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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Devon test drives his top pick in compact crossovers

Image result for nissan rogue no copyright image

This will be the shortest intro ever. The Nissan Rogue is our top pick in the compact crossover segment. Here’s why.

Performance: The only engine choice offered with the Rogue is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 170hp mated to a continuously variable transmission. This engine is all you’ll ever really need. There’s plenty of pick up around town and on the highway. Plus fuel economy is actually really good too. We’d personally prefer a diesel engine option but that would be nitpicking.

On the road: The Rogue isn’t as sharp to drive as a Volkswagen Tiguan or Ford Escape but it does its intended job well. Around town the ride comfort can be a bit jittery but it’s far from annoying. On the highway the ride comfort smoothens out. Steering is communicative and weighs up nicely. Refinement is one of the Rogue’s strong points. Road and wind noise are well suppressed. You’d think that you were in a more expensive luxury crossover. The CVT transmission often at times makes the engine sound buzzy but this is far from intrusive.

Behind the wheel: There’s plenty of adjustment for the driver to get comfortable behind the wheel of the Rogue. Everything in the dashboard is easy to reach and logically placed. The infotainment screen can be distracting at first but once you get used to it, it becomes a breeze to operate. The Rogue is the best choice for small families that need versatility. There’s plenty of space for five with a spacious boot. If you need to carry two extra people you can option for a third-row seat. Although it is nice that Nissan offers this. The third row is best left for kids or short journeys for adults.

Equipment: The Rogue is well equipped for the money. Standard S trim has Bluetooth, rear-view parking camera and LED daytime running lamps. SV trim adds push button start, 17inch alloy wheels and dual zone automatic climate control. Top of the range SL trim adds 18inch alloy wheels, navigation system and leather appointed seats. All-wheel-drive is optional across the range.

Buying & Owning: The Rogue is priced roughly with its competition which may seem a bit pricey. But with strong resale value you will be reassured of your investment. Fuel economy is actually best in class so your running costs should be low if you stick with the two-wheel-drive form. We think the all-wheel-drive option is best avoided unless you really need the extra traction.

Quality & safety: Everything feels so solid and well built in the cabin. Many of the materials used feel classy and long lasting. Nissan has scored very well in reliability as well. All versions of the Rogue have six-airbags, stability control and emergency brake assist. Lane-departure warning as well as collision warning systems is offered as an option. Immobilizer helps protect against thieves.

The Nissan Rogue is a compelling option in a sea of compact crossovers. If you are looking for the most sensible choice with good fuel economy, snazzy looks and is well put together. The Nissan Rogue is the perfect choice. So it’s no wonder why it is our top pick for compact crossovers.

Likes: Fuel economy is best in class. Exterior and interior are classy and well put together. Third row seat can be had as an option for the Rogue.

Dislikes: A diesel engine option or a more powerful engine option would be nice. But these are just nitpicks really.

Devon’s Pick: SV trim offers keyless start, 17inch alloy wheels and automatic climate control. You may have to pay extra for this trim. But we feel that this one offers the best overall compared to the S and SL.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

One Minute Review with Mercedes G-class

Performance: Two powerful engines. Picking between the two depends on the depends on the depths of your wallet. The G550 has enough performance to satisfy majority of buyers. The G63 AMG moves the G-class swiftly but is expensive and burns through fuel like no tomorrow.

On the road: Way too much wind and road noise. Plus it's not all that great to drive thanks to the heavy steering which makes city driving a chore, and an old school 4x4 set up which feels cumbersome to deal with as a day to day vehicle. Off-road abilities are flawless.

Buying & Owning: Both versions aren't cheap to buy and you'll need deep pockets to run both of them. Resale value should be strong thanks to the it's reputation for military use and also off-road capabilities.

Overall: It's one of those vehicles that will sell because of the badge and it's reputation. Other than that it doesn't really offer a compelling reason to buy one. Plus it's just too expensive to buy and run one. The Range Rover is a much better package and is much cheaper to buy. Picking the G-class is clearly a status symbol because there really isn't a reason to buy one when there are so many cheaper indirect alternatives.

