BMW Canada recently invited me to their “Drive for Team Canada” event featuring the all new BMW 4-series Coupe and their totally redesigned BMW X5 SAV.
Why the “Drive for Team Canada” name you might ask? Well it’s because BMW Group Canada is an official national partner of the Canadian Olympic team and BMWs are the official vehicles of the Canadian Olympic team all the way through to 2016!
Our Canadian athletes benefit through this partnership with athlete funding and other further fundraising opportunities. In fact, for every test drive during the “Drive for Team Canada” events, BMW donates $25 to our Canadian athletes as they prepare for Sochi 2014.
A little history lesson here. Did you know that BMW has a long-standing global commitment to the Olympic effort? Most recently at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, they were the Official Automotive Partner and provided over 3000 fleet vehicles. They also supported more than 100 athletes.
“As National Partner and Official Vehicle of the Canadian Olympic Team, we are proud to announce the BMW Drive for Team Canada in support of the Canadian Olympic Foundation”, said Kevin Marcotte, Director of Marketing for BMW Group Canada. “This initiative provides Canadians the opportunity to test-drive the latest in dynamics, innovation and aesthetics from BMW, while contributing to the development and success of Canada’s Olympic Team.”
The Drive for Team Canada events were also held in Toronto and Montreal. For the Vancouver stop of this tour, the British Columbia Driving Centre in Pitt Meadows played host to the Bimmers.
Did you know that the BC Driving Centre is also the driver training facility for police officers and paramedics?
After checking in at the hospitality desk and signing the usual waivers, BMW offered participants the unique opportunity to interact with former and or current Canadian Olympians, receive autographs and take photos with the athletes.
I had the opportunity to meet two Olympians. Andrew Byrnes, 2008 Olympic gold medalist rower (he also won a silver medal in the 2012 London games), and former Olympic and Paralympic basketball athlete Misty Thomas!
Before any driving commenced, we were briefed on the X5 and the 4-series. While the X5 had the usual BMW evolutionary improvements both stylistically and technology-wise, I was far more impressed and interested with the 4-series. Being a huge German car fan myself, this was the car I was here to see and experience.
For those of you who don’t know, BMW is switching their naming scheme (much to the chagrin of BMW traditionalists) so that all of their coupes and cabriolets are even numbers. The sedans and SUVs retain their odd numbered nomenclature. Hence the “3-series sedan” and “4-series coupe” names respectively.
But it’s more than just a number change that sets the 3 and 4-series apart. The 4-series coupe not only sits lower but is also 81mm wider. The driver’s seat is 9mm lower than its 3-series brethren. In fact, the 4-series gets the crown for having the lowest centre of gravity in the current BMW vehicle lineup.
Check out the pictures in the gallery below for more stats on both the X5 and the 4-series.
Head swarming with performance figures and info, we were given a safety briefing by the professional drivers that BMW had on staff. As with other BMW driving events, the emphasis was on safety first, then fun after.
As expected with a high end marque, BMW had hired professional drivers whose professional racing and driving experiences matched the calibre of their Ultimate Driving Machines.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and getting to know local BMW pro drivers Richard Fukui and Brody Goble on a more personal level during my time at the event. You can’t help but do so when you’re putting your life in their capable hands during the orientation drives or hot laps!
Look for an interview with Brody (who is a Surrey-White Rock resident) in the near future. In the meantime, you can also check out his website to see his long list of championship wins. He, and the other instructors there, are one of the pieces of the puzzle that made this a memorable event for all.
I should mention that all of our test vehicles were equipped with BMW’s xDrive permanent all-wheel-drive system. xDrive is a relatively new system, at least to the public, when compared to Audi’s iconic Quattro and Mercedes-Benz’s 4MATIC systems. While there was an all-wheel-drive 3-series back in the late 1980’s, “all-wheel-drive” and “BMW” were rare words to associate together until the X5 made its debut. Ever since then, BMW has been making huge strides in branding and educating the public on xDrive and its advantages.
For the sake of efficiency and to maximize our drive time, our group of 18 was split into two. One group was sent over to the BMW X5 driving component, and the other to the 4-series experience. I started with the X5 group first.
The X5 experience
This track was laid out to showcase the dynamic nature of xDrive, the X5’s agility (it is still a heavy mid-sized luxury SUV after all), as well as the ABS braking capabilities of the SAV.
All of the participants had the opportunity to experience the X5s equipped with different trim packages (X Line, Luxury Line, and M sport line). Unfortunately the V8 X5 was out of commission on the day of my session.
