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[ROAD TEST] 2014 Ford Mustang GT V8 – Still an American icon or just a one-trick pony?

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If you’re a car guy, you can probably remember the first time as a kid that you pinned up a poster of your favourite car on your bedroom wall. If you don’t remember the first time, you can probably remember the first car.

As a 5 year old, I had posters of a BMW M1 and a Porsche 959 on my wall. As I got older, I used to pour over glossy car brochures to find the next cool car that would be worthy of being pinned up.

I would find pictures of many Mercedes-Benz flagship cars (among others), carefully free them from their saddle stitched glossy expensive brochures, and then delicately tape them to my wardrobe doors.

Space on that sacred bedroom wall or wardrobe door was, of course, reserved for cars that reached a certain “cool” factor. Top Gear UK has publicized this with their Cool Wall segment that has different levels of coolness ranging from “Seriously Uncool” to “Subzero”.

So the question is, would the 2014 Ford Mustang GT V8 be worthy of being pinned up? And which level of coolness does it fit into?

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Initial Impressions

Upon first sight of my 2014 Grabber Blue Ford Mustang GT V8, that excited 5 year old small boy in me awoke again. I swear I skipped a step as I was handed the key to my first muscle car experience.

The nice lady representing Ford Canada could see that I was excited, and thankfully sent me on my way quickly after a brief overview of the vehicle and the obligatory paperwork.

Over the course of my week long test drive, I would get a sense as to why the Ford Mustang still sells in droves to many, despite some of its much ballyhooed shortcomings.

Did I love it at the end of the week, or could I not wait to turn the keys back? Read on to find out!

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Coolness factor – Seriously cool

“Yo bro, that’s a sick car”

“Hey man, cool car!”

“I had one of those back in 1967 when I was a teenager”

“Mommy, I like that blue car!”

Apparently to be looked upon as a “’cool’ car guy” by 5-10 year old boys, 18-25 year old young adults, or 50+ year old silver haired guys in white New Balance crosstrainers, all you have to do is get a Grabber Blue Mustang GT V8.

Steve McQueen, Jay Leno, Bill Clinton, Charlie Sheen, Tim Allen, Richard Hammond. These are just a few of the celebrities that own Mustangs.

The car looks absolutely mega with its mean retro modern face, it’s classic fastback body, and its darkened LED taillamps.

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It even has functional hood louvers that remind me of the nostrils of an angry dragon. When you sit in traffic, you can actually see the heat waves rising as heat is being extracted out of them. Cool!

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Every day, without fail, I would come back to the car to find at least 2-3 people around the Mustang taking photos of it.

In 2012, DuPont Automotive Paints reported that the world’s most popular automobile colour was….drumroll…WHITE!

So it’s no surprise that despite resembling a Smurf, the Grabber Blue was a very distinct colour in a world of ubiquitous white, black, silver, champagne gold, and red cars.

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After living with it, it’s actually the colour that I would buy my Mustang V8 if I was to get the car!

Did you know that in 1967, there were 19 available shades of blue on the Mustang?

This crowd pleasing colour totally fits the character of the GT V8. Loud, unapologetic, full of character. Over the course of its almost-50 year history, for the most part, the Mustang has stayed true to its muscle car character. And it has almost always been able to bring a smile to its driver’s face. Including mine.

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Despite its retro modern looks though, the Mustang can be equipped with many modern touches. I was a bit shocked to see that the foglamps, which also double as daytime running lamps on my test car, were actually LED-based. That’s the kind of cutting edge stuff that you’ll find on the Tesla Model S or the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

All 2014 V6 and GT Mustangs also get standard high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps and signature two bar LED parking lamps.

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The LED technology carries on throughout the car with customizable gauge and ambient lighting, as well as some pretty mean looking smoked LED-roped taillamps with the retro sequential signaling function. Definitely a distinct night signature when you see the Mustang at night with its iconic three-bar rear lights.

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How does it drive?

The news is mostly good here. I’m not going to argue that the car’s handling is anywhere close to as refined as the Porsche 911 or the BMW 3-series, because it isn’t. The Mustang has a uniquely raw American motoring driving experience that I haven’t experienced in other global marketed Ford products.

When rowing the gears through the short throw 6 speed shifter, you get the feeling through the palm of your hand that you are an extension of the car. You can feel the clunk of the linkages working, the clutch engaging, the gears turning. You get the raw sense that it is a machine that you are piloting, not an appliance. Some may like it, others will definitely not like quite that visceral of an experience.

Kudos to the interior designers for the beautiful metalized gearshift knob. I never got tired holding or looking at it.

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That being said, I found the clutch and shifter combination slightly clunky on my car, especially through 2nd and 3rd gears. Be sure to test drive the 6 speed manual transmission first before you commit to it if you’re undecided. For many, the 6 speed automatic will be a much more friendly choice from a day-to-day standpoint.