 

Likes: Legendary off-road prowl. Built to last.

Dislikes: Priced very expensively with running cost that could make you cry. AMG will burn through fuel like it's going out of style.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Devon test drives a Mercedes ML


If you’re looking for a luxury sport utility vehicle that’s stylish and well rounded. You might first think of the BMW X5 which in fact is a great choice. But what if you want something a bit more posh and slightly more comfortable? Then the Mercedes ML may tick all the right buttons.

Performance: The standard ML350 has a 3.5-liter six-cylinder producing 302hp. You can step up to a ML350 Blue-TEC which has a 3-liter turbo-diesel producing 240hp. ML550 uses a 4.6-liter bi-turbocharged eight-cylinder with a massive 402hp while top of the range AMG has a handcrafted 5.5-liter bi-turbocharged eight-cylinder producing a staggering 518hp. Pick of the range is the standard ML350 which will satisfy most buyers. The diesel engine option also makes sense if you do tons of highway driving.

On the road: You may think that the ML is cushy thanks to the soft suspension set up. However, this is not the case here. The ride feels harsh over rough surfaces and does very little at faster pace. The X5 feels more composed. If you option for the air suspension system things will improve. The AMG fitted models have an overly firm ride but improves handling quite a bit. The engines including the diesel feel smooth in operation. Road nose won’t be an issue however it’s sad that wind noise enters the cabin at speeds above 50mph.

Behind the wheel: The only complaints we have with the interior is the single stalk that is used for the turn signal and windshield wipers. Also touch screen infotainment system has too many menus that can be distracting to use on the go. Other than that the driving position is spot on. Interior for the most part is user friendly and visibility all round is decent.

Equipment: ML350 gets leather seats, LED daytime running lamps, 19 inch alloy wheels and dual-zone auto climate control. You’ll have to step up the ML550 to get unique body-kit, power tailgate and heated front seats. Top of the range AMG gets eco stop/start system. 20 inch alloy wheels, active ventilated leather seats with bi-xenon headlamps as well as AMG body-kit.

Buying & owning: The ML is slightly cheaper than the X5 but it isn’t really cheaper by much. You’ll have to pay for optional kit such as bi-xenon headlamps, power folding mirrors and keyless start which most will likely want and of course will push the price higher than we can say is not justifiable. If you pick and choose your options wisely you’ll walk away with a decently priced ML with good resale value thanks to the Mercedes badge.

Quality: The cabin feels well-crafted with much of the controls and dials feeling sturdy. However you’ll want to be mindful of the fact that Mercedes has consistently scored below Audi, BMW and Mercedes when it comes to reliability of its products.

Safety: The standard safety kit extends from seven airbags, attention assist which monitors driver fatigue and pop up bonnet for pedestrian safety. An anti-theft alarm system comes standard but Mercedes rejects deadlocks on the grounds of safety reasons.

The Mercedes ML is a great choice if you want something other than the X5 and Range Rover Sport. It’s stylish and offers plenty of kit for the money. But you’ll have to pay for the features that you’ll most likely want and these options aren’t cheap. It will push the ML price steep pretty quickly. If you can ignore these few negatives you’ll find the ML is a well-rounded luxury sport utility vehicle with plenty going for it.

Likes: Stylish inside out with generous cabin space, strong range of engines to choose from.

Dislikes: Add on the options watch the price sky rocket. Bi-xenon headlamps should be standard across the range rather than limited to just the AMG trim. Disappointing drive without air suspension fitted and that’s optional.

Devon’s pick: The ML350 is the most logical choice thanks to it being the cheapest to buy. But we feel that you’ll get a better deal with the ML350 Blue-TEC. It may cost a bit more than the ML350 but it makes the most sense especially if you do lots of highway driving.


