and boot space is roomier than the standard Prius hatch. Still fuel efficient and is a comfortable drive around town.

Dislikes: CVT doesn’t like to be rushed, and when it does it makes the engine whine. Nothing exciting about the looks or the driving experience, not sure the premium is well justified over the standard Prius hatch.

Overall: It’s an appliance with top notch quality and reliability. For some it’s just enough, but for others there are more engaging alternatives that are just as efficient.

Performance: The engine output is modest at best. But for those who want a fuel efficient vehicle they won’t mind. Around town it’s feels at home, it’s smooth and zippy. On the highway if you drive with a spirited right foot the CVT will make the engine whine which makes the Prius-V sound unrested on long journeys.

On the road: It’s not all that engaging to drive but it handles safely and securely. This will be enough for most drivers but others who want a sharper drive will like the Volkswagen Jetta wagon more. The ride comfort is smooth except on uneven road surfaces which make the ride really firm.

Equipment: The standard kit will be enough for most buyers unless you have to have extra bits like HID headlights and larger alloy wheels. We highly suggest sticking with the standard form which is good enough with a decent price tag.

Buying & owning: We were on the fence as to whether or not the Prius-V is really worth paying the premium for when the standard Prius hatch is pretty much roomy and well kitted as well. Resale value should be pretty strong because demand for hybrid vehicles is still pretty high. Running costs will be low too especially if you drive it the way it was intended.

Quality & safety: The interior is okay. The plastics used in certain areas look cheap and drab, but they feel sturdy and long lasting. Safety kit is extensive and there’s plenty of it for the money.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Devon ponders the reason of a two-seat Mini

If you desire a Mini with only two-seats this will be the perfect Mini for you.

Performance: The standard 1.6 produces 121hp. You can step up to the Cooper S with a turbocharged 181hp while the JCW pumps out 208hp. Pick of the range is the Cooper S. It really does combine performance and fuel economy well. It’s the most sensible version you can buy.

On the road: The standard suspension is the most sensible way to have the Coupe. It handles well and the ride is still smooth enough for most drivers taste. We certainly do love the sports suspension which really does sharpen the handling. But the only trade-off is you’ll have to deal with an overly firm suspension which most will forgive because it really does make the Coupe that much more fun to drive. Road noise can enter the cabin on some road surfaces while wind noise is plenty at highway speeds. Overall the Mini does feel refined.

Behind the wheel: The driver’s seat and steering wheel offers plenty of adjustment but that’s where the positives end. The dashboard design puts style of functionality which makes it a nightmare to use. The narrow rear window and thick pillars mean rear visibility is dreadful. Even though the Mini Coupe only has two seats, there is plenty of room for both. Headroom and legroom are good with a decent sized boot.

Equipment: The Cooper, Cooper S and JCW all pretty much have the same array of standard features. CD-player, air-con and keyless entry with push button start all come standard. You’ll have to pay extra to get the features that you’ll most likely want and that pushes the price higher than we’d like.

Buying & owning: Mini is known for being more expensive than even some of its indirect rivals. But resale value will be strong thanks to the fact that Mini has been very popular. Running costs will be decent to if you avoid the outrageously fast JCW trim.

Quality & safety: The switch gear and some controls feel cheap and fiddly. Other than those few bits the interior quality feels impressive and looks sturdy enough. Reliability has vastly improved over the years; we think that the Coupe should be no different. The go-kart like handling encourages you to push on through corners and bends. If things get a little out of control stability control kicks in to help keep you on the road. The sophisticated brake should also help you avoid an accident. There are front and side airbags to keep you from harm in case of a collision.

The Mini Coupe is a hoot to drive although it is kind of expensive and Mini is stingy with the standard kit list. We however struggle to find what the point of this Mini.

Likes: It’s a hoot to drive. Cooper S and JCW trim add to the excitement.

Dislikes: Typical Mini being stingy with standard kit, we struggle to find the point of it. The dashboard aims for style rather than functionality.

Devon’s Choice: The Cooper S blends performance and running costs well for such a low asking price. However you’ll have to pay for the kit you’ll most likely want and that sky rockets the price quickly.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Devon goes bonkers with Ford Focus ST

Feeling the need for speed? But can't pay the premium that comes with it? Well Ford hopes that the Focus ST will lure you in. It's not as sophisticated as the Volkswagen GTI, but it is worth every single penny. Here's why!