The exercise consisted of a short slalom followed by a tight circle with sand placed in one spot within the circle. Our task was to accelerate into the slalom section, get to an appropriate speed, then hold a consistent speed within the circle as we did two loops.
The idea here was to showcase xDrive’s capabilities when the X5’s front wheels lost traction, and how the computers would transfer power side-to-side/fore-aft quickly and seamlessly. A good representation of making a turn in an icy corner in real world situations.
Having experienced both Audi’s Quattro system and Mercedes-Benz’s 4MATIC system, I was surprised and impressed by how I could feel the dynamic transfer of power as advertised. There was little understeer and no drama. Interestingly the system transferred power quickly enough that the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system did not have to step in during this exercise. Nice!
A few more general points to note about the X5. During my limited time with the vehicle, three main features stood out to me.
- The HUD (Heads-Up Display) system is fantastic. While the 4-series also has it, the X5’s system seemed to be higher resolution and the graphics really looked like they were floating in space forward of you.
- I liked the M sport package equipped X5s the best. The combination of the wide rear tires and the larger wheels really spoke to the sporty nature of the brand.
- The large widescreen high resolution iDrive display looked expensive and fit in nicely with the rest of the interior accoutrements. It made the forward facing and top down camera graphics look fantastic.
The 4-series experience
While the X5 track was fun enough, it was a bit short due to space limitations at the Pitt Meadows facility. Most of the people in my group were salivating in anticipation for the row of BMW 4-series coupes waiting for us in the next segment.
The colour line-up of the cars looked suspiciously close to tri-coloured BMW Motorsports logo. Coincidence? Hah, I wonder!
The 4-series course was designed to highlight the agility of the coupe. Namely, it’s low centre of gravity, its 50/50 weight balance, and the xDrive system. It started off with a longer slalom course (vs the X5 track) that lead into a long left hand sweeper through a big puddle. The course then snaked back into another set of slaloms and finally ended with a stop box where we were expected to come to a full ABS stop within the pylons.
To familiarize the drivers with the course, we were taken out three at a time by Richard and Brody on an orientation lap / hot lap.
When these cars are put into the hands of professional drivers, you can really see how much work BMW puts into their R&D efforts. These efforts aren’t realized by most drivers until they’re in emergency situations near or beyond the cars’ limits.
Since this was a much more technical course, it also emphasized how most regular drivers weren’t very good at driving smoothly, keeping their vision up, and looking far ahead at where they wanted to go versus what they were trying to avoid. Fortunately the host of active safety systems were there to step in when needed.
For extra driver training, BMW Canada also offers their Driver Training Programs. This is something that is definitely on my bucket list to do in the future!
Both Richard and Brody were fantastic in coaching the drivers individually through the course over the in-car radios. They pointed out any faults and areas for improvements while also highlighting the active safety systems (e.g. xDrive) working hard to keep us within the orange cones and chalk lines! Both drivers and passengers came back all smiles at the end of each lap.
I’m sure it was gratifying for the driving instructors as well to see the participants improve with each passing lap. This allows us plebeian drivers the ability to really able to push the cars a little further out of our comfort zone while in a safe and controlled environment.
Since I do have some advanced driving school experience, it was especially fun for me!
Brody took me out for a hot lap at the end of the day just before the course was torn down. I had the chance to use my GoPro to record it!
As for my 4-series quick impressions, my favourite car (of the day in fact) was the Estoril Blue 435i xDrive with the M Sport package. While the 428i seemed to be very slightly better balanced in the slalom sections, probably due to its lighter 4-cylinder turbo engine, the extra grunt and noise from the bigger 3.0L turbocharged straight 6 were much more inline with my personal perception of what a sporty BMW coupe should feel like.
Canada isn’t one of the countries that has a huge budget that goes into Olympic athlete funding (which in turn reduces our odds of securing as many Olympic medals as possible). So it’s nice to see a big corporate partner like BMW Group Canada step up to support our fellow countrymen (and women).
I want to thank both BMW Canada and Kristoffer Ong at BMW Langley for inviting me to this year’s event. With many manufacturers cutting their marketing dollars in the ride-and-drive department, it’s very gratifying to see that BMW is still willing to put their money where their mouths are and let their Ultimate Driving Machines do the “talking”.
Hopefully I get to experience both the 4-series and X5 on longer terms in the near future for full test drive reviews <HINT HINT, wink wink, BMW Canada>
Oh yeah and GO CANADA GO!
