Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Devon test drives a budget commuter car from Mitsubishi

If cheap and cheerful are what you are looking for in a car, then the Mitsubishi Mirage should be on your short list. However, with so many good second hand options out there for the same price does buying one prove to be a false economy?

Performance: It makes due with a tiny 1.2 three-cylinder which offers zippy acceleration around town and on light highway driving. The sole purpose of buying the Mirage is its low running costs and it does costs peanuts to run.  

Ride & handling: Mildly updated for 2017. Ride comfort has always been a positive for the Mirage but handling has been lackluster at best due to the overly soft suspension. This time around things aren’t bad and they aren’t great still, but for the price who can complain? The steering is still numb though.

Refinement: The 1.2 three-cylinder emits a distinct hum when accelerating that only becomes annoying when revved hard. It doesn’t really help either that the engine never sounds relaxed at highway speeds making long journeys tiresome. There’s enough wind noise to make you think that one of the doors isn’t fully shut.

In the cabin: The dashboard layout is pretty much straight forwards. Some of the graphics in the touch screen infotainment system looks like this car was built to a price. Many of the menus can be distracting and take a little bit of effort to navigate through. The front seats offer decent comfort but the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach. Rear seat passengers will beg to share some of the space out in legroom. The boot is about average for this class.

Equipment: All trims come well equipped. GT trim adds rear-view camera, bi-xenon headlamps and push button start. The most sensible is the ES trim if you are looking for the Mirage to be a commuter car. Others will be much more satisfied with the SE which also adds alloy wheels, push button start and Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile device. The less you pay for the Mirage the better. If you’re willing to dish the cash for the GT you’ll loathe it for the simple fact that there are much better options for the same amount of cash.

Overall: The Mirage is one of those cars that you’ll pick one because it was affordable to buy with decent discounts. It costs peanuts to run and has been mildly improved over its previous generation. However, it still falls short of more expensive but much better overall options. There are plenty of second hand options out there that are just as good and they are more flexible. You’d buy this because let’s face it. It’s a cheap car to buy and run, plus it’s very reliable. What more do you need in a commuter car?

Likes: Low running costs. If you’re looking for a cheap commuter car this is money in the bag. Standard features list is impressive for the price.

Dislikes: It’s not very satisfying to drive. The GT trim almost seems like an false economy.

Devon’s Pick: Choose the SE trim because you get decent kit at a decent price. Paying any more than that is just plain silly.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Devon is confused with the 4-series gran coupe

Image result for 2017 bmw 4 series gran coupe no copyright photo The 4-series Gran Coupe is proof that there is a niche within a niche, and people are willing to pay the premium to be different.

The familiar 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engines are offered in the 4-series gran coupe. However, the designations have changed to 430 and 440. The 430 trim turbocharged four-cylinder gets bumped up to 248hp while the 440’s turbocharged six-cylinder gets pumped up to 330hp. Pick of the range still remains the 430 trim. It remains the better value of the 4-series range and offers the better powertrain combo. The six-cylinder is lovely but the premium makes it hard to justify unless you have to have it and are willing to pay for it.

There really isn’t much of a distinction between 4-series gran coupe and a standard 3-series sedan. Both manage to combine excellent handling, communicative steering and ride comfort that can give even the more expensive 5-series a run for its money. However, this is partially due to the adaptive M suspension that our tester car came equipped with. We have yet to test drive a BMW on standard suspension and some will note that it is bitterly disappointing. Refinement is what you’d expect from a BMW. The engine stop/start technology is a sore spot for us. It sends shutters through the cabin when the engine is reactivated.

The infotainment system with iDrive interface has been vastly improved and is much easier to use. The controls and dials are logically laid out and of course BMW always sticks to the minimalistic approach for its dash design. The front seats offer plenty of support and adjustment while those in the back may suffer a little in terms of head room due to the slopping roof line. The boot offers plenty of space too, thanks to the hatchback design.

The 430 and 440 trims both are about equally equipped with similar features. Xenon headlights, power-folding mirrors, leather trimmed interior and keyless entry/start all are on the standard list. Strange though that you’ll have to pay extra for heated front seats, rearview parking camera and navigation system. There are a lot of cheaper options that offer at least two of these options standard on their base model. We can’t complain too much because the auto-dimming exterior driver’s mirror and auto climate control really do come in handy.

