Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pathological is swayed by the new Disco

Image result for 2017 land rover discovery no copyright photo

We loved the Land Rover LR4 because not only was it a workhorse but it was also a seven-seat crossover that could ferry the family around in comfort and style. Those days are long gone and the new Disco is here to reclaim the crown that the LR4 held dearly in our hearts.

You can choose between two engines. The entry 3-liter supercharged six-cylinder pumps out 340hp and offers decent flexibility while the 3-liter turbo-diesel seems like the better choice for those who do tons of highway driving and also will be using the seven seats and carry luggage aboard. We personally didn’t get the chance to test the turbo-diesel engine as it wasn’t available, but the 3-liter supercharged unit felt up for the job. Our tester car didn’t come with any fancy bells and whistles. It was the HSE trim which we found to be all you need with the Disco in terms of standard kit.

Driving the Disco around town doesn’t feel like much of a chore as the size suggests. It really is easy to squeeze around tight parking spaces thanks to communicative steering which is enough for this vehicle. Parking aids also help take the sting out of it as well. The engine doesn’t lack in flexibility or refinement as it is silky smooth. We took it on the highway and found ourselves doing 80mph and not even feeling like it. Wind and road noise are so well suppressed that (dare we say) is better than a Mercedes S-class.

The driving position is spot on good with excellent comfort and refinement. The infotainment system is a little fussy to use at first but once you’ve gotten used to it, everything just falls into place. We love the simplicity of the interior although some may say that it is a bit plain. The second row seats offer good headroom and legroom, although those in the third row won’t really want to stay back there for too long. It isn’t as versatile as the XC90 which does the three rows of passenger comfort well. Boot space with the seats in place is about class average, but when you fold that third row seat down space opens up considerably. Fold the second row seat down also and you’ve got yourself a cargo van. The electrically folding seats do take a while to fold and unfold.

SE trim gets 19-inch alloys, rain sensing windshield wipers, automatic headlights and rear parking aid with visual display. You’ll have to step up to the HSE to get 20-inch alloys, LED headlights, powered inner tailgate and a 380watt Meridian Sound System. HSE Luxury adds a twin-speed transfer box, electronic air suspension, panoramic sunroof, heated seven seats and three-zone climate control. First Edition gets all terrain progress control, 21-inch alloys, surround view camera, intelligent seat fold and activity key.

You’ll have a hard time disliking the Disco because it really does offer more refinement than the LR4 and while we didn’t get the chance to take it off-road. We know that this will be as capable as the LR4 is. Our only concern is that Land Rover reliability record is still iffy.

Likes: Tough off-road and luxurious on-road, both engines are more than capable for the job. We love the way this thing looks.

Dislikes: Halogen headlights on entry-level SE.

Our pick: HSE Trim adds all the bits that you’d want with your Disco without pushing the price outside of the means of reason or logic. Those willing to dish out the cash should jump right for the First Edition.

Pathological test drives a rear-wheel-drive Subaru

Image result for 2017 subaru brz no copyright

You can choose the Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus ST, Mini Cooper S and even a Fiat 500 Abarth. So why on earth would anyone choose the Subaru BRZ?

The sole engine in the BRZ is a 2-liter BOXER four-cylinder pumping out 205hp, up 5hp from last year. We didn’t really care too much for the engine output as there are so many rivals that are more practical, faster and costs almost the same as the BRZ. The new update still fell on deaf ears between us. It seems as though it makes all the right noise and is fairly quick if you keep the revs high (sort of like the previous Civic SI) but when you lose the momentum - you lose it and feel it. Driving the BRZ around town is actually fairly easy thanks to responsive steering, and a transmission that isn’t totally on another planet. We managed to sneak a few laps around a ring curved on-ramp and well the handling is spot on good. We even got to kick the tail out a little bit before the end of the off-ramp. It really is a hoot to drive and well the horsepower figures are easily forgotten as the BRZ does feel peppy and quick on its feet. We just wish that it had more horsepower to really exploit the chassis more. It’s like the chassis is begging for the extra horsepower.

You’ll love the way the BRZ drives as it is engaging to drive and never feels sluggish. The ride comfort is so-so it’s not the best but it isn’t entirely uncomfortable. It’s more tolerable than many sportier rivals. Wind and road noise are respectable.

The interior is a mixed bag.  It’s not stylish but is easy to navigate through. The touch screen infotainment system is just an absolute mess and is very sluggish to respond. The overall fit and finish seems sturdy and long lasting, we just wish it didn’t have to look as boring as it does. We know the whole point of this vehicle is the driving experience but there are plenty of options out there that do both well, we promise. The driving position is good and there is plenty of space for the front passengers, while the rear seat is just absolutely useless. The boot space is okay as well.

Premium trim comes with sport-tuned suspension with limited slip differential, LED headlights, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering and shifter handle. You’ll have to step up to the Limited to get push button start, fog lights, automatic climate control and optional six-speed automatic. We’d stick with the Premium Trim which makes the most sense here, unless you have to have an auto gearbox.

The BRZ is one of those cars you’d buy with your heart rather than your brain. It’s fun to drive but hot hatches do the same and are easier to live with.

Likes: It’s a hoot to drive and it has running costs that are actually lower than you’d think. Rear-wheel-drive means you can really kick the tail out in corners and bends.

Dislikes: Rear seat is useless. We know horsepower isn’t everything but 220hp would do a world of good for this car.

Our pick: Stick with the Premium Trim and learn how to drive stick shift. It’s the best combo here. The automatic sucks!!!  

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

US vs UK (Part two) Entry-level engines

We take a look at entry-level engines that's offered in UK vs US to see who gets the better engine choices.

Mercedes E-class
E200D SE (UK) 2-liter (turbo-diesel) 150hp ($44,019)
E300 (US) 2-liter turbo 241hp ($52,150)

We would gladly choose the 2-liter turbo-diesel offered in Europe with an AMG package. You get everything you love about the E-class with the running costs and the range of a small hatchback. It kind of sucks when you think about it, we associate luxury with engine size. If it doesn't get from zero to sixty quicker than a VW Golf then it's clearly not luxurious! (Sigh!)

Audi A6
SE Executive (UK) 2-liter (turbo-diesel) 187hp ($42,334)
Premium (US) 2-liter turbo 252hp ($47,600)

We really do miss the TDI engine options that we used to get here, but due to the emissions scandal we won't be seeing them anymore here. This is also quite interesting that both the A6 in UK and here are evenly kitted but the engine is what makes ours more expensive at $5,266. How many of you would pick the diesel over the gasoline engine? We certainly would.

BMW 5-series
520d SE (UK) 2-liter (turbo-diesel) 188hp ($46,695)
530i (US) 2-liter turbo 248hp ($51,400)

The previous generation of the 5-series used to come with a silky smooth 3-liter turbo-diesel which we loved. Sadly, it hasn't made it in the newest generation yet. The 3-series diesel has the same engine but with 8hp less and we love it despite the diesel clatter at idle. It would be nice to see this engine offered here in the US as luxury shouldn't be all about size and horsepower figures.

Lexus GS
GS 300h Executive Edition (UK) 2.5-liter 181hp ($46,192)
GS Turbo (US) 2-liter turbo 241hp ($46,310)

We aren't huge fans of hybrids and well to be frank, the hybrid offered in the UK version of the GS can stay there. It took us by surprise that Lexus even offered a turbo four-cylinder in the first place. The GS hybrid makes more sense as a company car buy and for anyone who drives tons of miles in the city and some on the highway. You'll have to do tons of driving to make up for what you paid for it in the hybrid premium. The turbo is way better, trust us on this one!

Volvo S90
Momentum D4 Automatic (UK) 2-liter (turbo-diesel) 187hp ($43,395)
T5 FWD (US) 2-liter turbo 250hp ($48,100)

We have yet to see a diesel Volvo sold here. It would be an interesting alternative to the T5 and the fact that it has nearly 300lb-ft torque means that it has tons of low-end torque. You can't really complain about the torque figures especially considering that most who will buy the S90 won't drive it like hooligans anyway. Low running costs and sexy Swede styling. Volvo would have a real winner on its hands.

Jaguar XF
Prestige (UK) 2-liter (turbo-diesel) 163hp ($41,635)
XF 25t (US) 2-liter turbo 247hp ($47,775)

We do get a 2-liter turbo-diesel here with 180hp but it is almost $6k more expensive than this entry-level diesel offered in the UK. Manual gearboxes aren't as common as they used to be in the US and it is a little sad too because we would be getting so many efficient and intelligent engines here. We do have a weird perception on luxury and well horsepower isn't everything. This XF is clear proof.

US vs UK (Part one) Entry-level engines

Have you ever wondered what an entry-level Volkswagen Golf looks like in UK vs what we get here in the US? Well fret not here is our blog focusing on entry-level engines offered in UK vs US.