[REVIEW] 2020 Acura ILX A-Spec
The dream of owning a car with a luxury name brand is just that, a dream, for many. The challenge that luxury auto manufacturers have is how they can fulfil that dream by selling entry-level models that are still more in-line with the average consumer’s budget while still not diluting their luxury name brands.
The trick is to offer enough flash that aspiring consumers are willing to pony up a few more dollars for, and also just enough content that is also accessible on the brand’s higher end models. The idea is to keep the consumers in the brand as they grow throughout life.
While history has shown some terrible rebadging examples of entry-level luxury models, such as the Cadillac Cimarron, some brands have succeeded better than others in this exercise.
Acura’s first attempt at an entry-level luxury model was the Integra, a car that still has a cult following today. It was replaced by the EL, the CSX, and finally the ILX that we have today. All of the models have shared their platforms with the Honda Civic but with revised styling, interiors, and tuning.
What’s new with the ILX?
At a starting price of around $30,500 CAD, the 2020 Acura ILX continues to be the company’s foray into entry-level luxury.
Honda’s luxury division is already prone to pricing its cars lower than that of other makes in its class. This “cheaper” value equation has not always worked in the company’s favour as some people have forgotten that Acura is technically a luxury auto manufacturer. Strong performers such as the Acura RDX and Acura MDX crossovers have helped though.
The ILX is presumably supposed to appeal to those who feel like they’ve upgraded past their Honda Civics but still want to remain loyal to the Honda brand.
Facing modest sales, Acura made some extensive changes to their entry-level luxury compact car in 2016 both in engine choices and also in styling.
Gone is the hybrid model and the lower end 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. The lone engine choice is now an eager 2.4-litre four-cylinder producing 201 horsepower at 6,800 rpms and 180 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpms. The only transmission choice is an 8-speed dual clutch gearbox with steering wheel mounted flappy paddles.
Acura probably made a wise decision with the powertrain as the base 2.0-litre engine and 1.5-litre hybrid engines were economical, but acceleration was rather uninspiring.
Styling-wise, the ILX received a significant change in styling to bring it in line with the rest of Acura’s corporate line-up. Inspired by Acura’s Precision Concept, the refresh worked well to deliver a sportier and more premium vibe.
The changes include Acura’s now ubiquitous Jewel Eye LED headlights, a more sculpted hood, and the company’s Diamond Pentagon Grille.
Out back, the Precision Concept’s styling theme continues with an all-new decklid and rear bumper with lower diffuser, moving the rear license plate to the bumper.
While all models received revised 17-inch wheels with trim specific finishes, my A-Spec test vehicle was equipped with larger A-Spec-exclusive 18-inch wheels.
What’s in “A” name?
Like the TLX sedan, RDX and MDX crossovers, the ILX has now also been fitted with the latest generation A-Spec treatment, designed to give a more performance inspired character.
On the exterior, the new ILX A-Spec is distinguished by dark chrome trim for the front grille and lower fascia, LED fog lights, dark appearance for the headlights and taillights, and a gloss-black decklid spoiler.
A-Spec models feature 18-inch wheels with an aggressive new design and Shark Gray finish. Apex Blue Pearl, also only found on A-Spec variants of RDX and MDX, is available on the ILX A-Spec.
Interior enhancements for the ILX A-Spec include a graphite-silver dash accent with chrome insert, A-Spec badged steering wheel with contrast stitching and aluminum sport pedals.
The all-new sport seats are finished in A-Spec exclusive Ebony or, as fitted to my test vehicle, Red leather with black Ultrasuede centre panels and high contrast stitching.
Active and Passive Safety Technology
Although the comprehensive suite of AcuraWatch active safety and driver-assist technology isn’t cutting edge anymore, Acura is the only brand to provide all of these features as standard equipment across all its sedans and SUVs.
This includes an alphabet soup of systems including Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW).
Acura’s available blindspot information system and rear cross traffic alert was also fitted to my test vehicle.
Oddly, I found that the blindspot warning system didn’t have a tremendous amount of range, something that I’d never experienced before on other cars (usually they’re too sensitive). I found that the system only illuminated when the trailing vehicle was a bit too close for comfort in my blindspot, and the warning fell off a bit too early when a vehicle was alongside.
The ILX’s interior is nice enough thanks to last year’s interior upgrades. Compared to a more expensive Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class though, it is behind the times in tactile feel and design despite its excellent build quality. Perhaps it’s no surprise as the ILX is based on the previous generation Honda Civic.
Nonetheless, flashy high-contrast piping and stitching, reshaped sport seats should interest enough millennial luxury car shoppers. The ILX does pack a bit of value as even base cars get leatherette-trimmed heated upholstery, keyless entry, and as previously mentioned, the AcuraWatch suite of systems. Rather strangely, blindspot warning is an optional extra.
