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.