Volkswagen Golf (U.S. vs U.K.)
Golf S (U.S.) 1.8t 170hp ($19,895)
Golf S (U.K.) 1.0t 83hp ($23,743)

The 1-liter turbocharged three-cylinder sold in Europe has 129lb-ft torque at low revs. It has diesel like torque which should help it feel flexible around town and on the highway. This engine only comes with a five-speed manual gearbox which is the proper way to go with this engine. We find it quite interesting that despite it being more expensive than the U.S. version, this engine has really low running costs and still seems decently kitted.

BMW 3-series Sedan (U.S. vs U.K.)
320i (U.S.) 2.0t 180hp ($33,450)
318i (U.K.) 1.5t 136hp ($33,124)

The 318i sedan uses the same engine from the Cooper trim that’s sold here. It’s a 1.5 turbo three-cylinder which is great in the Mini Cooper Hardtop 5-door. It’s an interesting option for the entry-level 3-series considering that it’s a larger vehicle, but the rear-wheel-drive platform should make it more fun to drive.

Mercedes CLA (US vs UK)
CLA 250 (US) 2.0t 208hp ($32,700)
CLA 180 (UK) 1.6t 122hp ($32,577)

We do complain about how Europe gets better product than us, but with an engine like this and a price tag as steep as ours. We should be happy this CLA 180 stayed in Europe, however with stricter emissions standards coming. We too could be seeing less is more aspect of new engines. The turbo really does give low-end torque so it shouldn’t feel too weak but a 86hp drop won’t go unnoticed.

Toyota Yaris
L (US) 1.5-liter 106hp ($16,375)
Active (UK) 1-liter 69hp ($16,079)

The Yaris sold here gets 37hp for $296 more than the UK version which has only 69hp. The standard 5-speed manual gearbox should help make it feel peppy around town. Running costs on the Euro version should be way lower than the US version in theory, but if we had this engine here. You’ll have to really thrash it to keep up with traffic and that means that you won’t be driving it as economically as it should be driven.

Jaguar XE
25t (US) 2.0t 247hp ($35,725)
20d (UK) 2.0d (diesel) 163hp ($36,412)

Jaguar already offers a fantastic diesel engine here for about $2-3k more than the 2-liter turbo. The diesel engine we get is also a 2-liter but pumps out 180hp instead of the more efficient 163hp found in this example here and it also is the base engine for those in the UK. We loved the 2-liter diesel engine that was offered in the Passat here because it had such high torque at low revs and never felt underpowered. The XE here may not be to everyone’s taste considering that it’s near $40k with only 163hp but with such a premium feeling interior and the looks of a Jaguar. It’s basically a win – win when you think about it.

Honda Civic Hatch
LX (US) 1.5T 174hp ($19,700)
SE (UK) 1.0T 127hp ($24,021)

The trend we are starting to notice here is that turbocharged three-cylinders are starting to make a comeback in Europe. The 1-liter turbo three cylinder offered in UK could serve as a great engine option in the Honda Fit to rival the Ford Fiesta Ecoboost three-cylinder engine. Also, it would be quite an interesting option against the Focus here as well. We know that the 2-liter is plenty efficient, but if Honda ever did decide to bring the Civic Hybrid back. This engine coupled with an electric motor would be a great start.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pathological tries to find a Spark with a Chevy

Even developing a cheap car is an expensive business. So if companies want to make any money out of one they need to share the costs. This explains why Chevy used the Opel/Vauxhall platform for its smallest Spark. But is buying one a false economy?

The standard 1.2 four-cylinder pumps out 98hp. It may not seem like much but it does offer decent flexibility around town but on the highway you'll really want to pick and choose your overtaking. You'll feel like you're constantly flogging the accelerator pedal even though you aren't. Which does put a slight damper on the running costs because while most four-cylinder engines thrive on the higher rpms, the tiny engines like this one are best suited with a manual gearbox which really does utilize the little horsepower and torque the engine has to offer. Sadly we didn't get a manual gearbox with our top of the range 2LT trim but at least it didn't feel cheap inside like we thought it would, the previous Spark was more of a hipster feeling car while this one feels more Euro Chic.

Driving around town the Spark is actually quite fun to drive. It's easy to squeeze in and out of tight parking spaces and very easy to dart around at low speeds. The steering feels light and decent on feedback, it just when you get on faster paced roads everything seems to just fall apart. It doesn't hold its own as well as it should and well the ride comfort maybe comfortable, but it feels like you've driven a long distance just from the abundance of engine noise and wind noise that sneaks into the cabin. We know the price tag of the vehicle, but a Ford Fiesta seems more refined and isn't much more expensive.

The interior does feel like it is built to a price and well some materials feel cheap and nasty. Build quality seems good from what we've been able to see. The front seats offer decent comfort and support, while those in the back will have decent space. You won't be able to fit three abreast as this car is strictly a four-seat vehicle only. The boot space isn't anything to complain of since this is a small car but the Ford Fiesta and even a Fiat 500 feels more versatile.

Our tester car came equipped with leatherette seating surfaces, keyless entry with keyless start and a rear park assist. You also get a seven-inch infotainment display, bluetooth for your mobile device, 15-inch alloy wheels and integrated fog lights.

We understand that not everyone can afford most of the mainstream sedans and hatchbacks, and the Chevy Spark certainly is one vehicle that should be on your lists of considerations. We didn't say short list this because well the Ford Fiesta is far more fun to drive and the Mitsubishi Mirage beats the Spark in the value for the money factor. The Spark certainly is better to drive than a Mirage and we surely would choose one of the a Mirage any day, it's just the simple fact that if you don't get the cheapest one. You minus well get a Sonic or even a Nissa Versa Note. It's good value for the money but there are too many indirect rivals to choose from for similar cash.

Likes: Low running costs. Easy to drive around town and live with as a daily commuter car.

Dislikes: Outside the city limits everything goes downhill. It can get expensive as you climb the range.

Our pick: Stick with the 1LT. It comes with all the standard kit most care about and also has standard alloy wheels without having to pay the price premium of the 2LT. The Activ version has a slightly raised driving position but no all-wheel-drive option is also worth considering if you want a crossover poser but it's quite dearly priced.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trains and destinations

We decided to list all of Amtrak Trains by Number and where each train travels to across the U.S.

Sunset Limited (#1 West/ #2 East) 
Start: Los Angeles, California
End: New Orleans, Louisiana

Southwest Chief (#3 Outbound/ #4 Inbound) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois (Union Station)
End: Los Angeles, California

California Zephyr (#5 Outbound/ #6 Inbound) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois (Union Station)
End: Emeryville, California (Emeryville Station)

Empire Builder (#7 Outbound/ #8 Inbound) – (#27 Outbound/ #28 Inbound) 

Train 7/8
Start: Chicago, Illinois (Union Station)
End: Seattle, Washington

Train 27/28
Start: Chicago, Illinois (Union Station)
End: Portland, Oregon

Coast Starlight (#11/ #14) 
Start: Seattle, Washington
End: Los Angeles, California

Crescent (#19/ #20) 
Start: New York City, New York
End: New Orleans, Louisiana

Texas Eagle (Outbound #21/ Inbound #22) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois (Union Station)
End: San Antonio, Texas

Capitol Limited (#29/#30) 
Start: Washington, DC
End: Chicago, Illinois

Pennsylvanian (#42/#43) 
Start: New York City, New York
End: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Lake Shore Limited (Train #48/448 – 49/449)
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: New York City, New York; Boston Massachusetts

Cardinal (#50/#51) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: New York City, New York

Auto Train (#52/ #53) 
Start: Lorton, Virginia
End: Sanford, Florida

Vermonter (#54, #55, #56, #57)
Start: St. Albans, Vermont
End: Washington, DC

City of New Orleans (#58/ #59) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: New Orleans, Louisiana

Maple Leaf (#63, #64, #97, #98) 
Start: New York, New York
End: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Northeast Regional (#65, #66, #67, #71, #78, #82, #83, #84, #85, #86, #87, #88, #93. #94, #95, #96, #111, #121, #123, #125, #126 - #199)  
Start: Boston, Springfield, Massachusetts – New York City, New York
End: Norfolk, Richmond, Newport News, Lynchburg, Virginia – Washington, DC

Adirondack (#68/ #69) 
Start: New York City, New York
End: Montreal, Quebec

Carolinian (#79/ #80) 
Start: New York Penn Station
End: Charlotte, North Carolina

Palmetto SAV (#89/ #90) 
Start: New York Penn Station
End: Savannah, Georgia

Silver Star (#91/ #92) 
Start: New York City, New York
End: Miami, Florida

Silver Meteor (#97/ #98) 
Start: New York City, New York
End: Miami, Florida

Empire Service (#266, #280, #281 - #286, #288) 
Start: New York Penn Station
End: Niagara Falls, New York