Performance: A 2-liter high-output turbocharged four-cylinder produces 252hp mated to a smooth six-speed manual gearbox. Hooligans who wanted speed surely will get plenty of that. The Focus ST is fast and the manual gearbox is smooth. It's exactly what the doctor ordered for a high performance hatchback and these winning combinations won't disappoint!

On the road: We really wish the ST had a limited slip differential because there's just too much torque steer between the first two gears. This is mainly due to the fact that there is 270lb-ft torque only going to the front wheels. It reminds us of the Saab 9-3 Viggen which torque steered like no tomorrow. Handling is pretty good when you aren't pushing it to its limits and steering feel is great too. The Focus ST feels sporty and yet it's quiet and sophisticated interior quality makes it a strong contender against the Volkswagen GTI. The driving experience is even better when you turn off the radio and listen to that sweet revving turbo engine. It's one soundtrack we wouldn't mind hearing over and over again.

Behind the wheel: There driving position is good with plenty of adjustments for the steering wheel. All will find a comforable driving position. Our only complaint is the overly complicated button happy infotainment system. Plus the touch screen display is too fiddly operate while on the go. What hatchbacks are supposed to offer is plenty of passenger space and cargo space to go along with the speed. In the Focus ST defense we managed to get five passengers in and still enough for luggage. The boot has a decent amount of space.

Equipment: Unique ST body-kit with 18-inch alloy wheels are standard as well as SYNC voice activated entertainment system. Recaro leather seats are optional as well as HID headlights, sunroof and premium audio system with 10 speakers.

Buying & owning: Running costs aren't bad but aren't great either. But for the amount of speed you get with the Focus ST we think that it's pretty darn good, unless you drive with a light food that is. Insurance rates maybe a bit steep for younger drivers because the Focus ST is considered a performance car and will encourage the driver to drive it like a complete hooligan. Resale value should be strong because the ST has been very popular.

Quality & Safety: The plastics used in the Focus interior feel somewhat low rent in certain areas, while other areas it feels very luxurious and classy. Overall feel of the switchgears has been positive. Reliability record a little worrying as most Focus owners have rated their Focus below average compared to rivals. In case you get a little too carried away with your Focus there is stability control, anti-lock brakes both come standard. There's front and side curtain airbags with five-star rating. A theft alarm and engine immobilizer keeps theft at bay.

Hooligans can rejoice because the Focus St is what they've been waiting for. A cheap hatchback that's practical, spacious and roomy. Plus its just a complete hoot to drive thanks to that turbo engine. However it's just not as refined as a GTI nor is it as composed because there's just too much torque for the front wheels to handle. We wish it had a limited slip differential, but it's the best hot hatch money can buy and it really is worth every penny.

Likes: It's that one car that makes you want to drive like a complete hooligan and feel good about doing it. Practical and roomy plus its an absolute bargain!

Dislikes: Torque steer and fiddly infotainment system.

Devon test drives a Jeep Compass

The one star rating is all you need to know. Look elsewhere!

Performance: Two engines are available with the Compass. Standard 2-liter four-cylinder producing 158hp is best had with a manual gearbox because you’ll really need to work this engine hard. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 172hp is optional but well worth paying extra for. It feels much more up for the job. Even with all-wheel-drive optioned it still doesn’t feel as sluggish as the 2-liter with just front-wheel-drive.

On the road: We haven’t had the chance to take the all-wheel-drive Compass on any off-road terrain. But we were bitterly disappointed with its on road dynamics. The car leans too much into corners and bends and the ride comfort is just too fidgety and unsettled. The 2-liter engine sounds coarse when pushed hard while the 2.4 feels more relaxed at highway speeds. Wind and road noise will be unwelcomed companions on the highway.

Behind the wheel: The elevated driving position is great but we wish the steering wheel adjust for reach instead of height only. Some drivers will struggle to get comfortable. Over the shoulder visibility isn’t great either thanks to thick side pillars. The optional touch-screen infotainment system can be a bit fiddly to operate on the move. There’s plenty of space for four-passengers in the cabin and the boot isn’t massive but it has plenty of handy storage to compensate.

