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!