Ethan Ellen Express (#290 - #293, #296) 
Start: New York City, New York
End: Rutland, Vermont

Lincoln Service (#300 - #307, #309, #329, #337) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: St. Louis, Missouri

Missouri River Runner (#311, #313, #314, #316) 
Start: Kansas City, Missouri
End: St. Louis, Missouri

Hiawatha Service (#330 - #336, #338 - #342) 
Start: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
End: Chicago, Illinois

Wolverine (#350 - #351, #356, #358, #359) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: Pontiac, Michigan

Lake Cities (#352, #353) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: Toledo, Ohio

Twilight Limited (#354/ #355) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: Pontiac, Michigan

Blue Water (#364, #365) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: Port Huron, Michigan

Pere Marquette (#370 - #372) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Illinois Zephyr (#380 - #385) 
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: Quincy, Illinois

Cascades (#500 - #517) 
Start: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
End: Eugene, Oregon

Capitol Corridor (#518 - #553, #720 - #751) 
Start: Auburn, California
End: San Jose, California

Pacific Surfliner (#562 - #597; #761 - #799) 
Start: San Luis Obispo, California
End: San Diego, California

San Joaquin (#701 - #719) 
Start: Bakersfield, California
End: Oakland, California; Sacramento, California

Acela Express (#2100 - #2297) 
Start: Boston, Massachusetts
End: Washington, DC

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pathological makes lots of ruckus with the Fiat 500 Abarth

The Fiat 500 Abarth maybe the cheapest way to get the Italian flare that you desire; but is it worth the consideration?

The 1.4-liter multi-air turbocharged four-cylinder pumps out 160hp (157hp with auto gearbox) and well it does the job good enough. It does make a lot of racket and is very flamboyant the way an Italian Sports car should be. We do love the boy racer exhaust note and how quick it is when you really put your foot down. Our tester car came equipped with the manual gearbox and is the only way to have this piece of kit. You’ll want to row your own gears because there are slight hints of turbo lag at lower revs and well the torque seemingly disappears higher up the rpm band. It’s not the most refined power train compared with the Mini Cooper S and Ford Fiesta ST, but it certainly can hold its own considering that the 500 is smaller than both the Cooper S and Fiesta St. You’ll either love or hate the 500 charm because it does so in a way that makes you think long and hard about the sporting credentials that it is trying to pass off with the exterior styling. Ride comfort is a little firm but it’s far from uncomfortable while steering feedback is good but could offer a little more feedback, it does handle corners and bends well. The seating position is the biggest let down here; it feels like you’re sitting on top of the car rather inside of it.

Despite the front seats being a letdown and the rear seats being completely and utterly useless, the infotainment screen in our tester car was quite fiddly to navigate through. Many of the menus are very confusing and the tiny screen made it very hard to see some commands. Fit and finish of the interior is also on the iffy side as well. Visibility is pretty good except out of the back due to the fact that our tester car was a convertible which with the top down creates a massive blind spot that makes parking more irritating than it should be. Luckily for us our tester car came equipped with parking sensors, not that you need parking sensors for such small car. But it does come in handy when you have the top down. The boot space is pretty much on par with the Smart Fortwo, it’s very small but it does have some useful space for two people. The coupe version has a nifty hatch that is more spacious but not by much.

Our tester car came equipped with U-connect 5-inch touch screen display with Alpine premium audio system. Performance tuned suspension with sport mode and dual exhaust, as well as race-inspired bucket seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel. 17-inch alloy wheels and black trimmed lights were added as optional extras.

The Fiat 500 Abarth is loud and flamboyant the way an Italian Sports car should be. The engine does a good job and the overall impression of the vehicle is mostly good. We just wish that the Abarth were more comfortable to live with like the Mini Cooper S. We also wish that reliability record were much better. It’s a great little car with so much fun to be had behind the wheel but the tradeoffs make it so hard to justify.

Likes: Punchy turbo engine that’s loud and flamboyant, it really is fun to drive. It’s cheaper than the Mini Cooper S.

Dislikes: Build quality and reliability are iffy. The boy racer exhaust can get tiresome after a while. You can hear it a block away when you starting it up – driving it casually.

Our pick: Ditch the coupe and go right for the convertible. It may not be as practical but it is just as fun to drive and is the cheapest convertible with this much speed you can buy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Mazda Miata is a real gem

Image result for 2017 mazda miata no copyright

The Mazda Miata is one car that every driving enthusiast should test drive or own in their lifetime.

The sole engine option for the Miata is a 2-liter four-cylinder pumping out 155hp. It may not sound like much but trust us when we say that it is plenty. The Miata is lightweight which translates to a 0-60mph timing of just 5.8 seconds which is wicked fast in our books. It doesn’t have the torque of a turbocharged engine but it certainly has the revs which makes it sounds so much better than any turbo engine we’ve driven. We didn’t get the chance to test drive the Miata with a manual gearbox but from what we’ve heard it really is the only way to go with this vehicle. The auto gearbox does the job good but it doesn’t replace a manual gearbox and it makes us want to go back and try to test drive one with a manual gearbox to compare between the two.

Driving the Miata is a unique driving experience in which we will never forget. The steering feedback is so linear and responsive that it can make many expensive options look overpriced. The chassis is the sweet spot on the Miata, we were able to sling it into corners and bends with pure confidence and with the amount of horsepower the engine produced it didn’t feel underpowered. Some will say that a turbo engine would be nice but we say the turbo engine is best ditched because this engine is just silky smooth and revs so sweetly. There is some wind noise that intrudes into the cabin as well as some road noise but it is far from a deal breaker.

The interior doesn’t feel as cramped as you’d expect a small roadster to feel. The driver and passenger seats both offer plenty of support and adjust ability. You won’t feel snugged inside the cabin with the roof up either, although taller drivers may want to test out headroom with the top up to see if they are still comfortable. Over the shoulder visibility is good while overall visibility outward to the rear is a little compromised but luckily there is parking sensors to help take the sting out of that. The Miata really isn’t a large car to begin with so you shouldn’t struggle much at all parking it. The infotainment system is actually quite easy to use with many of the menus easy to find but it can be a bit distracting while on the go. Also, the materials used inside of the cabin feel top-notch. Something you would expect from Mazda and after all they do have some of the best interiors for their price range. The boot space is adequate, but let’s face it people aren’t buying this car for practicality.

The Grand Touring trim which was our tester car came equipped with LED headlights, auto-dimming driver’s mirror, 17-inch alloys and leather trimmed sports seats. You also get a 7-inch touch screen display, keyless entry and rain sensing windshield wipers. The cheapest Miata you can buy is the Sport Trim which for many people is enough while the Club Trim does offer a bit more kit standard for not too much more cash. We’d certainly choose between those two trims with a six-speed manual gearbox rather than this configuration that we had as a tester, it’s nothing wrong with it but we’d ditch the auto gearbox.

The Miata is one of those vehicles you have to test drive or own before you go to your grave. It’s really a special vehicle that every driving enthusiasts will love; pure driving pleasure that’s simple and yet elegant. Bravo Mazda!

Likes: It handles like a dream. Engine doesn’t have much oomph but it makes up for that with excellent driving dynamics. Low running costs.

Dislikes: We didn’t bother listing any because they’re most likely just nitpicking. It really is that good.

Our pick: Go right for the entry-level Club Trim which seems to offer decent value for the money. Ditch the auto gearbox and go for the manual, you’ll save money and also you’ll enjoy the Miata even more.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Pathological gets to drive a Porsche for the day

Image result for porsche 718 boxster no copyright

The Boxster is no more and the 718 Boxster is its replacement. Does this mean radical change? Well it does come with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that has many purists crying foul. It may be the most controversial Porsche yet.

The 718 comes with two engine options. The Boxster comes with a  2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that pumps out 300hp while the top of the range Boxster S comes with a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder pumping out 350hp. We were only able to test drive the Boxster trim and well we found it to be fantastic. It may not have that rev happy six-cylinder of the old Boxster, but the turbo four really does sound good under heavy acceleration. You can choose between a slick seven-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed auto gearbox. Our tester car came with the auto gearbox and it is one fine transmission if we say so ourselves. Steering feedback is communicative and the overall driving experience is one we will never forget. We had the opportunity to drive it with the top down and well that just increased our liking to this vehicle, the open air driving experience is contagious and it really does hold its own well. The only problem with the 718 Boxster is that everyone everywhere wants to look at you and even at the gas station when we had to fill up, we were asked which Porsche is it and what engine is under the bonnet? This certianly isn't the vehicle for anyone who is shy when it comes to attention.