Equipment: Sport trim offers a five-speed manual gearbox, air-con, cd-player and alloy wheels. Latitude trim adds color matched exterior rearview mirrors, sport mesh seats and upgraded sport seats. Top of the range Limited adds projector headlamps, fog lights and a rear back up camera.

Buying & Owning: The Jeep Compass is aimed to undercut cars like the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan. But we think that you’re better off picking one of those than the Compass. Even if the purchase price is lower, resale value isn’t all that great and running costs are a mere average compared to its rivals and that’s just not good enough reason to want to buy one other than the badge.

Quality & Safety: The cabin doesn’t really feel classy and the plastics used feel cheap. We aren’t sure about reliability either because Jeep has scored low in that department. Six airbags come standard with stability control, anti-lock brakes and all-wheel-drive optional to help keep things under control. Compared to its rivals the Compass scored much lower in crash safety. A engine immobilizer and alarm system keep theft at bay.

If you have to have a Jeep the Cherokee is worth paying the premium for. Even its rivals are worth paying the extra for.
Likes: It's a cheap Jeep with an okay amount of kit standard.
Dislikes: Other than its cheap price, this Jeep is utterly disappointing in everything else.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Devon test drives a gem of a wagon from BMW

There’s one BMW that really does catch our attention the most and it’s not one of the wicked fast M-cars. It’s the 3-series sports wagon. It’s one of the rarest gems you’ll find in BMW line-up that we think is worth paying the premium for. Even if it means passing up the better X-range of sport utility vehicles; here’s why.

Performance: There are two engines to choose from. The 328i has the 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 240hp while the 328d has a 2-liter turbo-diesel producing 180hp. If you do tons of highway driving the 328d makes the most sense financially. Otherwise the 328i will suit most buyers.

On the road: We have yet to test drive a BMW with the standard suspension. Our tester car came equipped with the pricey adaptive M Sport Suspension and it really does make the 3-series wagon dreamy to drive. Handling is excellent and steering is responsive with plenty of feedback. The standard xDrive offers traction at the bucket loads. Both engines don’t really sound great at idle. Even the gasoline counterpart sounds like a diesel at idle. Wind and road noise however is well suppressed.

Behind the wheel: There’s plenty of room for the driver to get comfortable. The steering wheel and seat offers plenty of adjustments. Most functions are operated through BMW’s iDrive system which has been vastly improved. It’s much easier to operate and really does beat Mercedes system by a long shot. Passenger space in the rear seat isn’t huge but if you are willing to share the space it is bearable. The boot offers plenty of space but becomes enormous when the rear seats are folded down.

Equipment: Engine stop/start system, auto dimming rearview mirror and electric interior tailgate release all come standard. You’ll have to pay extra for xenon-headlamps, comfort access and the adaptive M Sport Suspension which we think is an option worth having if you want the most engaging driving experience with your 3-series wagon.

Buying & owning: The 3-series wagon is expensive and there’s no hiding that fact. But compared to its rival the Volvo V60, the 3-series offers slightly better fuel economy thanks to the diesel engine and will hold its value well partially thanks to the fact that a 3-series wagon is very hard to find on dealer lots.

Quality & safety: The interior feels very upscale and classy. Much of the materials used feel long lasting and durable. BMW has had a very respectable reliability record with the 3-series. So we see no major issues for it. However we strongly suggest an extended warranty if you are planning to keep the 3-series long after the standard warranty is over. Standard safety kit includes stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes. Six airbags come standard as well. All 3-series come with theft deterrent system as well as deadlocks to keep theft away. However you want to keep in mind that an alarm system is only offered as an option.

The BMW 3-series wagon is a great alternative to the large range of sport utility vehicles and crossovers out there. If you want an engaging vehicle that’s lighter and much more fun to drive, the 3-series wagon clicks all the right buttons. However you’ll have to pay extra for the adaptive M Sport suspension to make it ride and handle the way it should. You could pick one of the X-range sport utility vehicles, but none of them have the appeal of the 3-series wagon. This is why we think it’s the best of the 3-series range.

Likes: It’s the most practical and stylish 3-series of the range. Turbo-diesel engine option is the way to go.

Dislikes: We have yet to drive a BMW with the standard suspension and from what we’ve heard it’s disappointing; it’s expensive compared to the Volvo V60 the only other real competitor it has.

