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.

Devon test drives a Volvo wagon

It was a sad day when Volvo decided the only wagon it was going to offer here in the U.S. was the XC70 which was more of a crossover rather than a wagon. Now those days are long gone and the new V60 is here. Can Volvo bring the popularity back of the wagon?

There are three engines to choose from. Drive-E trim uses a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 240hp. T5 AWD gets a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder producing 250hp while top of the range T6 uses a 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder producing 325hp. Pick of the range is the T5 AWD. All-wheel-drive is standard and it's not really that much more than the T5 Drive-E trim. Plus it's still less expensive than the 3-series touring.
Sadly the V60 just isn't as much fun to drive as a 3-series touring. Body control and handling are good but not great. The ride can be firm a bit on some road surfaces, but this is far from annoying. We strongly suggest avoiding the top of the range T6 trim with sports suspension. It really does make the V60 feel more sporty but the ride comfort is way too firm. Steering is often vague and leaves us wanting a little more especially in corners where we find ourselves re-adjusting. Wind and road noise won't be an issue with the V60. It's quiet and smooth even on the highway. The turbo engines are smooth at relaxed speeds around town and on the highway.
Volvo knows a thing or two about interior decor. The floating center console is classy and well designed. Plus all the controls are logically laid out and very user friendly. The seats offer plenty of support and comfort with plenty of adjustment for the steering wheel. Some could say Volvo seats are the best in the industry. Passengers in the rear will have plenty of space too. Although the middleman will find it rather cramped for foot space due to the large transmission tunnel. The boot space is decent too but trades space for style.
At least all V60s come a nice array of standard kit. Alloy-wheels, cruise control, climate control and Bluetooth are standard. Automatic headlights and wipers are standard as well. You'll have to step up the the top of the range trim which adds body-kit unique exterior styling and interior treatment. You'll find yourself wondering is the V60 worth paying for when you can buy cheaper crossovers? The answer is simple, if you want something more engaging to drive and really don't want to pay the running costs associate with most crossovers. The V60 is the way to go plus resale value should be decent too as Volvo has been on an upswing in popularity.

It's classy and well crafted. Plus it's the best form of a Volvo you can buy. The Volvo V60 has it all. It may not be as engaging to drive as the 3-series touring but it really does offer a convincing case. It's cheaper, offers more kit and arguably the better buy. Volvo does know a thing or two about wagons and it's great to see the wagon is back in the U.S.

Likes: Array of turbo engines to choose from. Safety is top priority. Swedish excellence inside and out.

Dislikes: Steering feedback is on the numb side.

Devon's Choice: The T5 AWD is the best pick. The standard all-wheel-drive and turbocharged five-cylinder offer an compelling reason to consider this. Plus its price makes it hard for us not to pick this one.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Devon test drives a Mini Hardtop

The Mini Hardtop is our favorite of the entire Mini Range. It's retro styling and fun to drive nature makes it the best small car to own. Plus its resale value will stomp any small car and leave it in its dust. But is the Mini all the car you'll ever really need?

The previous generation Mini Hardtop we really didn’t care too much for the all style no functionality approach for the interior. The toggle switches were fiddly to operate and felt cheap. This generation Mini Hardtop has somewhat changed it but some switchgear remain the same. At least they are much easier to use and navigate through. Plus the infotainment system is the best fitted in any small car. Those in the front seats will enjoy the space while rear passengers will struggle to find comfort. It’s still cramped but not as cramped as before. The boot space is decent but not great.

Alloy wheels are standard on both the Cooper and Cooper S trim. You also get keyless entry and push button start. Bluetooth, a digital radio and air-con are also standard. LED headlights are optional as well as parking sensors and power folding exterior rearview mirrors. Picking one of the several packages will reduce costs of several options but we strongly suggest keeping options light because it pushes the Mini Hardtop price very steep quickly.

The 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder powering the Cooper is a real gem of an engine. It is also the pick of the range. It’s still affordable and has the lowest running costs all while being as fun to drive as a Mini should. The Cooper S offers a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 189hp. It’s faster and much more fun to drive. The manual gearbox with both is the best way to enjoy the driving experience. The auto gearbox is smooth too but it’s not as fun.

Steering and handling are what you’d expect of a Mini. Standard suspension is fine but if you want the sweet handling that Mini can offer we strongly suggest opting for the sports suspension. Only tradeoff is that you’ll have to deal with an overly firm ride which can be unforgiving at times. Steering is very fluid and direct but tends to follow the groves in the road.

If you are looking for a small car that’s fun to drive offers low running costs and is cheeky looking. The Mini Hardtop is the way to go. If you stay clear of the options list you can walk away with a decently priced Mini. However its small size may count against it. There are better options out there but none of them have the charm of a Mini.

Likes: Most fun to drive small car you can own. Resale value is strong too. Dashboard design isn’t as fiddly as previous generations.