We could only drive the Porsche Boxster on the expressway and within the limits of the speed limit. We did get the chance to toss it into some corners and bends and the Boxster really did stick to each bend like glue. It's almost as if the car is riding on rails. Top up or down, wind noise isn't an issue at all and well road noise isn't really much to complain of.

The 718 Roadster only seats two people and well both passengers won't be short changed on space, even with the top up the space is generous. The seats offer plenty of support and adjust ability while the infotainment system is easy to use. We do highly suggest getting used to the various menus as it does get distracting while on the go. But why would anyone want to busy themselves with the infotainment when the real joy is behind the steering wheel? The boot is in the front and the rear and there's plenty of space for a few bags. This isn't a car for those who are looking for hot hatch space, it's a vehicle for those who want to drive and feel the road beneath them. Visibiity is outstanding for a roadster and we have nothing to complain of.

The 718 Boxster we had came equipped with 20-inch alloys, Bi-xenon headlights, Bose audio system, Lane Change Assist and navigation system. While on top of those optional features that were ticked you also get a sport exhaust system, leather package and vehicle launch system. Porsche is very notorious for making features that should be standard optional and charge and arm and leg for them. Our tester car had nearly $22k worth of added features which pushed the price into the sticker shock category, you really do get what you pay for here.

The 718 Boxster seems like a very formidable replacement for the Boxster itself. Steering is very communicative and the turbo engine is very smooth and responsive, we really did enjoy our time with the Boxster and wished that we didn't have to return it.

Likes: The chassis, steering and handling is fantastic! The turbo engine sings in your ears while you're greeted with a top-notch interior.

Dislikes: This isn't a vehicle for someone shy of attention. You won't see a mildly equipped Porsche on the dealer lots.

Weird foods from Japan

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It may look like the Squid is still alive but we can assure you that it is dead. The brain is pulled out but what gives this dish such a unique appeal is when you pour soy sauce on it. The Squid begins to squirm and wriggle as if it is still alive. The reaction is an automatic response to the salt in the soy sauce. Be careful on those tentacles because many have suffocated and died when the tentacle latches itself onto your airway and tries to choke you to death.

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Natto is very popular in Japan, it's basically fermented soy beans that's served with soy sauce. This dish has an acquired taste due to strong flavor and a pungent smell (similar to a strong cheese) and slimy texture that is hard for anyone outside of Japan to stomach.

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This is not a dish for the faint of heart. Inago No Tsukudani is considered a delicacy which is boiled locusts that's been stewed in sweetened soy. This is a very popular dish in rural areas of Japan and well to be honest I'm glad it hasn't gained much traction here.

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Picture yourself having a few beers with friends in Japan and you start to get a little hungry. One of your friends orders a Hachinoko for the group. It may sound like some kind of dish worth trying until you figure out what the fuck it really is. It's deep fried bee larvae that's friend in soy sauce and sugar to give them a nice crunch. The best way (according to sources) is to eat these while sipping a nice beer. I'll have to have at least four or five beers before I would even consider trying to stomach something like this.

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After a wild night of drinking and well you wake up and want to have a nice breakfast. You sit down at the table to find fish swimming around your eggs. Yes the dish that you've just awoken to is Shirouo no Odorigui which is very popular in Japan. Shirouno are very small and transparent fish that are eaten alive, they wiggle around in your mouth before you eat them. Besides swimming around in your eggs, fish shirouno will be dropped into a cup of vinegar for people to enjoy while drinking this mixture. Fish and vinegar in a drink? No thanks!

Pathological tests drives a cheap Mitsubishi

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The one-star rating we are going to give the Mirage G4 is all you need to know. Look elsewhere!

The tiny 1.2 three-cylinder won't win you any races with just 74hp. It does however give you low running costs which is to be expected considering there really isn't much flexibility in this engine. We loathe the CVT gearbox because it robs the engine of the revs that you'll really need when trying to merge on faster paced roads, but like we've said earlier the running costs are what help make it more attractive but even then you'll be giving up a lot of comfort to save a few bucks at the pump. The Mirage G4 engine vibrates way too much at idle for our liking and the fact that it's just so odd to drive. The steering wheel minus well not even be connected to the front wheels. You can pretty much drive the Mirage like you're going to turn into a slight bend and the car will forever go straight. We haven't experienced steering this disconnected since the first generation Kia Rio. Driving the Mirage G4 isn't a chore if you stick to driving around the city which is where it feels at home. The ride comfort is actually more pleasant than we expected and while road and wind noise will be unwelcome companions, the engine noise is also something that won't go away even at relaxed speeds.

The infotainment system is pretty much straight forward, it isn't hard to use but it can get a little fiddly to operate while on the move. The front seats offer decent comfort and there's plenty of head and legroom, while those in the second row won't really have too much to complain about. It does offer decent space for four but we think that you'll be pushing it with a fifth person abreast. The boot space won't win you any bragging rights but it does offer more space than the hatchback, but it isn't as versatile as the hatchback. Visibility is decent too and with the back-up camera that our tester car came equipped with it does help take some of the sting out of parking in tight areas. We know that the car is already small but the hatchback is far superior when it comes to squeezing into tight spaces than the G4. Plus we find the styling just a tad more awkard than the hatchback which seems to wear the styling better.

There's only two trim levels to choose from with the G4. Entry-level ES comes with power windows and door locks, keyless entry with panic alarm feature and a USB port. You'll have to step up to the SE trim to get a 6.5 inch audio display with Bluetooth for your mobile device. 15-inch alloy wheels, push button ignition switch, rear view parking camera, auto-dimming interior mirror and automatic climate control with heated driver's seat. It seems as though the SE gives you the most bang for your bucks and doesn't really costs too much more over the ES trim, for that reason it is our pick of the range.

The Mirage G4 is cheap but not cheerful in anyway shape or form. It will get you from Point A to Point B but you'll wish that you picked a differ car to get from those two points because this isn't the vehicle to do that in. Basic transportation we'll give it that, but for everyone else you're better off paying the extra cash for a Chevy Sonic or a Toyota IA sedan.

Likes: It cheap to buy with low running costs. SE trim offers decent bang for your bucks. Ride comfort is actually quite good.

Dislikes: It's rubbish to drive, engine is weak and has idle vibration. Steering feedback is almost nonexistent and the styling is a little too goofy for our tastes.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Volvo V90 CC is the best

The chances of Abba returning as a death metal band are higher than that of Volvo doing anything radical with its large wagons. The V90 Cross-country is proof of this. It’s stylish and luxurious with very little sport.

The sole 2-liter turbocharged/supercharged four-cylinder engine does a fine job of making the V90 CC feel flexible and comfortable to drive. However, we wish that the engine was more refined because it just doesn’t fit the luxury price tag that the V90 CC commands. Driving around town the V90 CC does feel comfortable and luxurious with light steering and easy to maneuver chassis. It doesn’t feel as daunting to drive as the size would suggest. We do recommend everyone to get the air-suspension, because in comfort mode the V90 CC feels like a dream car to drive. It’s a very pricey option but it just feels so worth spending the extra cash on. Steering feedback is not as sharp as you’d find on a BMW but it does the job good enough and well for those choosing this raised wagon it’s probably enough, it surely was for us.

We do love the infotainment system and the fit and finish the materials used feel high quality. Our only complaint is the several menus that can get very distracting while on the go. The front seats offer superb comfort while those in the rear will find plenty of comfort; however the large transmission tunnel does hamper space for the middle man. The boot space is very generous and with the rear seat folded down you’ve got yourself a cargo van.

Since there is only one trim, it is a very well equipped trim at that. 19-inch alloy wheels, Full-LED headlights, blind spot monitoring system and a laminated panoramic sunroof all come standard. You’ll have to pay extra for a 360 surround view camera, Park assist pilot  and graphical head up display. Our tester car came equipped with nearly every option we could imagine but the price tag was pretty hefty too at nearly $70k.

We didn’t get the chance to take the V90 CC off-road or any light off-road stuff. The all-wheel-drive did provide the traction needed especially when driving through the heavy rain storm that we encountered. The V90 CC really is in a class of its own. It’s stylish, comfortable and offers light off road use if needed. We just wish that the engine was more refined.

Likes: Stylish inside and out with plenty of practicality. Volvo’s legendary safety reputation lives on strongly in this example.

Dislike: Engine needs more refinement. Pretty pricey compared to the XC90.

Our pick: There’s only one trim and well that’s your only choice. You can option it out if you choose but that will make it pretty pricey compared to an XC90 with the same engine. We do however suggest getting the popular package and air-suspension which will keep the price within reason.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pathological test drives the XC60

Volvo has a pretty good track record when it comes to 4x4s so when Volvo launched the XC60. They claimed it was the safest and most stylish of the bunch, does that claim still hold up today? Tough gig!