Does being different really matter? Well that all depends. If you’re the type that thinks the 3-series sedan is too mainstream? Then yes it does and this is the perfect option for you. Otherwise the 3-series sedan is more sensible and the 3-series touring combines both with more utility.

Likes: Turbo engines both offer decent flexibility and running costs; sleek coupe-like profile and the versatility of a hatchback all in one.

Dislikes: 3-series sedan is cheaper and the 3-series touring is more practical.

Devon’s choice: 430 trims both make the most sense. If you live in a snowy area the all-wheel-drive will make be appealing. Otherwise the rear-wheel-drive and turbocharged four-cylinder combo makes for one sweet deal. Plus it’s decently equipped and price as long as you steer clear of the options list.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Devon test drives a Mercedes CLS

What’s a four-door coupe? A traditional coupe only has two-doors, with the Mercedes CLS however. Mercedes claims that it’s as sleek as a coupe but functional like a four-door sedan. It’s obviously a hot new segment to cause Audi and BMW to respond. But is the premium for these four-door coupes well justified?

The CLS40 comes with a 3-liter bi-turbocharged six-cylinder pumping out 329hp. You can have the CLS400 with or without 4matic all-wheel-drive. Same case for the CLS550 but you get a more potent 4.7-liter bi-turbocharged eight-cylinder pumping out 402hp. Top of the range CLS63 AMG comes with a 5.5-liter AMG bi-turbocharged eight-cylinder pumping out 577hp. Pick of the is the most logical choose of them all, the CLS400 4matic. It still isn’t cheap not matter how you look at it, but it seems to be the better value compared to the other trims.

The CLS isn’t as sharp to drive as a BMW 6-series. It is however much more comfortable to drive and while the steering offers decent feedback, we are still much more impressed with the overall driving experience. It manages to be both comfortable and offer decent agility at the same time. The AMG version offers a firmer suspension set up which isn’t bad but over some surfaces the ride gets overly firm and borderline unforgiving. Refinement is what you’d expect from a Mercedes; all the engines operate smoothly and sound lovely when revved. The engine stop/start technology all trims come equipped with doesn’t really operate as smoothly as we’d like.

The front driver and passengers will be greeted with an opulent interior. The materials used are high quality and are very eye appealing. The infotainment system is much less fiddly in the previous generations, although the single stalk used for most of the controls is still quite annoying. While those in the front enjoy space of plenty, passengers in the rear will have very limited headroom. Ingress and egress is also an issue due to the slopping roofline. The boot space is decent too for a couple of golf bags.

Our tester CLS400 4matic came equipped with full-LED headlights, leather trimmed interior and climate control. We didn’t get to test drive a version with standard suspension. The air suspension are tester car came with was well worth the premium. However, to our surprise our tester car didn’t come with keyless ignition; also blind spot warning and lane keep assist weren’t even standard either. There are plenty of indirect options out there that are cheaper and offer more bang for your money.

The Mercedes CLS is all style and not much in between.

Likes: Sleek coupe-like profile, interior is much improved. AMG version has blistering fast acceleration.

Dislikes: It’s an expensive and pointless way to be different.

Devon’s choice: CLS400 4matic makes the most sense. It’s still not cheap but at least you get decent (if somewhat lacking) standard kit. But if you have to have one this is the way to go.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Devon test drives a Volvo S80

You’ll be surprised that there are buyers who don’t want an Audi A6, BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-class. For those buyers the Volvo S80, even though it will eventually get replaced by the S90, still is a good option for anyone that wants Scandinavian Luxury at an even more discounted price.

The sole engine option for the S80 is a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder pumping out 240hp. It’s one of the smoothest turbocharged four-cylinders we have ever tested and it feels just enough for the S80. The engine never feels short on puff around town and on the highway. You can only have the S80 with front-wheel-drive and with this engine that’s enough. Anything more than that to the front wheels is just down right insane.

The Volvo S80 isn’t even close to be as sharp to drive as a BMW 5-series, but most buyers of the S80 aren’t picking it because of that. They want a smooth and comfortable ride and that’s what they are going to get here. Steering feedback is numb at best and the overall handling is more like ‘safe’ if anything. It doesn’t encourage you to push it hard through corners and bends because well let’s face the facts here. This platform is nearly twelve years old. But not everyone wants a rock hard suspension, and for those you either choose the Mercedes E-class or this.

