Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Devon test drives the Activehybird3 replacement (Updated)

BMW wanted to prove a point when they created the Activehybrid3. They wanted to create the sportiest hybrid you can buy. But it didn't really live up to the hype that BMW hoped it would, so the 330e iPerformance is here to fix that. It's a plug-in hybrid, but does this mean that it loses BMW Core Values?

Performance: The 330e iPerformance comes with a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder instead of the 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder from the previous Activehybrid3. It also pumps out even less horsepower at 248hp and 310lb-ft torque. Flexibility is actually not as bad as you would think since there is diesel like torque at low revs. We really do however miss the powerband that the old Activehybrid3 had. It felt more special than this and was so focused on running costs with the electric only mode and plug-in feature. We understand hybrids and electric cars are the future but the Activehybrid3 was special in its own right and this just doesn't feel that special.

On the road: The 330e 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 330e iPerformance comes standard with LED fog-lights, power-folding/heated exterior mirrors and HiFi 7-speaker sound system. You'll have to pay extra for LED headlights, leather seats and rear-view parking camera. There are cheaper hybrids out there that offer more value for the money, which is one of the many reasons we loved the Activehybrid3, it really didn't have any competition. Even if it was completely and utterly pointless as a hybrid.

Buying & owning: The only reason we really see the 330e making sense is if you are looking for green cred or if you really want a 340 but can’t afford the running costs. It may not have the blistering performance of  the 340 but it is much cheaper to buy and run. Resale value however will be outstanding thanks to the badge.

Quality & Safety: The 330e 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 330e 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 330e 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: The Activehybrid3 was more charming. The electric-only range is nothing to brag about and neither is the fact that it's sparsely equipped with a price tag near $50k. The 320i and 328d trims still make more sense if you are looking at running costs.

Devon wants to like the Jaguar XE

Image result for 2017 jaguar xe no copyright image

Remember the Jaguar X-type? Well Jaguar hopes that you don't either and focus on the XE instead. It really is a breathe of fresh air in a segment dominated by Audi, BMW and Mercedes. But is it worth the consideration?

There's one diesel and three petrol engines available on the XE. The 2-liter turbo diesel engine offers decent flexibility and can be had with or without all-wheel-drive. This engine is our pick of the range because it offers decent running costs and also those who worry about all-wheel-drive can still have it with this engine choice. The only other engine you can have with all-wheel-drive is the 3-liter supercharged six-cylinder at the higher end of the range. If you don't mind paying the premium and the slight spike in running costs, it is a good engine as well. The 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder offered is pleasant as well but the 3-liter supercharged six-cylinder (listed above) is the sweet spot in the petrol range.

If you think that the XE isn't as fun to drive as the benchmark 3-series then you seriously haven't test driven an XE. The fact that the XE offers sharp steering and road holding manners similar to that of the 3-series means that Jaguar is on the right path with this vehicle. It seriously won't disappoint at all. Our tester car came equipped with R-Sport package which had 18-inch alloys and a Adaptive Dynamic Package which gave the XE a premium ride even though it costs nearly the same as BMW's Adaptive M Suspension and doesn't even come with the same adjustments that the BMW 3-series offers.

Here is where things began to go downhill for the Jaguar XE. The infotainment system which in our tester car suffered from many glitches. The Bluetooth and hands free calling system just completely failed as well as the navigation system which showed error message and took almost fifteen minutes to reboot. However, when the system was working many of the controls and menus were fiddly to use at best. We had high hopes of Jaguar/Land Rover fixing these electrical issues as we've experienced the same issue with vehicles we've previously tested from them. The auto-high beam headlights seemed to be the only feature that worked decently. The interior build quality is also iffy as well, with many plastic bits that make the XE feel way below par compared to the 3-series.

We understand that Jaguar is bouncing back and are on fire with their latest new products but we feel that they still have a long way to go before they will be considered superior to Audi and Mercedes, we feel that even Volvo has snatched some of that lime light from Jaguar with the S90/V90 and XC90.

Speaking of the interior, the cabin feels narrow and the front seats don't really offer the support that we were expecting. The rear seat offers okay legroom while headroom is somewhat tight. The boot offers decent space as well.

Standard XE trim comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, HD Radio and fully electric glass moonroof. XE Premium adds auto-dimming and power-folding exterior mirrors, 380watt Meridian sound system and a rear-view parking camera. XE Prestige offers keyless entry, navigation (SD Card) and interior mood lightning. R-Sport trim adds integrated body-kit, Xenon headlamps, lane keep assist and autonomous emergency braking.

The Jaguar XE is a great alternate to the Audi, BMW and Mercedes. But we have been let down by the electrical issues and of course the XE looks rather plain compared to the Mercedes C-class. Plus the long term quality issues really do cause a bit of concern.

Likes: It drives way better than a 3-series. The range of engines offered are all great, plus its the cheapest Jaguar of the range.

Dislikes: Quality issues during review. Interior is plain and some materials are questionable in quality. Halogen headlights are weak and shouldn't even be standard on three of four trims.

Overall: We enjoyed our time with the Jaguar XE. It was very engaging to drive and the engines all offer great flexibility. However, the electrical issues with the infotainment system were annoying and the fact that three of four trims for the XE come with halogen headlights instead of HID headlights seems very strange to us (yes we complained about this on Audi, BMW and Mercedes). You can find so many other options that are just as good but none of them feel as composed as the XE and that's where the charm lies. It's one of those vehicles you buy because everything else sucks but when you drive it. You'll instantly forget all about them.