Avoid the entry-level T5 and go right for the T6 as it offers hot hatch performance with the added bonus of all-wheel-drive for extra traction when needed. We know that most people won't really care for all-wheel-drive in this case however, but that 2-liter turbo four in the T5 is just okay in front-wheel-drive configuration. But we think that it's worth spending the extra cash for the T6. You can choose both engines in the Dynamic or Inscription trims. The R-design only comes with the T6 engine and all-wheel-drive, and you get a snazzy looking body-kit and larger alloys. Our tester car was the T6 AWD Dynamic which offered decent kit and managed to undercut the BMW X3, it may not be as sharpest to drive as the X3 but it certainly has an appeal that you can't really find in its German Rivals.

The XC60 doesn't drive like other crossovers, it feels more comfortable and secure which is perfectly fine with us. It's not trying to pretend to be something that it's not. Steering feedback isn't the greatest and well the suspension like we mentioned earlier is more aimed at security rather than agility. People who buy this car or are tempted to buy this car won't be doing any of the such. The engines seem smooth for the most part unless you decide to put your foot down and you'll instantly know that it is a four-cylinder under that bonnet.

The infotainment system is pretty much straight forward in approach and well it does so in the classiest way possible. It is simply Scandinavian all over and we love it! The front seats offer the comfort that you'd expect from Volvo and the second row seats are just as comfortable in legroom and headroom. The boot space is very practical and when you fold down those rear seats you've got yourself a cargo van.

The XC60 comes well kitted for the money and is pretty hard to ignore considering that you'll also get some nice discounts. Some may want to wait for the next generation of the XC60 because it is even more stylish than the outgoing model and offers updated engine options as well. The Dynamic trim we had comes with 18-inch alloys, active dual xenon headlights, front park assist, Harmon kardon premium sound system and collision warning with full auto brake and pedestrian/cyclist detection. It does push the price up a bit steeply, but when you consider the amount of kit that is comes with it you'll probably be swayed away from the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. We certainly were if we were looking for a crossover in this price category.

The new XC60 is literally around the corner and well for those who are itching for a new crossover now will love that this XC60 comes with discounted prices, even though it's an older design. We still do say consider buying one if this XC60 tickles your fancy, otherwise wait for the newer one it looks very promising.

Likes: Still classy after all these years. Standard kit is very generous and it doesn't pretend to be something it's not in driving impressions.

Dislikes: It's starting to show its age.

Our pick: Go right for the Dynamic T6 AWD. You won't regret it.

Pathological loves the VW Golf

There’s only one car that holds king of the hatchbacks and that’s the Volkswagen Golf.

Standard 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder pumps out 170hp and may not sound like much to some but it really is the only engine you really need with this car. It’s quite flexible around town and offers plenty of oomph when you’re driving on the highway thanks to high torque at revs. You can choose between a five-speed manual gearbox and a six-speed auto gearbox. We’d suggest opting for the auto gearbox. While we do love manual gearboxes, this one just doesn’t feel up to par with the competition but it is not as bad as the one we tested in the Toyota IM. Steering feedback is what you’d expect it to be, and handling is slightly softer than the GTI but it is far from dull or uninspiring. We found ourselves enjoying zipping around town and the composure the Golf presented when driving on the highway. The engine is smooth at all rpm levels and doesn’t feel out of its depths like it does in let’s say the Passat. Road and wind noise are so well suppressed that you’d think that this were a far more expensive vehicle than it really is.

The interior feels upscale with classy feeling plastics used. The infotainment system isn’t as frustrating to use as the Honda Civic but the different menus can get distracting while on the go. The front seats offer plenty of support and space while the rear seat is roomy too, it’s actually much roomier than the exterior size would suggest. The boot space is really good too and for such a small car it actually feels more spacious than the Ford Focus. We love how the boot release is hidden behind the enormous VW badge.

Volkswagen cut the number of trim levels for 2017 to just two for the Golf and well both seem well kitted for the money. Standard S Trim gets heated side mirrors, Bluetooth audio streaming for you mobile device. Rearview camera system and 6.5-inch multi-media touch screen infotainment system. Wolfsburg Edition gets a panoramic sunroof, automatic headlights, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring system and keyless access with push button ignition system.

The Golf is hands down the best hatchback money can buy, if you find the engine lacking in power you can always get the GTI which has 210hp and 220hp from a 2-liter turbo four. Everyone else will love the Golf for its low running costs and roomy interior for such a small size. It really is all the car you’ll ever need. (Literally!)

Likes: Zippy turbo engine and low running costs, the boot space is generous for size and the overall interior is roomy. Simplified trim levels yet each trim level is stuffed with kit.

Dislikes: You can no longer option for Bi-xenon headlamps. We miss the SEL trim despite it being pricey.

Our pick: The Wolfsburg Edition comes with plenty of kit standard without being overpriced.

25 Weird Laws

In Victoria, only a qualified electrician is allowed to change a light bulb. It’s illegal to change it yourself unless you are a qualified electrician. If not you would have to pay a fine up to 10 Australian dollars.

In Milan, it is a legal requirement to smile at all the times, except during funerals or hospital visits. If you don’t, you have to pay a fine.

Winnie the pooh is banned from playgrounds in Tuszyn, in Poland. Because local authorities say Winnie is inappropriate for little children because Pooh is half naked.

In Coulaines, spitting was banned in 2009 to stop the spreading of swine flu.

In 2007, the Chinese government passed an absurd law, which stated that it’s illegal for the Tibetan monks to reincarnate without the government’s permission.

A popular law passed in England prohibits people to die in the House of Parliament. It is completely true and confirmed.

Eboli is a small town in Italy and kissing in a moving vehicle is banned here.

In Melbourne, Australia, vacuuming your house between 10 pm and 7 am during weekdays and 10 pm and 9 am during the weekends is against the law.

That’s not the only thing banned in Melbourne, it’s a place where men are banned from dressing up like a woman.

Driving a dirty car is against the law in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. You will have to face fine if you deny this law.

In Switzerland, flushing the toilet after 10 pm in an apartment building is illegal. The Swiss government considers it noise pollution.

In Canada, by law, one out of every five songs on the radio must be sung by a Canadian.

In Honolulu, Hawai, it is illegal to sing loudly after the sunset.

It is against the law not to walk your dog at least three times a day in Tornio, Italy.

Visitors of North Korea are not allowed to use North Korean currency and they are not allowed to enter into the city’s department stores.

A law passed in 2009 in Japan states that it is illegal to be fat. Yes, it is forbidden to be fat in Japan.

In Venice, it is illegal to feed the pigeons.

In Scotland, if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your toilet, you must let them enter.

In Singapore if you move around the house naked, without closing the blinds, you can be arrested.

Bear wrestling is illegal in Alabama.

In Oklahoma, you can be arrested for making ugly faces at a dog.

In Devon, Texas, it is against the law to make furniture while you are nude.

In Pennsylvania, it’s against the law to tie a dollar bill on a string on the ground and pull it away when someone tries to pick it up.

In Thailand, you can’t leave your house if you are not wearing underwear.

Pathological questions the Caddy XT5

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The SRX was such a popular crossover, so why did Cadillac replace it with the XT5? It essentially has the same shape and almost identical rear-end styling. Redesigned my ass! No but really though it is a good option if Lexus RX and Lincoln MKX don’t really tickle your fancy.

The sole engine is a 3.6 six-cylinder pumping out 310hp and yes it is quick but not race car fast. The Lincoln MKX has a twin-turbo six-cylinder that pumps out 355hp and it’s so much quicker if you care about horsepower figures. I however don’t in this case because the XT5 3.6 does its job well and that’s what matters the most. The standard eight-speed automatic is smooth and the engine stop/start system is not smooth, we wish it had an off-switch because it’s just too intrusive for my taste. No seriously, it sends shutters in the cabin when the engine turns on and off. It’s not a settling feeling no matter how long you’ve had the car. New technology is scary man! At least its emissions are lower than other crossovers at a standstill. That’s always a plus. No more engine idle for you man! Give it a brake.

The XT5 doesn’t drive like a sports machine and it doesn’t handle like it. It sure in hell doesn’t look like one. I mean geez Cadillac you call this a sporty crossover? Well, they actually don’t and well the XT5 isn’t supposed to be that at all. It is however, comfortable to drive and the steering offers decent feedback, it’s nothing to brag about in the coffee line. It sure does look pretty classy though so many some points can be had for that. The side mirrors are large and bulky, so power-folding mirrors would be nice if standard across the range. I hate the large blind spots around the rear near the boot. Blind spot monitoring system should be standard on all XT5 trims too because you can cut off people (which by the way we have on several occasions. We do want to extend a sorry to the Nissan Altima and Lexus RX, who knew he had it coming but insisted on being a jerk anyway.) I do applaud Caddy for making the effort to improve where it matters most.