My A-Spec ILX with the Tech package also added leather upholstery, an ELS 10-speaker upgraded audio system, and Acura’s connected services. Although upgraded to version 2.0 in 2019, like the MDX, I found the ILX’s dual screen infotainment system is a bit outdated with a steep initial learning curve to navigate through all of the (recently revised) menus to adjust settings.
At least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard though, and the system has an operating system that is supposedly up to 30 per cent faster than before.
Thanks to the flat rear floor, the compact sedan’s back seat is one of the car’s strength. There is decent room considering the car’s exterior size. Folding down the rear seat opens up trunk space for longer items.
However, the rear seatback isn’t divided as with most SUVs, so it’s not possible to still carry a rear passenger or two on one side while expanding trunk space on the other.
How does it drive?
While the ILX’s dutiful engine doesn’t have any turbos, the normally aspirated VTEC-equipped engine works well at full steam. There isn’t a whole lot of torque compared to the turbocharged engines, so you do have to rev it a little to get the feeling of speed. The 8-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox works well for the most part, but occasionally clunks around when shifting.
Road and wind noise do indeed permeate the cabin at highway speeds more than the A-Class or A3. Still, as the ILX shares much of its basic architecture with the previous-generation Honda Civic, at least the handling is poised and confident. Morever, like most Acuras and Hondas, the brakes have excellent pedal feedback.
I found the ILX’s ride to be occasionally too firm on the verge of being a bit jumpy on poor road surfaces. This is surprising given that Acura touts the ILX as being fitted with their Amplitude Reactive shocks.
The well-built ILX’s value proposition is its biggest strength. Although some aspects of the car are showing their age despite the recent redesign, after factoring in the standard safety and technology content that is extra cost on competing European models, the Acura truly is a great value for money.
How Changes at ICBC Will Affect BC Drivers
ICBC has emerged with new additions to their insurance policy and it’s been met with mixed reactions. According to their report on the new changes, this is the first time ICBC doesn’t have to increase basic rates.
The changes by ICBC shows the Insurance company is moving to a no-fault style insurance.
For those who don’t know, a no- fault style insurance is when both party’s insurance companies handle the claim so no one has to go to court. No lawyers or lawsuits are involved in the process of handling the claims and determining who’s at fault.
The insurance company reported that this new change is expected to save drivers in B.C. an average of $400 per year.
For a recap on the current policy, when a driver is involved in an accident and they aren’t at fault, they are able to sue the person at fault for things like damages, pain and suffering, etc. However with the new system ICBC determines who is at fault and decides how much compensation to give to the party affected by the accident.
Obviously the lawyers are taken out of the whole process because it saves money.
However, many people have had to go to a lawyer because they felt their claims weren’t handled properly, and they weren’t given enough compensation.
The new system still allows the affected person to sue, they just have to go through the process of ICBC trying to determine the right compensation.
Along with the new no-fault changes, ICBC is also implementing a new collision repair and glass supplier program, an Enhanced Care auto insurance, and introducing two new amendments to the evidence act.
With the evidence act, ICBC is limiting the amount of experts and experts reports that are used in trials. Also, restricting the “reimbursement amount for an expert report and put a cap on total recoverable disbursements”
According to ICBC’s report these amendments are put in place to encourage early settlements and aide to reduce the cost settling injury claims.
It’s clear that these changes are put in place to ensure that B.C. drivers receive the right compensation when an accident occurs, but it’s also to ensure the insurance company doesn’t lose more money as they go through the process of handling the claims.
To some, these changes seem fair for B.C. drivers, however there are others who want to change some things about the policies, especially the new no-fault style system.
A recent global news article features Vancouver lawyer, Joel Zanatta speaking about the new system and how it’s unfavourable for B.C. residents.
He speaks on the new system and how it enables the affected party to get whatever ICBC grants them, as opposed to the old system where the affected person could sue for damages, pain and suffering, etc.
It’s clear that the new system will benefit more drivers than others. The amount of benefits that will be brought is unknown at the moment.
However if the legislation is passed, the system should be in place by May 1st, 2021. Until then, B.C. drivers will have to wait to see how much money and time can be saved on the new system.
[REVIEW] 2020 Acura MDX A-Spec
Costco runs, after school sports, family road trips. These are just some of the common activities that are shared amongst many who are toying with the idea of owning a 3 row crossovers. SUVs with 3rd row seats have continued to be one of the most popular types of vehicles on the road.