To help to make the manually equipped Mustangs more livable on a day-to-day basis, Ford’s Hill Start Assist feature keeps the car from rolling back when pulling away on a slope or hill. With the brake pedal activated, sensors detect if the car is on a steep enough slope and the system automatically holds the car for two seconds after the driver releases the brake pedal. I wish it was a bit more sensitive on shallower slopes though.

Power is never short on hand with the 5.0L V8 with 420 hp on tap. What surprised me however, was the need to rev the engine to about 3000 rpms to get into the meaty part of the torque band. That is to say that below 3000 rpms, the car feels quick but not “Omg, I’m being pinned into my seat” quick. As the tachometer’s needle swings past 3000rpms, the Mustang is sure to illicit screams or giggles from your passengers.

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Adding to that experience is the burbling V8 soundtrack from both the engine and the exhaust. What a symphony of noises! I won’t be able to tell you much about the Shaker audio system in the Mustang because it was on for exactly 4 songs during my week long test drive. I promise you that the V8 will be far more enjoyable, especially if you go hooning through tunnels in 3rd gear.

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In the twisties, the Mustang corners well enough with little body roll. But this is a car that likes bigger open corners, not tight ones. It will do what you tell it to, but when driving on Marine Drive through West Vancouver into Horseshoe Bay, the pony car felt one size too big and was slightly difficult to place in the lane.

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That type of narrow twisty road would be more suited, at least from a driver’s confidence standpoint, for the nimble Focus ST I reviewed a few months ago.

The live rear axle is another carry over from the old days. At low speeds over undulating pavement, you get some annoying head tossing as a rear wheel going over a pothole or bump on one side of the car will transmit the motion to the opposite side of the car. A bit ox and cart and less cutting edge.

Push the Mustang hard and that back end, with its live rear axle, will show you why AdvanceTrac is needed. Shut the traction control off, and the rear end simply breaks free and gets loose like Mustangs from decades before. But this, of course, is half the fun of the muscle car experience!

When things get hairy, my car’s GT Brembo Brake Racing Package showed why it was worth every penny of its $2200. Check this option off the order sheet and you get a set of 14” vented front discs and a pair of sizable Brembo calipers shod with performance friction brake pads. But that’s not all. This new option, only available on manual GT Mustangs with the 3.73 axle, is designed for customers who want to push their Mustang even further at the track. It also adds an engine cooler, upgraded radiator, and unique 19” gunmetal coloured alloy wheels with summer performance tires.

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Aside from the brake upgrade, the 2nd most significant feature here, in my opinion, is the Torsen limited slip rear differential borrowed from the Mustang Boss 302. I could feel it working around tight and slippery corners to maximize traction at the rear.

My only other complain will be the smallish 60.5 litre tank. That doesn’t last very long when you get the V8 engine option! I averaged about 15.5L/100 kms during the 660kms that I drove the car in mixed city/highway driving. In all fairness, the tall 6th gear does let the Mustang rev at around 1300 rpms when on the highway, so it never drones. But highway fuel consumption is still only around 10 to 11L/100 kms.

Inside the cabin

The styling inside the cabin is slightly less successful than the outside. You can tell that this is one car that hasn’t had the level of global collaboration by the “One Ford” design teams, unlike the Focus, Fusion, or C-MAX.

While there are some soft touch surfaces on the dash, the door and trim panels around the MyFord Touch screen and the centre console feel cheap. The glovebox lid is too close in quality to a cheap Chinese-made toy from a kid’s toy chest. Must do better here!

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I could never find a 100% comfortable driving position either because the steering wheel only tilts and doesn’t telescope. Seated in my proper driving position, my right elbow would be a few inches further forward of the armrest and have to rest on the centre console’s hard latch.

When exiting the car, my left and right hips would always rub against the steering wheel and outside lateral seat bolster. Clearly I wasn’t the only one with this problem as there were heavy wear marks on the outside lateral bolster’s leather from other journalists who have had this car. Not a good sign considering that my test vehicle only had around 8000 kms on it!

The retro gauges, while initially cool because of their throwback 1960’s font, ended up being a bit of a pain to read at a glance because of the typeface.

But all is not bad and there are a quite a few points of highlights. Despite the number of Chiclet-like buttons, I really appreciated the multitude of redundant button controls versus having to go to MyFord Touch system for everything. Moreover, the interface on the Mustang’s MyFord Touch system is also slightly different than others Ford products I’ve tested! The user interface and the menus make far more logical sense, albeit the graphics are a tad bit uglier.

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Another high point was the (optional) Recaro one-piece seats. They’re a result of the global team effort led by Ford’s SVT (Special Vehicle Team) along with the Mustang engineering group in North America, Team RS in Europe, and Reccaro.

Not only do the seats have integrated head restraints that allow for ample room for drivers and passengers wearing helmets when at the track, but the openings on the seatbacks also accommodate racing harnesses.