The dashboard is classy and many soft-touch materials have been used to dress it up. When I say dress it up, I mean it’s dressed in leather (soft touching plastics) and the infotainment system doesn’t have a volume knob, so annoying! It is easy to use but it’s still annoying. Whatever happened to simple knobs! The gear selector is clunky and it doesn’t do what you want it to do right away, it’s also kind of confusing at first glance. It’s like BMW designed this thing! (BMW’s isn’t great either!) The rearview parking camera runs on rapid delay, once I shift from reverse to drive the rearview camera is still on for a few seconds then my Apple Carplay turns back on. The resolution on that camera isn’t great for the money you’d have to pay for this thing and you don’t even get surround view camera either (well not on the version we had anyway) but hey not all want advanced technology and you do have to pay for it.

Standard XT5 comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry with push button start, dual-zone climate control and wireless charging for portable devices. Luxury trim adds panorama sunroof, driver’s side auto-dimming mirror, rain sensing windshield wipers and heated steering wheel. 3.6 Premium Luxury adds Bose sound system, LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels and lane keep assist. Top of the range 3.6 Platinum trim adds tri-zone climate control, heated rear seats, surround vision camera and head up display.

The XT5 isn’t the sporty car that it looks like it would be. Instead it’s a comfortable car that’s easy to drive and comfortable to live with. Most buyers aren’t looking for an X3 or Audi Q5 and those buyers who do choose this will be very rewarded with what the Caddy has to offer.

Likes: Comfortable to drive daily and spacious for five. The boot is even decent in size too. Standard equipment is pretty good too.

Dislikes: Engine stop/start system isn’t that smooth. Electronic gear selector is just downright annoying!

Our pick: The XT5 Luxury seems like a good choose. You get extra luxury bits without having to pay too much more than the standard XT5. We’d say avoid the all-wheel-drive unless you have to have it. Front-wheel-drive configuration is actually decent.

Strange foods from around the world (part five) foods that can kill

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You can eat this dish fried, raw (sashimi), fugu sake, boiled or with miso. The liver and internal organs contain the deadly poison tetrodotoxin. 44 fatal incidents have been reported between 1996 - 2006.

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African nations eat the whole frog, not only the legs. It contains a variety of toxic substances that can cause kidney failure. Young frogs who have not yet started to mate are the most lethal.

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Monkey Brain

It can be eaten raw, cooked or baked. It contains an illness called Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob diesase. This can turn your brain into goo and cause death.

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Blood Clams

In Shanghai it is only quickly boiled. Contains many viruses and bacteria such as; hepatitis A, E, thyphoid and dysentery. More than 300,000 people were infected and 31 died in Shanghai in 1998. Around 15% of people that eat blood clams get infected.

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Pangium Edule

Known as the fruit that nauseates. Eaten only after being boiled without their shells and soaked in water and burying in banana leaves and ash for a month. This dish is poisonous to humans as it contains hydrogen cyanide.

Strange foods from around the world (part four)

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What is up with burying food and digging it back out and eating it? This dish is a king salmon head that’s fermented buried for weeks then dug up and eat as a putty-like mush. Sounds fancy huh?

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A dish made of pieces of meat taken from a selection of sea creatures, served in a brown and viscous paste of their own salted and fermented viscera. Yes it is served raw as this is a dish from Japan. I’m going to need a bucket after reading this.

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‘Insect caviar’, this dish consists of edible larvae and pupae of ants. It’s harvested in tequila and mescal plant. This is considered a delicacy and has the consistency of cottage cheese and a buttery nutty taste? Yeah this is one I’ll skip thanks.

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Fried spiders 

Spiders freak me the fuck out! So this dish is what nightmares are made of (to me). It’s prepared by marinating it in MSG, sugar and salt then frying it in garlic. It has more meant on it than a grasshopper, but also has brown sludge in the abdomen which consist mainly innards, eggs and excrement. This just sounds so yummy! 

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Sago Delight 

The Jing Leed is just creepy and this is creepier. When it’s eaten raw it is said to have a creamy taste to it, when it’s cooked it tastes like bacon. Seasoned and flavored the same way Jing Leed is and served side by side. It’s another dish that would leave me running for the barf bucket. 

Pathological test drives a small Chevy Crossover

The Chevy Trax has a lot to prove with heavy hitters like the Honda CR-V and Subaru XV.

The sole engine option is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder pumping out 138hp. You’d think that with the turbo that there is a bit more flexibility thanks to the high torque at low revs, but it still feels sluggish. Our guess is that our tester car came equipped with all-wheel-drive and that may have hampered acceleration slightly, we haven’t had the opportunity to test drive a front-wheel-drive version. The engine isn’t all bad though, running costs are low which does help make it appealing; while driving around town at normal speeds really does show how smooth and relaxed the engine can be when not rushed in the way we drove down the expressway. There’s something about a turbo engine car that we have to flat out flog it at least once to see what it can really do. It’s not a bad engine but just a little short on puff where some will find it a deal breaker and others won’t care at all.

Driving the Trax around town is actually fairly easy. Steering is light and offers decent feedback where it matters most when just darting through traffic or squeezing in and out of tight parking spaces. We just wish that the steering offered more feedback when on faster paced roads because it does feel a little disconnected at times. The ride comfort in our tester car was a little more on the firm side which is partially due to the 18-inch alloys that it came equipped with and well that didn’t translate well in road noise either because it did feel a little bit noisier than we’d like. Driving on the highway is also comfortable at relaxed speeds, we do feel that the tall and narrow body gets blown about a bit more than some of its rivals but it’s not a deal breaker in our books.

The infotainment screen is fairly easy to navigate, even though we do find that many of the menus can be distracting while on the go. The front seats offer plenty of adjustment and support while those in the rear may feel a little short changed on the space, it’s not bad but it’s not particularly roomy as well. The boot space is a little disappointing; some rivals of similar size have way more space to spare. Visibility is good all round.

Standard LS trim comes with rearview parking camera, remote keyless entry, auto headlights and Bluetooth audio streaming for your mobile device. LT trim adds 16-inch alloy wheels, LED tail lamps, integrated roof rails and remote start. Top of the range Premier trim (our tester car) came equipped with leatherette seating, 18-inch alloy wheels, Bose premium audio system and keyless entry and push button start.

The Chevy Trax is an okay option among the crowded compact crossover options. It’s not as versatile as the Honda HR-V and it certainly isn’t as fun to drive as a Nissan Juke. We do wish that Chevy used the turbo engine from the Cruze and we also wish that Chevy could’ve put alloy wheels on the standard LS trim because steel capped wheels on a car $20k or higher is just unacceptable in our books.

Likes: Low running costs. Exterior and interior looks have been improved. It’s quite easy to navigate around town and headroom is actually quite good.

Dislikes: The turbo engine is not as flexible as we’d like. The interior feels narrow and the boot space is disappointingly small.

Our pick: We’d go right for LT trim which adds alloy wheels, remote start and LED tail lamps. It may not have the fancy gadgets of the Premier trim but it’s cheaper and makes the most sense.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Strange foods from around the world (part three)

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Yes in Japan and well many other countries around the world you can enjoy whale meat. I highly doubt many of you would want to try it considering that it contains a high amounts of mercury and other toxins, which can cause organs to fail and madness. The whale does get its payback.

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Cobra heart

They prepare this dish by cutting the cobra open in front of you and putting the cobra's heart into a shot glass that's also filled with blood. Yes, if you are feeling adventurous well this is the dish for you. Blood, meh no thanks!

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Kangaroo Meat

Historically the staple meat for indigenous Australians, kangaroo is high in protein and low in fat, making it a pretty healthy choice. It’s gamey in flavour and served in multiple ways, from a simple steak to sausages or burgers. Although some animal groups are against the hunting and harvesting of kangaroos for meat, many ecologists see farming native animals as much better for the fragile Australian rangelands than cattle and say it could massively reduce greenhouse emissions.

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Steak Tartare

It’s made up of good quality raw ground beef, served with onions, capers, raw egg and seasoned with Worcester sauce and other condiments, usually with rye bread or fries on the side. I love medium rare to near blue rare meat but I'm not entirely sure yet if I have the 'balls' to try this dish. However, it is certainly one of those dishes that I will try before I die.

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Pickled Egg

The name says it all, it's a hardboiled egg that's been left to go cold and stuck in a jar of vinegar. The sour liquid penetrates right to the heart making the powdery yolk in the center very sour. I finally had the chance to try this and yuck! I nearly gagged to death. I will never eat another pickled egg as long as I live.

Pathological loves the Volvo S90

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You'd think that picking an executive saloon would be an easy proposition, seeing that Audi, BMW and Mercedes dominate this segment. However, there is a new car in town and it is ready to shake things up. The Swedes really are back in town and it's known as the Volvo S90.