Devon’s Choice: The 328d makes the most sense because most owners will do tons of highway driving. Thus picking the diesel in this case is a no brainer. Plus it’s much more efficient than the gasoline engine. Only downside is you'll have to pay extra for the adaptive M Sport suspension so it rides and handles the way it should.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Devon has a hoot with the Chevy SS

The Pontiac G8 brought hotrod V8 muscle with a bargain basement price. It was a real gem and offered the most bang for your buck. Sadly Pontiac was discontinued and the G8 was never continued on until now. The Chevy SS which GM hopes will continue the success that the G8 was much raved about. But is it just a lost cause?

On the road: The massive 6.2-liter LS3 eight-cylinder produces 415hp. Although this is the only engine choice available for the SS it’s actually quite entertaining to drive. Press hard and the SS emits a lovely V8 rumble that’s contagious. It screams for revs and loves the highway where it is a total hoot to drive. The SS has a limited slip differential which helps make the SS surprisingly easy to drive on twisty narrow roads. Brembo brakes are fitted standard in case you ever get too aggressive with the go-fast acceleration.

Behind the wheel: The front seats are very comfortable with plenty of support. The dashboard design is rather plain looking but is very user friendly to navigate through. Passenger space is very generous and the boot is absolutely enormous. The SS comes loaded with standard kit. HID headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, 8-inch touch screen display come standard as well as leather appointed seats, Bluetooth and 10-way power adjustable driver seat and passenger seat.

Buying & owning: The SS won’t be cheap to run because of the massive eight-cylinder engine which will guzzle gas if you drive it the way it was intended to be driven, like a hooligan. But at least it is fun to drive and its price of admission is actually relatively low. The interior won’t feel world class but the materials used feel sturdy and long lasting. Plus reliability of its Vauxhall counterpart has been good so we see no reason why the SS shouldn’t be good too. Eight airbags comes standard as well as stability control and forward collision alert. Blind spot warning detection is standard as well as lane departure warning. Deadlocks and theft deterrent with alarm system are fitted as standard to keep theft at bay.

 Overall: The Chevy SS is a real hooligan on the highway. The lovely rumble from the V8 is contagious and there’s plenty of grip too. If you want that muscle V8 sedan for a relatively low price look no further.

Likes: Total hoot to drive and the V8 emits the most contagious rumble. Not only is it fast but it has bucket loads of grip.

Dislikes: Running cost and limited availability are the only two we can really think of.

Devon test drives the Infiniti Q60 convertible

Audi A5, BMW 4-series and Lexus IS all offer a convertible that suits just about everyone’s taste. So why would anyone choose the Infiniti Q60? Let’s find out.

Performance: There’s only one engine offered with the Q60 convertible and that’s a brisk 3.7-liter six-cylinder producing 325hp. Both a seven-speed automatic and six-speed manual gearbox are offered. If you want to get the most engaging driving experience the manual gearbox is the way to go. The auto gearbox really isn’t the smoothest shifting gearbox out there.

On the road: The only thing positive we can say about the Q60 is the steering is direct and takes you around corners and bends with confidence. Everything else however isn’t as great. The body flexes and shivers over rough surfaces. Even with the top down things are far worst. Hit a bump and you’ll get a serious whack in the backside. Wind noise isn’t much of an issue on the highway, but road noise will be heard on some surfaces. The six-cylinder is smooth until you press hard and hear a lovely V6 howl.

Behind the wheel: The dashboard isn’t a paradigm of clarity. But it is somewhat easy to navigate through. There’s plenty of adjustment in the steering wheel and driver’s seat. Rear seat comfort is actually pretty good. It’s even better than some 2+2 coupes. With the roof down the boot space disappears completely thanks to the folding metal roof.

Equipment: Q60 comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless start, and rear-view parking camera and 7-inch color info display. You’ll have to step up to the Q60S to get a six-speed manual gearbox, sport-tuned steering, 19-inch alloy wheels and Bose 13-speaker open air sound system.

Buying & owning: Standard kit is very generous which may explain the car’s hefty price. Since the Q60 only comes with a six-cylinder which isn’t all that fuel efficient. Running costs will be high. Resale value should be decent though.