Dislikes: Options can sky rocket the price quickly. There are so many other cars that are more practical for similar money.

Devon’s Pick: The Cooper trim offers decent performance with decent running costs at a decent price. It’s really hard not to consider one unless you just have to have the more powerful Cooper S. The Cooper trim is the way to go.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Devon test drives a Volvo S80 sedan

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?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Devon test drives a Scion with rear-wheel-drive

The Scion FR-S and Subaru BR-Z both share the same platform and essentially both are the same vehicle. Only difference is a few cosmetic tweaks. Picking between the two all comes down to the badge. But is it a false economy picking the Scion over the Subaru?

Performance: The sole engine choice for the FR-S is the shared 2-liter Boxer four-cylinder which produces 200hp. On paper the FR-S lightweight rear-wheel-drive layout means that this engine is all you’ll really need. In reality however things aren’t even close. You’ll have to thrash the engine to get the most out of it unless you stick with the manual gearbox which seems to really work well with the engine. We wish that the FR-S had more power to play with.

On the road: The ride is firm but far from uncomfortable. The trade-off is that handling is really good. The lightweight design of the chassis means that the FR-S has real agility and loves to kick its tail out at any given bend or corner you hurl it into. Steering feedback is what you’d expect from a sports car. It’s quick, precise and agile. The engine sounds good when you thrash it. Wind and road noise will enter the cabin at high levels.

Behind the wheel: We found it quite easy to get comfortable behind the wheel. There’s plenty of adjustments for the driver’s seat and the switchgear used is simple. The touch screen infotainment system is just too fiddly to navigate through with confusing menus and small on-screen icons. The front seats offer plenty of space while the rear seats are completely useless. Headroom and legroom are way too tight for an adult passenger and foot space is almost nonexistent. You’re better off using the boot space for extra luggage space.

Equipment: The FR-S offers plenty of kit for the money. Alloy wheels are standard as well as cd-player, electric windows, keyless entry and cruise control. You’ll have to pay extra for a touch screen infotainment system which we say its best avoided because it’s just too fiddly to operate while on the go. But it’s the cheapest option for one we’ve seen so far.

Buying & owning: The FR-S seems like a good bargain on paper. A lightweight rear-wheel-drive coupe with decent turn of pace and overall satisfying driving experience; it’s hard to justify one when you’ve got so many indirect rivals that are more refined interior wise and have more power to spare. Resale value should be good as these vehicles have been selling quite well.

Quality & safety: All you need to know is Toyota builds both the FR-S and BR-Z with Subaru supplying the engine. This combo of excellent engineering should give you piece of mind. Although the interior is drab and feels very cheap in places. Stability control, anti-lock brakes with traction control are all standard. Plus smart stop technology as well to help aid in braking. There are front and side curtain airbags standard as well in case you do find yourself in an accident.

Overall: The Scion FR-S is a great lightweight rear-wheel-drive coupe that’s fun to toss around and even more fun to thrash that great sounding engine. However, there are a few negatives and these really make it hard for us to justify buying one. The interior is just too drab for our taste and the engine output is modest best unless you can drive the manual gearbox, which we think is the only way to make the most of the engine. If you like a rear-wheel-drive car for cheap this is your ticket.
Likes: Loves to be tossed in corners. Engine begs to be thrashed and when it does the engine soundtrack is lovely. Manual gearbox is the only way to really enjoy it.
Dislikes: Interior quality is rubbish. More power please. Rear seats are utterly useless. 

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.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Devon tries to find sense in a Activehybrid3

BMW wanted to prove a point when they created the Activehybrid3. They wanted to create the sportiest hybrid you can buy. But will it live up to those expectations?

Performance: The Activehybrid3 comes with a 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder producing 300hp with a 55hp electric motor for a combined total of 335hp. Performance is what you would expect from a BMW solid. It’s smooth and comfortable around town and there’s plenty of oomph on the highway.

On the road: The Activehybrid3 we had as a tester car only came with the adaptive M sport suspension which really does improve handling and steering feel. Even with the combined M-sport package with larger alloys we still found the ride comfortable and much more refined than the C-class with AMG package. In the cabin road and wind noise are all well suppressed with a premium feel.

Behind the wheel: There’s plenty of space for the driver and front passenger to get comfortable. Passengers in the rear seat will also find comfort as well. The infotainment system and iDrive are a paradigm of clarity. Everything is easy to use thanks to the redesign of the iDrive system and of course BMW’s minimalistic approach to dashboard layout. The boot is of decent size too even though it is smaller than the standard 3-series.

Equipment: The Activehybrid3 comes with automatic climate control, HD radio, head-up display and xenon headlamps. You’ll have to pay extra for the M-Sport package and also the adaptive M-sport suspension which should be standard considering the Activehybrid3 starts at the same price as the entry level 5-series sedan.