There are two engines available on the standard S90. The T5 uses a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder pumping out 250hp while the top of the range T6-AWD pumps out 315hp thanks to a turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder. We'd choose the latter here which seems to be more flexible and offer standard all-wheel-drive which really does come in handy in handling and also extra traction. The only problem we have with this all four-cylinder engine range is that these engines aren't as refined as they should be and at this price tag it really does feel unacceptable.

We love the way the S90 drives, it's not trying to be overly sporty and we are perfectly fine with that. Steering feedback is more on the 'meh' side but that's fine because it doesn't become heavy when it doesn't need to be and is actually quite smooth when at low speeds, we just wish that it offered a little more feedback to provide a little more confidence when you do decide to drive a little spiritedly into corners and bends. Handling is more safe rather than sporty but the ride comfort is so smooth that you can forgive it for not being as sharp as a 5-series but it still isn't as refined as a E-class which is a shame because the S90 undercuts all three German Rivals in price and interior refinement.

The interior infotainment system is quite easy to navigate through and all the menus are easy to use, however we still think that it can be distracting while on the go. The front seats offer superb comfort and should be expected because Volvo does make some of the best seats in the auto market. The rear seat does plenty of space for four, but trying to squeeze five abreast maybe a bit of a squeeze due to the slightly large rear transmission tunnel. The boot offers decent space too for a sedan, it's not as versatile as the V90 but you can fold the rear seat down to increase the cargo space to your liking.

Avoid the Momentum trim and go right for the Inscription and you won't regret it. On top of getting Pilot Assist – semi autonomous drive system, you get 19-inch alloy wheels. 12.3 inch digital instrument display, linear walnut wood inlays and those snazzy Full-LED headlights. You'll have to pay extra for bits like Head-up display and Premium Air suspension. You'd have to really want to splurge on those options because the S90 is already well equipped as it is. We do however, suggest opting for the air suspension because in comfort mode it feels even more opulent than a Mercedes E-class.

We loved the S90 because it really is a breathe of fresh air in terms of design inside out and overall driving experience. We just wished that Volvo made the engines more refined or offered a turbocharged six-cylinder engine option, this would make the S90 an even stronger rival towards the ever popular German Rivals. Despite that little flaw, the S90 is a worthy contender and should be on your shortlist because like we've said in the intro of this review. The Swedes are back in town.

Likes: It doesn't drive like any of its competition and we love that. Styling inside out is something that the German Rivals don't have.

Dislikes: We wish the engines were more refined. Everything else is just nitpicking.

Our pick: Go right for the Inscription trim, it undercuts all of its German Rivals in standard kit and also classy interior décor. It's pretty hard to fault the S90 for lack of driving dynamics when it's so posh and comfortable to drive, most people will want that the most in an executive saloon and the S90 delivers.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Strange foods from around the world (part two)

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Century Egg

Yeah no thanks!
What is it? An egg that’s rotten to the point that the yolk either turns green or black and the white turns dark translucent brown jelly. It smells strongly of Sulphur and ammonia but most who have tried the dish say it tastes like hardboiled egg. Yuck!

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Mm nothing sounds amazing like silkworm that’s been boiled and/or steamed. Apparently it tastes like wood. Why is this even a dish? 

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Witchetty Grub 

What kind of witchery is this? It can either be raw and tastes like almonds or cooked lightly where the appearance looks like roast chicken and the insides has the consistency of scrambled eggs. 

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Escargots à la Bourguignonne
Snails cooked in a sauce of white wine, garlic, butter and parsley served in their shells. It is said to have a similar consistency to mussels or clams, few say that it has a rubbery taste. I don’t think I’ll ever try escargot in my lifetime but it doesn’t look as crazy as the rest of the dishes on this list. 

[Short-take] Volkswagen Tiguan

The next generation of the Volkswagen Tiguan will be here soon, but you can still buy the current generation if it tickles your fancy.

The sole 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine isn’t the upgraded 2-liter turbo from the GTI but it still makes a respectable 200hp. You can have it with either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive if you desire the extra traction. We hadn’t had the opportunity to test drive the front-wheel-drive form but instead had the Sport trim with 4-motion all-wheel-drive. The combo together doesn’t feel sluggish at all thanks to high torque at low revs and a smooth six-speed automatic. It really is a GTI on stilts because not only is it fast but it feels very agile where it matters most. It’s not GTI athletic but you’ll get our point here. Steering feedback isn’t as crisp as that of a GTI but it does the job better than some of its keen rivals. Where the Tiguan might fall short is on ride comfort, with the large alloy wheels it did feel a bit more firm than we’d like but the tradeoff is always decent handling and in our books that’s not really something to complain much of. Wind and road noise are well suppressed and the engine is mainly hushed at relaxed speeds.

The interior doesn’t feel up to par with some of its keen rivals but it still feels classy. The touch-screen infotainment system while it is easy to use, it still is distracting to use because of all the various menus. (We’ve said this about several infotainment systems and we will still think that they’re distracting while on the go.) The front seats offer plenty of support while the rear seat offers plenty of space for three abreast. The boot space isn’t as versatile as the Golf’s but it is a decent size and offers plenty of versatility when the rear seat is folded down.

We’d say it’s best to skip the S trims and the Wolfsburg trims as well and go right for the Sport trims. It comes with Bi-Xenon headlights, panorama sunroof, 18-inch alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control. You may pay a slight premium for it but we think that it is well worth it. The interior materials are much improved and the overall appearance makes the Tiguan feel like a classy package.

It’s hard trying to find the right compact crossover that fits you the best, especially with so many of them to choose from. But we’ve broken it down with this statement. Buy the Tiguan Sport or SEL because those are the classiest forms, everyone else is better off looking elsewhere because the Tiguan is less than average among heavy hitters like the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson.

Likes: Turbo engine offers the flexibility we love. The interior is classy VW and the standard kit list is pretty good too.

Dislikes: The more expensive trims feel the classiest. The new Tiguan is around the corner and has three-rows of seats.

Our pick: Go right for the Sport or SEL trims. You may have to pay extra for them but they feel well worth the premium.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


We all know that there are few drivers out there who really don’t want a crossover. So we’ve decided to list our top five picks for vehicles that aren’t crossovers.

Volkswagen Golf wagon
The TDI engine is no more for the U.S. which really is sad because that was our favorite engine combo for the wagon.  You can still get this with a smooth and responsive 1.8 turbo engine which pumps out 170hp. All-wheel-drive has been added to the range but you can get it with the S trim. The interior is classy and the boot space while not the best in the class, it is a lot better than many crossovers of similar size. You can’t go wrong with the Golf Wagon it really is a jack of all trade.

Volvo V90
You’ll have to special order this if you want this wagon but it is well worth the considering especially since it is cheaper than the V90 CC and XC90. You get two engine choices which are shared with the S90. We’d say avoid the entry-level T5 and go right for the T6 AWD which has a more flexible engine and well it doesn’t really costs much more. The V90 is more expensive than the Golf but it is such an elegantly designed wagon that it’s pretty hard not to give it a second look.

Volvo V60 Polestar
Yes this is a very expensive wagon but at the same token it is a very powerful one at that. All-wheel-drive is standard and offers plenty of grip when things get slippery and the interior is very tastefully Swedish. It may not appeal to everyone considering the wagon stigma but if you are a driving enthusiast you’ll pick this over any crossover any day.

Mercedes E-class wagon
This is the most expensive wagon on the list and yes it’s a Mercedes we get that, but it is simply elegantly designed. The turbo six-cylinder engine is smooth and flexible. You also get a very classy interior with a boot so big that you won’t even need a crossover for space. We do hope that Mercedes decided to bring the diesel version of the wagon in 2018 when the CDI makes a comeback.

BMW 3-series touring
We’ve praised the 3-series touring as the best BMW of the range. It offers plenty of space in the boot, it’s the most stylish and also the only real all-wheel-drive diesel wagon you can currently buy in the U.S. Yes those who wrote on blogs bring an all-wheel-drive wagon here well it’s either this or nothing at all. The turbo four-cylinder also has plenty of flexibility and the overall driving experience is on point with the sedan. We just wish that there was a 320 trim offered or maybe even a turbo six in the 340 trim for a few thousand more to spice things up.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Options to consider when looking at the 320i sedan

Better than a 3-series (320i) sedan.
Here are our top five picks for vehicles we think are better than the 320i.

Mazda 3 Grand Touring ($27,561*)
We love the Mazda 3 as it’s fun to drive, has an excellent interior and refined powertrain. The Grand Touring trim offers all the bells and whistles and still comes in at a price well below $40k. It’s pretty hard to fault the Mazda 3 here considering that it has a more potent 2.5 four-cylinder and the 3-series has a 2-liter turbo making 5hp shy of the Mazda 3. Also, the fact that it gets lower running costs and is cheaper to own. You can choose between a sedan and hatchback for added versatility.