There really isn’t much wind or road noise to complain of. The turbo engine sounds rather course under heavy acceleration but it is far from a deal breaker. There is no manual gearbox option, but most buyers in this segment don’t really care for one either.

Volvo has always been a paradigm of clarity when it comes to their dashboard layouts; all the controls are within easy reach of the driver’s hand. The seats are all day comfy and offer plenty of support. Rear passengers will find comfort as well. Plus the S80 is one of the few sedans in this segment to have split folding rear seats standard and a boot that’s generous on space.  

All S80s come standard with keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, leather seats and rain sensing windshield wipers. You’ll have to step up to the Platinum trim to get Xenon headlamps with auto high beam control, collision warning with full auto brake and adaptive cruise control with lane departure warning. We think that it’s best to just spring the extra money for this package because it has many of the modern safety technology and yet still manages to be cheaper than all three German Rivals.

The S80 maybe on its way out the door but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up one with a deep discount. This maybe one of the few reasons people will still flock to dealers to buy one. However, in our opinion this is the most understated Volvo ever, and for those few individuals that do buy one this is a real gem.

Wait for the S90 if you desire all-wheel-drive or more powerful engine option.

Likes: Most understated Volvo ever. Turbocharged engine offers good flexibility and decent running costs. Comfortable front seats and ride comfort.

Dislikes: Starting to show its age.

Devon’s choice: Platinum package is the only way to go with the S80. It may costs more but it is worth it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Devon is impressed with the Mazda 6

If you’re in the market for a mid-sized family sedan, your first choice would be either the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. However, if you’re only aware of those two choices, you’ll be missing out on the vast number of offerings in this segment. One of them being the unjustly ignored Mazda 6, in our opinion is the best money can buy. Here’s why:

The Mazda 6 can only be had with a 2.5 four-cylinder engine pumping out 185hp. It may not seem like much but this engine really is up for the job. It offers plenty of flexibility around town and on the highway, plus it has low running costs which makes it one of the better overall values compared to most in the competition. We know that it doesn’t offer a turbocharged four-cylinder like the Fusion or a six-cylinder like the Honda Accord. But not everyone cares about horsepower figures, it’s all about the driving experience and with the Mazda 6 you surely won’t be let down.

Steering input is so smooth and responsive that you’ll think this were a sports car rather than a four-door sedan. Handling and ride comfort has a near perfect balance. Some may find that there’s a bit more road noise than some of its keen rivals, but this is far from a deal breaker. Overall refinement of the cabin is top notch and comparable to even some of the more established offerings.

Slip behind the wheel of the Mazda 6 and you’ll be greeted with what we think is the best interior of the segment. The controls and dials are all laid out logically and are within easy reach of the driver’s hand. The driver’s seat and passenger seat are both comfortable and offer plenty of support, while rear passengers get plenty of space. A third person may find some discomfort with the transmission tunnel and somewhat lacking of an actual middle seat. The boot space is generous too but not as flexible as a hatchback or wagon. But that is merely nit picking at best.

The Mazda 6 can be had with three trim levels. Entry-level sport comes with auto-off headlights, cruise control, Bluetooth hands free connectivity for your mobile device and push button ignition switch. You’ll have to step up to touring to get 19inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control and Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry system. Top of the range grand touring gets LED headlights, Bose sound system and leather trimmed seats.

The Mazda 6 really does offer a compelling option for those who enjoy driving and don’t want to conform to the usual class favorites from Toyota and Honda. It’s sporty to drive, has low running costs and is an overall stylish package that’s well equipped. How this isn’t gaining much attention baffles even us, because many are seriously missing out on the most multi-talented options out there. This is worthy of being on your short list indeed.

Likes: Engaging driving experience. Stylish inside and out, standard kit is generous and running costs are low.

Dislikes: There’s no wagon, all-wheel-drive or turbocharged four-cylinder engine to option for.

Devon's choice: The touring trim is the pick of the range. It offers slightly more kit than the sport trim and isn't as expensive as the grand touring.