Honda/Acura was one of the companies who jumped onboard the trend relatively early on with their Honda Pilot/Acura MDX models. With the current generation originally launched in 2014 and facelifted in 2017, the MDX is now in its third generation.
As before, Acura has essentially taken the practicality and user-friendliness of the Pilot and added a more premium image, bolder styling, nicer cabin materials, and of course, a higher price tag.
For years, the upscale MDX has been a popular choice in Canadian suburbs so much so that it doesn’t draw too much attention on the street these days. It’s not difficult to see why as it is still rather conservatively styled, comes with Japanese brand reliability, and carries over Acura’s “fun to drive” reputation.
When it was redesigned for 2014, Acura introduced a lighter-weight body structure that was a whopping 700 lbs lighter than its predecessor. Impressive given that the new design also added new reinforcements to help the MDX score well in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) new small-offset front crash test.
What’s new for 2020
Not much changes for 2020 with the MDX carrying over its appearance, mechanical components, and available features. My test vehicle was the A-Spec model, which joined the regular MDX and MDX Sport Hybrid model in 2019.
Since the MDX is Acura’s bread and butter, leading the company’s sales for years on end, it made sense for Acura to add a sportier trimmed model much like its sedans. The revised “diamond pentagon” schnoz that replaced the odd-looking Acura “shield” grille has aged well and looks cleaner and less bizarre than the beak that it replaced.
As cool as the A-Spec may sound though, the trim level doesn’t go too far beyond unique exteriors colour, wheels, and badging. The MDX wears it well though, as the attractive package helps it to stand out from the rest of the line-up.
I particularly liked the A-spec-only Apex Blue Pearl colour which certainly adds some excitement compared to the drab white/silver/black colours that most vehicles seem to be painted in these days.
The half-inch-wider 20-inch grey aluminium wheels wearing lower profile 265/45R20 tires are rather fetching when matched with larger (real) exhaust tips, body-coloured rocker panels, and a unique A-spec front fascia. Body coloured rocker panels and gloss black and dark chrome exterior trim finishes off the package.
Inside, the seats are wrapped in either perforated red or black leather with black Alcantara inserts. I found the front seats a little bit short on thigh support but were otherwise very comfortable. My vehicle was fitted with the Alcantara trim with contrast stitching, which makes it pop out nicely.
Other interior goodies include A-Spec red gauges, A-Spec-badged door sills, black Alcantara door panels, and even a wonderfully perforated thicker-rimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters. There is also red ambient lighting to match and a red engine start/stop button.
My A-spec tester came particularly well equipped with a blind-spot monitoring system with rear-cross traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, as well as the whole Acura Watch suite of driver assist features. The MDX’s semi-autonomous driver aid systems, once cutting edge, are getting a bit long in the tooth on though, and cannot keep the vehicle in the lane in sharper corners.
Compared to the previous Acura MDX which I drove several years ago, the infotainment system has been updated to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
Alas, what you cannot get on the A-Spec is the Entertainment package, with a rear-seat entertainment and comfort package. Nor can you get the Tech Plus package’s second-row heated captain’s chairs, surround-view camera, and active dampers. The A-spec makes do with the standard vibration-reducing amplitude reactive dampers.
Price-wise, the A-Spec is actually the mid-model in the range at an MSRP of $59,690 versus the Tech at $58,090 and the Elite at $66,190.
What is it like to live with?
The MDX’s 290 horsepower, 3.5-litre V6 with 267 lb-ft of torque offers more than sufficient power that most drivers will expect in a crossover SUV. With variable valve timing and lift (aka VTEC), direct injection, and cylinder deactivation, Acura has designed the V6 for efficiency.
The naturally aspirated V6 does need a bit of time to get to power, but its strong and the engine note is pleasant. There is even a bit of an unexpected snarl higher up in the rev range.
Is it as torquey as other SUVs on the market (particularly from the Germans) with their turbocharged engines? No, certainly not. You’ll have to go for the MDX Sport Hybrid and its additional torque and power for that.
Nonetheless, the regular MDX A-Spec can still tow 5,000 pounds when properly equipped, so the engine has been tuned with family hauling duties in mind.
The new 9-speed automatic transmission works well, for the most part, and typically starts off in second gear for smoother take-offs. Flooring the throttle does result in it stepping down to first gear for maximum trusts. There is also a selectable “dynamic” mode, which holds the gear changes till higher revs and is also more aggressive with the engine mapping.
The ride is satisfyingly firm but not harsh and the MDX’s accurate steering rack continues to be a strong point.