Quality & safety: The interior has a very nice solid feel to it. Some may feel that the use of Nissan switchgear and buttons cheapen the quality a little. Other than that it’s a very nice and appealing design. Infiniti has decent reliability as well. Six airbags are standard as well as anti-roll-over hoops that pop out in the event of a rollover. Stability control, anti-lock brakes and traction control all come standard. There’s a theft deterrent system to keep thieves at bay.

The Q60 convertible is a good choice if you just have to have an Infiniti. There’s decent kit and the engine is smooth around town and on the highway. But there are just too many negatives to consider. The ride comfort isn’t as composed as its keen rivals and running costs will be high. We highly suggest looking at its rivals first.

Likes: It’s an interesting and good looking alternative to the mainstream. Packed with equipment that somewhat offsets the steep hefty price.

Dislikes: If only it was a good to drive as it is to look at. Running costs will be high. It’s pricey to buy too. The ride comfort isn’t as composed as its keen rivals.

Devon’s choice: It’s hard recommending one with such a steep price and absurd running costs. But if your mind is set on having one, the Q60 base is the only way to go.

Devon M

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Devon test drives a CLA

Audi and Mercedes both are offering four-door sedans for buyers who can't afford the more expensive A4 and C-class offerings. The CLA is the stylish of the two and offers that Mercedes quality at a lower asking price. But does this mean that you get what you pay for with a cheap Mercedes?

Performance: The CLA only offers two engine choices. It's a no brainer here as to which engine is the pick of the range. The CLA250 which is the cheaper of the two offers a turbocharged four-cylinder producing 208hp. Top of the range CLA45 AMG offers the same turbocharged four-cylinder producing 355hp. Most buyers will pick the CLA250 because it's cheaper to buy and makes the most sense financially.

On the road: The CLA suspension is set up towards comfort which is fine if you desire a smooth ride. The car still shimmies around over rough surfaces. The sports suspension sharpens handling but the ride comfort is much firmer and produces a choppy ride over rough surfaces. The AMG is great fun but is much harder to live with. There is little wind noise at highway speeds, there is a lot of road noise on patchy road surfaces. Both engines are smooth in operation but the AMG has a contagious exhaust that makes it hard to drive casually.

Behind the wheel: The driving position is good for drivers of all sizes. With plenty of adjustments for both driver's seat and steering wheel. This is sadly where the positives end. Just like all other Mercedes, you have to operate many functions by scrolling through menus with a single control dial in the center console. The lay out isn't very user friendly and is just too distracting to fully operate while on the go. The swooping roofline means that rear visibility is poor. There's plenty of room in front for two with so-so rear passenger space. You'll have to becareful not to bash your head when getting in the back of the CLA. The boot is fairly large but its shallow and makes loading bulky items tricky.

Equipment: The CLA250 comes with decent kit for the money. Although you'll have to pay extra for Bi-xenon headlamps and a sport package which makes the CLA look sportier. Attention Assist is standard as well as 17-inch alloy wheels, start/stop system and Bluetooth hands-free interface. Top of the range AMG offers unique AMG trim, all-wheel-drive system and Bi-Xenon headlamps.

Buying & owning: The CLA looks pricey compared to the A3 sedan. Many of the features you'll most likely want pushes the price higher. At least the running costs will be decent if you stick with the front-wheel-drive variant. Resale value should be strong too thanks to good looks and the legendary Mercedes badge.

Quality: Interior quality and materials used feel upscale but don't feel as classy as the A3. Plus there are some areas that feel cost cutting. What worries us even more is the fact that Mercedes continues to score low in reliability surveys even though they have improved dramatically over the years. It's still not as good as Audi and BMW.

Safety: 10 airbags come standard as well as Attention Assist which monitors drowsy drivers. Optional is Bi-xenon headlamps on the CLA250 as well as blind spot warning detection. Deadlocks and an imobiliser come standard to keep theft at bay.

The CLA is a great entry level luxury sedan for those who really want the Mercedes badge but can't afford the more expensive C-class. Even though it is a great car all round, it still makes us wonder is it really worth considering? There are many indirect rivals that offer more kit for similar money and there's the Audi A3 which offers a few extra bits standard for the same price tag. Unless love the looks and can over look the short comings of the CLA this is the car for you. Otherwise we suggest looking at the A3 and top of the range indirect rivals.

Likes: Stylish inside out. Smooth turbo engine. AMG is a total hoot to drive. Mercedes at a low price what's not to like?