ML350 ***
Likes: Smooth and flexible six-cylinder. Clearly the most logical choice if you stay clear of the options list.
Dislikes: So many options and so many of them are expensive.
ML350 Blue-TEC ****
Likes: Smooth and sophisticated diesel engine. Massive torque at low revs makes it more flexible with higher towing ratings.
Dislikes: Running costs almost similar to ML350. At this price point some options shouldn’t be optional.
ML550 ***
Likes: It’s the closest thing to an AMG without going overboard.
Dislikes: Running costs will be steep. Why are Bi-Xenon headlamps only optional?
 
ML63 AMG *
Likes: Outrageously fast. AMG crafted interior and exterior.
Dislikes: Outrageously expensive to buy and run.

 

Devon takes a look at an overlooked compact sedan

The Mitsubishi Lancer EVO has a strong cult following with it's rally bred heritage and amazing all-wheel-drive system. But for those who can't afford the premium of an EVO can choose from the more mainstream Lancer. But with more heavy hitters in the compact sedan segment can Mitsubishi still provide a valid reason to consider the aging Lancer?

Performance: There are four trim levels and three engines to choose from. Standard ES comes with a 2-liter four-cylinder producing 148hp. GT and SE AWC comes equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 168hp. Top of the range Ralliart comes with a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 237hp. Pick of the range is the GT which makes the most sense. It has all the features you'll want and has the sporty looks that are hard to ignore.

On the road: The Lancer is very entertaining to drive as long as you stick with the GT trim or Ralliart. Both make the Lancer feel as engaging to drive as it's keen rivals the Ford Focus and Mazda3. However it isn't as sharp or poshed as both. Steering feel is decent and overall response of the 2.4 makes it well worth spending the extra cash for. While those who couldn't afford the EVO will be satisfied with the Ralliart. The CVT transmission feels like it saps the engine power leaving you cold when you need it most and overpowering when you don't need it. Thus the manual gearbox we feel is the safest way to go. Disappointingly the Ralliart does not offer a manual transmission. Wind and road noise are at acceptable levels.

Behind the wheel: There's plenty of adjustments for the driver's seat but sadly the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach. Interior quality doesn't feel up to par with it's competition. The touch screen display feels dated and not as refined as we would like. Passenger space all round is decent and the boot offers enough space to satisfy most buyers needs.

Equipment: Standard ES trim offers keyless entry with anti-theft security system, cd-player power windows and an AUX input for your MP3 player. SE AWC offers heated front seats, digital HD radio and electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system. GT trim adds 18 inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile phone. Range topping Ralliart offers a sportier exterior trim, full time all-wheel-drive system and a twin-clutch auto gearbox.

Buying & Owning: The standard Lancer seems like a good deal but we highly suggest going for the GT with the sporty looks and added features such as touch screen display and 18 inch alloy wheels. The premium isn't too much and overall impressions of it are good. The SE AWC is best avoided unless you just have to have the traction. Lancer running costs should be about average among its competition but resale value is something to consider.

Quality: Mitsubishi has good quality cars. Reliability isn't going to be much of an issue. Only real issue here is locating a Mitsubishi dealership for repairs if you do come across such a problem. Interior quality isn't great although it does feel sturdy and long lasting. There are rivals that offer the best of both worlds and you really don't have to pick between the two.

Safety: Front and side curtain airbags come standard. As well as a traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution to help reduce braking distance in the case of an emergancy braking situation. Also a host of anti-theft aids come standard to keep theft away.

The Lancer is an attractive sedan that is often over looked by competition. It does offer an compelling package and is priced right with the heavy hitters such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. However the styling inside out is dated and there's quite a few short comings with the Lancer that others seem to have mastered. If you want the Lancer for it's generous kit and reasonable price then this is the car for you. However keen rivals have all passed it by and it seems that the only logical reason to buy one is for the discounts.


Likes: Stylish exterior looks. Ralliart is just as good as the EVO but cheaper! Generous standard kit.

Dislikes: Overdue for a redesign. Not sure if the Lancer offers an compelling enough reason to consider over the already better competitors.

Devon's pick: The GT form has the looks and is just as fun to drive as the Ralliart minus the turbo engine. This isn't a bad thing because running costs will be slightly improved and you won't have to pay the premium for the Ralliart.


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!