Subaru Impreza Limited ($30,619*)
The Mazda 3 doesn’t offer all-wheel-drive and well for those who might want all-wheel-drive will love the Impreza. It may not have the flexible four-cylinder that the Mazda 3 comes with but it surely does have low running costs for a car equipped with all-wheel-drive, and the top of the range Limited Trim is very well equipped. Subaru is known for excellent build quality which should help deter you away from the 320i.

Honda Civic Touring ($27,475*)
Full-LED headlights, navigation system, heated front seats and a turbo engine that’s actually quite good. The Civic Touring offers great value for the money and should be another option worth considering if you are looking at a 320i. You may not get the all-wheel-drive like the Subaru Impreza but for many it isn’t a deal breaker. However, our only gripe is that the infotainment system is fiddly to operate.

Volkswagen GTI SE ($34,840*)
The GTI seems like the most expensive of the bunch so far but you get a thumping turbo engine that’s more powerful than the 320i (220hp vs 180hp) and also you get more standard kit than you would with the 320i. Plus, it’s one of the best hot hatches money can buy. Sure you can buy a Focus St but the Focus ST isn’t as refined as the GTI and isn’t as comfortable to drive as a daily vehicle. We love how the interior is so much more refined and also the fact that you get hatchback practicality. How could you say no to this?

Hyundai Elantra Sport ($24,330*)
This maybe the cheapest on the list but it surely isn’t short on standard kit and fun. The 1.6 turbo found in this is the same one from the Soul which pumps out 201hp and you can have it with a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed auto gearbox. Flexibility with this turbo engine is far better than the Impreza and even the Civic but handling is more on the neutral side along with the steering feedback which is almost lifeless. We surely do recommend this on the list of vehicles that you can buy other than a 320i simply because it has the features to back up the price and the performance as well. How can anyone say no to 201hp?

BMW 320i (2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 180hp)
Mazda 3 (2.5-liter four-cylinder, 185hp)
Subaru Impreza (2-liter four-cylinder, 152hp)
Honda Civic (1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 174hp)
Hyundai Elantra (1.6-turbocharged four-cylinder, 201hp)

Shortlist for compact crossovers

We pick our favorite five compact crossovers that should be shortlisted.
****This list is in no particular order. 

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
We know that the Outlander Sport is dated in terms of looks and interior, but we love the Outlander Sport for its comfortable ride and high standard kit list. We also love that you can get an Outlander Sport at discounted price. The standard 2-liter four-cylinder is best had with front-wheel-drive, while the 2.4 is the best way to go if you have to have all-wheel-drive. Our only complaint with the Outlander Sport is that Mitsubishi Dealer Network is very small and also it doesn’t really feel competitive with the rest of the offerings here. We are strictly picking this one because people do care for value and this one does have that on its side.

 Like: Roomy interior with styling that’s aging well. High standard kit list and you can pick up many with nice discounts.

Dislikes: Resale value is iffy, 2-liter engine while a workhorse of an engine. It feels very anemic at times especially with all-wheel-drive.

Mazda CX-3
The Mazda CX-3 maybe the smallest of the compact crossovers but it is certainly not small on refinement and fun to drive factors. It really is fun to toss this little crossover in bends and there’s practically no body-roll to complain of. The ride comfort is superb and the interior build quality is also what you’d expect from a Mazda. The same 2-liter engine from the Mazda3 can be had here and is the only engine available. It’s not really bad but we just wish it had a little more flexibility where it matters most, also the interior is a little on the cramped side with a boot that’s not very generous in space. Overall, this is a crossover that should be shortlisted because what it lacks in space it makes up for it in driving experience, low running costs and refinement.

Likes: Zoom-zoom lives on despite the low horsepower figures. It’s the most fun to drive in the segment. Quality is what you’d expect.

Dislikes: The rear seat is small and the boot isn’t very room either.

Kia Soul
The Kia Soul will always have a special place in my heart. It really is a funky crossover that’s really hard to ignore. We strongly suggest ignoring the standard 1.6 and going right for the 2-liter engine. It feels more flexible and the running costs are respectable. You can also get a 1.6 turbo at the top end which is actually quite fun to drive, the only thing missing is the optional all-wheel-drive which would appeal to those who may need all-wheel-drive in a smaller package. Interior quality has been vastly improved over the previous generation and has a sort of hipster feel that we like and the boot space is generous. It’s easy to park and easy to live with. The Kia Soul really is worthy of the shortlist.

Likes: The 1.6 turbo is exactly the spice the Soul needed. It’s roomy for five and has tons of standard kit for the money.

Dislikes: Steering feedback could be better. Resale value is not great. No all-wheel-drive option.

Honda HR-V
We like the practicality side of the HR-V. It features the magic seats of the Fit and the overall packaging is well worth consideration. The tiny 1.5-liter four-cylinder won’t win you any races but it will save you money at the pump. We however wish that Honda upgraded their infotainment system because it really is fiddly to operate. The best part of the HR-V is that it has high resale value, it’s the most sensible choice among small crossovers and it’s build quality is on par with what Honda is known for. The HR-V’s dinky dimensions make parking in tight urban streets a breeze.

Likes: Low running costs. The interior features tons of functionality for a small package.

Dislikes: The infotainment system is too fiddly to operate.

Nissan Rogue Sport
The Rogue Sport just went on sale and we do consider this one a worthy contender of the shortlist. The 2-liter four-cylinder is the only downside of the Rogue Sport. It could use more flexibility or the Juke’s turbo engine option could be optional here to help give buyers who may want more power a very interesting option. The Rogue Sport is easy to live with and has tons of features for a very low asking price. Some options can send the Rogue Sport price higher than the larger and roomier Rogue. All-wheel-drive is optional across the range is only needed if you have to have the extra traction.

Likes: The exterior and interior styling is very attractive. Very easy to live with and the running costs are low.

Dislikes: Steel capped wheels on the base trim. Can get expensive with options and the engine isn’t all that flexible. 

We test drive a Honda Accord

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Despite the popular trend in crossovers, the Honda Accord still has its place in the market of family vehicles.

The standard 2.4 four-cylinder is what majority of Accord buyers will go for. It has a nice blend of flexibility and low-running costs. The top of the range 3.5 six-cylinder is best left for the power hungry and those willing to pay the premium. Our tester car was the 3.5 six-cylinder and it never felt overpowered even when we pushed it on the highway, around town the six-cylinder is smooth and easy to live with. The only gripe we have with this engine is that it feels like it would be better paired with all-wheel-drive because at moments the front-wheels often do feel like they get overwhelmed by the amount of horsepower being pushed to them. Steering feedback is decent and the overall driving experience while it isn’t as thrilling as a Mazda 6, it is comfortable and does offer a bit of excitement. Road noise and wind noise is nothing to complain of and the overall refinement of both engines is actually quite good.

The interior has good space for five people. The front seats offer decent support and visibility outward is good as well. Boot space is generous too but not as flexible as a wagon. The infotainment system is what we hate the most about the interior, the touch screen display is too fiddly to operate and the fact that there’s no actual volume knob makes it even more of a hassle to operate on the go than it should. Honda definitely needs to thoroughly redesign this because it’s just a disaster to operate.

There’s a dizzying number of Accord trims to pick from so bear with is us here. Standard LX trim gets Bluetooth for your mobile device, dual-zone climate control and multi-angle rearview camera; sport trim adds more powerful 2.4 engine (189hp), 10-way power driver’s seat and 19-inch alloy wheels. Sport Special Edition has leather-trimmed seating, heated front seats and special edition badging. EX trim adds Smart Entry and push button start, sunroof and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. EX-L adds leather-trimmed seating surfaces, power front seats with two-position memory driver’s seat. EX-L V6 adds the 3.5 six-cylinder and dual-exhaust. Top of the range Touring trim gets Navigation system, LED headlights with heated rear seats.

The ever popular crossovers may be what most buyers are turning to as their family vehicle, but for those who don’t want a crossover the Honda Accord is worth the consideration, we just wish that the infotainment system more refined and of course it gets quite expensive the higher up the range you travel. Also, the Mazda 6 is more fun to drive if you do care about driving experience.

Likes: Low-running costs with four-cylinder engine. Standard kit is decent. The 3.5 six-cylinder is the sweet spot of the range and is actually cheaper than you’d think.

Dislikes: Infotainment system is frustrating to use.

Devon’s pick: The Sport trim seems to offer the best value. You still get the smooth 2.4 but upgraded to 189hp and few extra bits that makes it worth the consideration. Our money however would go to the EX-L V6 which comes with that excellent six-cylinder engine that’s actually more affordable than you’d think.