Buying & owning: The only reason we really see the Activehybrid3 making sense is if you are looking for green cred or if you really want a M3 but can’t afford the running costs. It may not have the blistering performance of an M3 but it is much cheaper to buy and run. Resale value however will be outstanding thanks to the badge.

Quality & Safety: The Activehybrid3 interior feels classy and well put together. Many of the materials used feel sturdy and long lasting. BMW reliability record has been good but we do however question the long term reliability of the complex hybrid system. When it comes to safety the Activehybrid3 comes with everything you’d expect a BMW to come with in terms of safety. But for those who may not know, stability control is standard as well as a host of braking technology to help you avoid a collision.

The Activehybrid3 is one of those cars that only make sense if you are looking for green cred or trying to find a way to reduce your fuel bills without giving up the performance that you crave. It’s a great car to drive but you’ll have to add on the options to make it drive better. Plus it’s close to the entry-level 5-series sedan. If you really want a performance hybrid this is your only option otherwise we highly suggest looking at the 328d or 320i which are both cheaper and just as fuel efficient.

Likes: The most potent hybrid we have ever driven. With the right option it will drive like a dream.

Dislikes: As a hybrid it’s pointless and it’s not cheap either. We have yet to drive a BMW with standard suspension and we hear it’s quite disappointing. The 320i and 328d make more sense.

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.

Devon test drives a Mercedes C-class coupe

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The Mercedes C-class coupe pins itself against the Audi A5 and BMW 4-series. In coupe form the C-class looks sleeker and much more aggressive. But does it have what it takes to compete with two very competitive keen rivals?

Performance: The standard 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder producing 201hp will satisfy most buyers. But those who really want that six-cylinder experience will be much more satisfied with the 3.5-liter six-cylinder which pumps out 302hp. Top of the range AMG has a 451hp 6.3-liter eight-cylinder which is wicked fast. Pick of the range is the standard C250 which is all you’ll ever really need. Running costs are decent and the starting price is decent as well.
On the road: The C-class comes standard with a sports suspension. With the 17-inch alloy wheels on the C250 things are somewhat bearable. However things are a lot worst if you get the 18-inch alloy wheels or choose the higher trims with larger alloys. The ride is just too firm and is fidgety over anything but the smoothest of surfaces. Handling however is the tradeoff. It’s pretty good with decent body control. The steering lacks the sharpness the 4-series has. Interior quality doesn’t even feel up to par with its rivals. There’s just too much wind and road noise that enters the cabin. This is disappointing because the C-class has such a prestigious badge.
Behind the wheel: Just like the C-class sedan the C-class coupe inherits several of its annoyances. There are too many menus to scroll through with the infotainment system which can become distracting if you want to use it while on the go. Entry into the rear is easy thanks to the front seat which automatically moves forward which helps get in out the back more dignified. The slopping roofline however does hinder rearward visibility and headroom. But the boot is a decent size.
Equipment: Dual zone climate control, Attention assist, LED daytime running lamps and 17-inch alloy wheels come standard. You’ll have to step up to C350 to get 18-inch alloy wheels, eco start/stop system and heated front seats. Top of the AMG trim adds get body-kit, sports suspension with bi-xenon headlamps.
Buying & owning: The C-class is priced about average with its keen rivals from Audi and BMW. The badge really does help save resale value. Running costs will be okay if you stick with the four-cylinder or six-cylinder. The AMG trim pushes running cost and purchase price very high.
Quality & Safety: Much of the materials used in the C-class just don’t feel as classy as in the A5 or 4-series. The design is rather bland. But it does feel sturdy and long lasting. Plus on the upside many C-class owners haven’t really complained too much about it in terms of reliability. Stability control with pre-crash bracing system is standard. There’s also a special system which warns driver of fatigue. Plus there’s lane departure warning which prevents you from wandering out of your lane on the highway.
Overall: The C-class coupe is a great alternate to the Audi A5 and BMW 4-series. However don’t expect too much of a discount and you’ll have to pay for some options that you’ll find standard on the 4-series. Also the quality isn’t even up to par with Mercedes standards. Picking a C-class is clearly for those who want the Mercedes Badge. However those who know Mercedes quality will be disappointed.
Likes: C-class AMG body-kit and alloys really do make it look classy. AMG is wicked fast.

Dislikes: The C-class with AMG package may look good but isn’t great to drive and is punishing to live with. Quality isn’t up to the typical Mercedes standards.

Devon’s Choice: The C250 is the only one that makes the most sense if you are trying to walk away with the most reasonably priced C-class coupe. The C350 has more oomph while the C63 AMG is wicket fast. However both are fitted with 18-inch alloys and sport suspension combination. This makes the ride comfort punishing to live with and makes it hard for us to recommend them.