What exactly is SH-AWD?
Acura heavily advertises that the MDX comes with SH-AWD; the acronyms short for “Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive. Since the majority of SH-AWD Acuras are based on front-engine, front-wheel-drive platforms, up to 90 per cent of the power is initially directed to the front wheels.
Under hard acceleration, or upon slippage, sensors detect rearward weight transfer and can alter clutch engagement to direct up to 45 per cent of power to the rear wheels for better acceleration.
The way that SH-AWD gets its so-called “Super Handling” characteristics is by the rear differential being able to vector torque (aka the power balance) between the rear wheels.
Depending on the cornering forces, up to 70 per cent of the engine torque can be sent to the rear axle, of which 100 per cent can be directed to the rear outside wheel, helping to push the vehicle forward. This inward yaw moment gives the feeling of rotation through a corner, reducing the need for steering input and allowing power to be applied sooner.
The system noticeably works, and you can really feel it in more aggressive corners where it helps to minimize understeer or oversteer. It was certainly more evident on snowy surfaces, such the week where I had the MDX, and performed flawlessly in poor road conditions.
Just don’t expect the MDX’s system to act as dynamically aggressive as the Acura NSX sports car’s system, as it is still set-up for safe understeer if you go into a corner too hot. Entertainingly, a small display in between the speedometer and tachometer displays a live view of where the torque is going side-to-side.
Tell me more about the interior
It’s easy to see why the MDX has been a popular choice. The cabin is well-rounded and does most things well, such as keeping noise at bay. Better sealing and insulation along with thicker acoustical glass quiet the cabin nicely.
Although it has been around for a couple years now, Acura’s clever one-touch button function to fold the second row seats forward is still rather unmatched for ease-of-use and speed. There are actually two buttons, one on the back of the seat and another on the side, cleverly both are lit at night.
Press either one and the second row can be slid all the way forward on tracks that permit the fore-and-aft adjustment. The system is so easy to use that kids can climb aboard unassisted. When fully folded, the middle and rear seats form a flat cargo floor for maximum utility. There is some cargo area behind the third row, but it’s best saved for a few small backpacks or grocery bags.
The MDX’s third row is perfectly ok for children and smaller adults, even on longer trips. However, due to the limited legroom, average sized adults will likely start grousing after the 45 minute mark. A flat floor, both in the second and third row footwells, maximises as much foot room as possible. Kudos to the engineers for packaging things very efficiently.
Perhaps the areas in which the Acura shows its age the most is in certain interior plastic quality (such as the turn signal stalk and window switches), as well as the dual-screen infotainment system and gauge cluster (no virtual cockpit here).
Yes, I do concede that it is a bit unfair to compare the MDX’s interior with those of posh European competitors since the Acura does cost quite a bit less. Nonetheless, even the MDX’s domestic rivals have caught up.
The infotainment system splits duties by having a lower touchscreen for certain inputs, and a upper display unit that is primarily controlled by the physical knob on the dash. HVAC operation from the dash is intuitive enough, thanks to the physical buttons, but the multifunction knob and the complex menu structure is cumbersome to live with.
While you do get used to it in time, changing radio stations or turning on the heated seats can be a multi-step process.
It’s also a bit weird, and slow, to control Apple CarPlay with the knob as CarPlay seems to really be designed for touchscreens. Acura’s new trackpad infotainment system, on their latest RDX crossover, is significantly easier to use.
Like the Acura brand, the MDX continues to occupy a sort of middle ground in the automotive world. While the brand aspires to be true luxury, it sometimes doesn’t fit the bill but yet is certainly far above mainstream brands.
Despite its jack-off-all-trades-master-of-none positioning, the MDX remains competent, practical, and surprisingly fun to drive for a seven-passenger crossover. The A-spec trim just adds a bit of pop to a recipe which Acura hasn’t messed too much with due to its success.
If you’re looking for a mix of technology, handling, value, reliability and more luxury than the typical mainstream brands, the MDX continues to fit the bill as a fine choice for a family crossover.
North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex Hosts Official Grand Opening
Surrey, BC – The North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex marked its official grand opening today, with a community event attracting over 500 guests to the state-of-the-art facility in the Bridgeview community. The celebration included free skating and rentals, access to the fitness centre, family entertainment and an artist talk with Katzie Nation artist Trenton Pierre.
“The North Surrey area of our city has long been underserved when it comes to having recreational facilities and programs close at hand,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “With the opening of this new complex, that all changes and I invite everyone to take the opportunity to visit and make full use of this state-of-the-art facility. This new complex is also an illustration of how Surrey is combining thoughtful and advanced design to ensure that our spaces provide accessibility for all ages and ability levels. The City of Surrey is continually pressing forward as one of Canada’s most accessible and livable cities, offering recreational opportunities for everyone.”