Dislikes: You'll pay an arm and leg to get the features you'll most likely want. AMG version is expensive. Reliability is still iffy and there's too many better indirect rivals.

Devon's Choice: The CLA250 is a no brainer here. If you want a cheap Mercedes this is the version to go for. However, you'll have to pay extra for features that you'd most likely want. They don't come cheap either!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Devon test drives the biggest Mercedes of the range

Large 4X4s have slowly lost their place to lighter car based crossovers that offer seven seats in a lighter more efficient package. But what if you want that large 4X4 with space for seven in a luxurious well crafted package? The Mercedes GL may tick all the buttons, but is it worth paying the premium for? Let's find out!

Performance: The GL offers four engines. Standard engine is a 3-liter turbo-diesel producing 240hp. A 4.6-liter bi-turbo producing 362hp and 429hp and a 5.5-liter AMG bi-turbo eight-cylinder producing 550hp. Pick of the range is standard turbo-diesel. Even though the price tag is still high, the diesel makes the most sense financially. The AMG tuned version offers jaw-dropping acceleration but makes absolutely no sense unless you have the deep pockets for running costs and just have to have all that power.

On the road: The GL is a large vehicle and there's no hiding that fact. But it doesn't feel as bulky as you would think to drive around town. Steering is overly light and feels vague at times. Ride comfort is one of the best redeeming features about the GL. Although handling takes the backseat. You can option for active roll-bars to improve that with no trade-off in ride comfort. All engines pull well and are extremely relaxed at highway speeds. We like the turbo-diesel and the pull from it's 455lb-ft torque. It's quite flexible but not as contagious as the AMG with it's contagious eight-cylinder sound track.

Behind the wheel: The single stalk for the indicators and wipers can be a bit confusing to operate. The column shifter takes a bit of getting used to as well. Other than these two complaints the interior is very luxurious and upscale. Something you'd expect from Mercedes. From the driver's seat everything feels well laid out and crafted. Visibility is good all round. The sheer size of the GL is intimidating.

Practicality: There's plenty of space in the middle row seat for three adults. The third row seat in the boot can be used by two adults but only for short journeys. The third row can be folded down electrically via a single button operation. This opens up a large boot with impressive space.

Equipment: Airmatic air suspension is standard as well as dual-zone climate control. 4-matic all-wheel-drive system and a sunroof. You'll have to step up to the GL550 to get body-kit, 21-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlamps keyless start system. Top of the range GL63 AMG offers stop/start technology, panorama glass roof, three-zone climate control and a 80G hard-drive nagivation system.

Buying & owning: The GL doesn't come cheap to buy nor run. If you stick with the turbo-diesel your fuel bill will be somewhat cheaper than any of the turbocharged eight-cylinders. Most GL buyers won't care too much about running costs and will stick with the turbocharged eight-cylinders. Resale value will be strong as with all Mercedes products thanks to high desirability.

Quality: Even though Mercedes has vastly improved in terms of quality and reliability. It's nothing to write home about. Mercedes still lags behind it's main rivals Audi and BMW. What is reassuring however is the cabin materials feel sturdy and well screwed together. It feels a tad bit higher quality than the M-class which a lot of its components are shared with.

Safety: The GL offers tons of electronic aids to help avoid a collision. 360-degree parking camera, collision avoidance, crosswind assist and driver fatigue monitoring system give the driver piece of mind when it comes to safety. If that's not enough there's 10 airbags standard and standard window airbags for all three rows.

Overall: The Mercedes GL is a large sport utility vehicle that can seat up to seven in a luxurious well crafted package. Those who want the badge but fear the running costs may want to consider the turbo-diesel which we think makes the most sense. All of the engines are up for the job but you'll need deep pockets for the eight-cylinder engines. The AMG is wicked fast and a bit pointless though. If you desire the Mercedes badge and want seven seats this is your best option.

Devon's choice: GL350 BlueTEC makes the most sense financially. It's the cheapest to buy and offers decent running cost compared to the 4.6. Unless you just want the extra oomph from the eight-cylinder we'd say stick with this version.

Likes: Fit and finish is superb. Actually has room for seven passengers. Comfort and refinement are top notch.

Dislikes: Expensive. Options can sky rocket the price. AMG is wicked fast and wicked expensive to buy and run.