The North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex features three sheets of ice, spectatorship opportunities for large-scale events, a state-of-the-art fitness studio and weight room, outdoor activity areas, multi-purpose room programming, rentals and food services. First Nation artist Trenton Pierre’s public artwork, Guardian Spirits, wraps the building exterior, which is mirrored inside the facility from the windows of the modern fitness studio.
Accessibility features include:
- Level access to the ice from dry surface, built to para ice hockey standards
- Players boxes and penalty boxes made of clear lexan, instead of regular puck board, allowing para ice hockey players a clear view from their sledges
- Removable benches in the players boxes, allowing for para ice hockey players to remain in their sledges when off the ice
- Universal hook heights and depths of benches in dressing rooms
- Fully accessible change rooms, referee rooms, sound room, multi-purpose and fitness studios
- Fully accessible washrooms
- Vehicle drop-off area accommodates side-loading vans
Utilizing the three sheets of ice, large-scale spectatorship seating capacity and meeting rooms at the new facility, Surrey will host Olympic Gold Medalist Hayley Wickenheiser’s WickFest Tournament from January 30 to February 2, 2020. This is the tournament’s second year in Surrey, which has now expanded from hosting 800 young female athletes to 1500, as a result of North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex’s increased capacity for ice and meeting space.
Click here for a message from Hayley Wickenheiser about WickFest 2020 at the North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex.
For more information, visit surrey.ca/arenas
[REVIEW] 2020 BMW M4 Competition Cabriolet
As they say, all good things must come to an end. As BMW is preparing a new generation of the 4 Series, the F82 and F83 M4 is at the end of its lifecycle.
First launched in 2014, the M4 made its debut under some controversy as BMW purists were lamenting BMW’s change in nomenclature. Long regarded as one of the benchmarks by which sport coupes coupes were measured, gone was the legendary name badge, replaced by the new fangled M4.
As far as the fanatics were concerned, the roots that led all the way back to the legendary E30 M3 homologation special were now not severely tangled.
Nonetheless, as time passed, BMW’s boffins proved that despite turbocharging the engine and changing the name, the M4 had its own snarling aggression that won fans the world over.
As a last hurrah and to prove that there is still plenty of life left in the current-gen M4, BMW Canada is now offering the M4 coupe and cabriolet with an all-inclusive “Ultimate Package”.
To illustrate this point, the company handed me the keys to a 2020 BMW M4 Cabriolet equipped as such.
What makes it “Ultimate”?
BMW Canada says that the Ultimate Package “encompasses all the very best options on offer and is a simple way for customers to take advantage of the high specification at a lower cost”.
It’s literally the epitome of having your cake and eating it too, though that cake comes with a lofty $26,000 price tag on top of the M4 cabriolet’s base MSRP of $89,000.
The exhaustive list of included options includes:
• Adaptive M Suspension
• 20″ M Light Alloy Wheels, Star-Spoke 666M, Black, Perf. Non-RFT
• Universal Remote Control
• Storage Compartment Package
• M Seat Belts
• Park Distance Control, front and rear
• Adaptive Full LED Headlights
• High-Beam Assistant
• Active Blind Spot Detection
• Surround View
• Head-Up Display
• SiriusXM Satellite Radio Tuner
• Wireless Charging with Extended Bluetooth and USB
• WiFi Hotspot
• High-Gloss Black Kidney Grille with Extended Contents
• Competition Package
• M Driver’s Package
• BMW ConnectedDrive Services Professional
• Speed Limit Info
• High-Gloss Black Kidney Grills
• Carbon Fibre Front Inserts and Black Lower Lip
• High-Gloss Black Side Grill
• Carbon Fibre Side Mirrors
• M Performance Titanium Exhaust with Carbon Tips
• Black Side Skirt
• Carbon Fibre Rear Diffuser
• Metallic Paint
“Ultimate Package” equipped M4s can also be spec’ed in with one of five BMW Individual exterior colours and one of five BMW Individual upholstery colours at no extra charge.
My test vehicle was outfitted in a stunning combination of San Marino Blue exterior and Silverstone full Merino leather interior as a homage to the Silverstone motor racing circuit in England.
Since the Ultimate Package also includes the Competition Package, my M4 tester included the optional 7-speed M Double Clutch transmission (M-DCT) as well as a hike in power from 425 horsepower to 444 horsepower.
Since the Ultimate Package also includes the Competition package, owners will benefit from the Adaptive M suspension that has new springs, dampers, anti-roll bars along with reconfigured driving modes. The standard rear Active M differential has also been configured to match these upgraded dynamics.
My favourite part of the Ultimate package has got to be the inclusion of carbon fibre rear diffuser and the M sports exhaust with black chrome tailpipes. Aside from its good looks is the exhaust system’s starting rumble and distinctive burble on overrun. Sounding like thunder generated from the gods themselves, it never failed to excite me time and time again.
Yet, in comfort mode, the M4 proved to be a surprisingly comfortable and quiet everyday driver, even if it was to and from the office in stop and go traffic. Sure, there is the hum of the synthesized engine note, particularly in Sport mode, but does it really matter if one still ends up with a Cheshire cat grin one one’s face?
What about the M2 though?
Despite loyalists and some magazine proclaiming at launch that the M4 wasn’t as sharp as the M3 coupes of yore, a few days piloting the 2020 M4 Cabriolet in various conditions still confirms that the vehicle is far from the Novocain meathead that some critics had made it out to be.
Despite the M2 now being the smallest member of the family, the M4 still feels nimble, powerful, capable, and actually rather analog compared to the G20 3-Series. The front axle refuses to understeer, giving the M4 fantastic pace down a road.
The M3 and M4 were the first ones to make the jump to electrically powered steering but over the years, the system seems to have improved. I still find that the heaviest steering feels too artificially weighted but thankfully, BMW does give you the option to pick and choose your suspension, steering, gearshift, and engine performance settings a la carte.
The excessively thick steering wheel still feels wonderful, special, especially with the oversized steering wheel paddles.
With the 3.0-litre putting down an impressive 111 lb-ft more torque from 2,350 rpms onwards compared to the bygone V8 powered E90 M3, there is the temptation to find holes in stop-and-go traffic that you may not ordinarily even attempt to squeeze into.
Even till today, one has to marvel at how BMW’s M engineers have managed to reliably squeeze 406 lb-ft of torque from only 3.0-litres.
The 7 speed twin-clutch gearbox may not shift at the same speed as the very latest dual clutch gearbox today, but it’s clearly still a very effective transmission. Only the latest track heads will grouse about the few hundreds of a second difference in shift times.
Contrary to what so many have said, I think that the M4 is a well-rounded car even in cabriolet form, Despite what the BMW alarmists proclaimed in internet forums several years ago, the M4 has proven to be not only more than capable as a sports coupe/cabriolet, but also an impressive candidate for a daily driver.
The M4 truly never lets its driver forget that he or she is piloting something special, something serious, even when poodling around town.
Fitted with either the Ultimate or Competition package, the M4 is closer in power to the entry-level Mercedes-AMG C63 coupe. The Merc still outguns the BMW though, with an output of 469 horsepower in base form and up to 503 horsepower in S form.
The M4 has also long been considered a cut-price alternative to the Porsche 911 but with even more power. Despite the significant $26,000 bump in sticker price, the Ultimate Package M4 cabriolet still undercuts the base 991.2 Cabriolet by thousands of dollars.
Creature comforts, the weakest link?
Perhaps the weakest part of the shuffle for the current M4 towards the end of its life is related to the new 3 Series.
After being spoiled by the latest BMW tech in the 2020 M340i test vehicle I drove a few weeks back, there is no doubt that the 2020 M4’s cabin feels dated in some respects. Certainly not so much as far as fit and finish or seat comfort/support, but more with the infotainment system and cabin technology.
Sure, there are gobs of genuine carbon fibre trim, and all of the dash surfaces are deliciously covered in soft nappa leather with contrast french stitching. It’s still a quality place to spend hours.
However, the M4’s traditional analogue gauges are what the kids call “old school” these days, and the iDrive infotainment system’s screen, once cutting edge, feels its age compared to the latest touchscreen iDrive system with gesture control.
Oh mon dieu, there is also no semi-autonomous driving system! The travesty! But I kid, I kid.
At the end of the day, for this sort of car, for this sort of target customer, does it really matter?
I’ve got to say that at the end of my review week, I didn’t remembered the smaller size of the icons on the iDrive screen…or fact that the ambient lighting system that only has two colours rather than the rainbow palette of the latest BMW.
What I fondly recalled is the big smile on my face every time I got in and got out of the M4. I still remember the times I walked away from the M4 only to turn back, pause, and smile.
And isn’t that the magical stuff that these M cars are supposed to be all about after all?
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