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As far as everyday driving is concerned, the Recaro’s lateral bolsters in the cushion and seatback provided support and comfort for all the scenarios I put the car through. If you can live without the power seat adjustment, get these seats. In fact, you’ll find the very same seats also available in the Shelby GT500 and the Boss 302.

As far as the rear quarters are concerned, the news is actually good here! While not the most commodious, each rear seat has a full height head restraint and is relatively comfortable. The angle of the backrest was more than acceptable and you’ll just make sure your rear passengers aren’t taller than 5’11” or they will have to slouch. Rear legroom was adequate for trips up to 45 minutes.

Make sure that you get the rearview camera option too, as the high trunklid and proper rear head restraints don’t allow for much rearward visibility.

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Also make sure that you check off the option for the full-sized fixed tinted glass moonroof. I would go so far to say that I would not buy a Mustang coupe without it! WOW what an amazing open feeling you get when that black mesh sunshade pulled back. You can really see the world around you while still being sheltered from the elements. It made the small interior feel big and airy.

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To wrap-up my comments about the inside, I’ll finish off with how the Mustang’s trunk is surprisingly spacious for a muscle car. I managed to pack in all of this video lighting equipment into the trunk! The picture says it all. 

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There’s an app for that

A new 4.2 inch high resolution colour LCD screen allows Mustang owners to access a wide variety of information at their fingertips through the steering wheel controls.

This “productivity screen” can be configured to display fuel economy, instantaneous/average fuel economy, vehicle performance and settings, and much more. There is also a unique “Track Apps” screen which allows drivers to display performance metrics!

While I never got the chance to try the apps first hand, they allow you to measure g forces, acceleration times in quarter-mile and 0-60 increments, as well as braking times complete with automatic and countdown starts.

Not just a one trick pony

I’m going to miss this generation of Mustang when it goes out to pasture. The next generation Mustang, due for the 2015 model year, will indeed be a global Ford vehicle sold outside of North America. Spy shots have shown it to share more of the Aston Martin-eque front end look to bring it in line with the rest of the Ford lineup.

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While it will likely have to still look like a Mustang, the next generation pony car is certain to have far less of the retro modern flare as the 2014 model. I guess there is only so long that they can milk this puppy!

Despite some of its shortcomings, I came to the conclusion that today’s Mustang is worthy of its namesake in the modern age. I admit that I found the interior a bit cheap for $50K (aside from the amazing Recaros), and for calendar year 2013. But overall the car offers amazing value too, whether it’s the 305 hp V6 model, or my more expensive 420hp GT V8 model. You will have to look pretty hard to find another car that gives that great of a horsepower to dollar ratio.

This price vs performance balance is another reason why many people, almost 50 years since the original Mustang’s debut, will find it hard to resist the original pony car’s charms.

So in conclusion, if you want a road trip capable commuter car that looks great, feels raw, and allows you to match the performance of many high-dollar sports cars with just a couple of cheap bolt-ons, the Mustang is your answer.

I know that I, for one, have a new pin-up car for my wall (courtesy of photographer Andrew Holliday). And unlike when I was 5 years old, this is a car fantasy that is actually within reach.

Photographer Andrew Holiday joined me to snap this picture for me! Check out his site at http://www.aholliday.com/

Photographer Andrew Holliday joined me to snap this picture! Check out his site at www.aholliday.com

 

Andrew is a proud car and tech geek who has worked in Surrey for over the last 10 years. He comes from a communications/marketing background and has worked for automotive-related companies such as Edmunds.com, BenzWorld.org since 1999. From track driving, to rally driving to autocross, he has done it all! When he’s not reading about the latest automotive news, he can be found outdoors snapping pictures at various events around town.

Automobiles

North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex Hosts Official Grand Opening

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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

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[REVIEW] 2020 Nissan Armada Platinum

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Nissan has had a storied history when it comes to building four wheel drive vehicles. The company’s first such vehicle started with the Japanese domestic market-only 4W60, which had overall styling similar to the Willys Jeep.

In 1958, the first use of the “Patrol” nomenclature appeared with the Nissan 4W65 Patrol. The four wheel drive vehicle had a “Nissan” badge on the grille and “Patrol” badges flanked the sides of the bonnet.

Fast forward over 61 years and the iconic “Nissan Patrol” lives on as the “Nissan Armada” in North America, having been launched in its current second generation in 2017.


Known for its durability, reliability, premium design, safety, comfort features and unmatched all-terrain performance, the Armada remains the flagship of Nissan’s extensive 4×4 and crossover lineup.

Engineered from the wheels up to tackle the most demanding driving conditions on the planet, over the years, the Nissan Armada has more than earned its reputation, providing the same outstanding level of comfort cruising on the Trans Canada Highway, or negotiating rocky mountain terrain.

It is interesting that Nissan Canada has decided to continue to bring the Armada here despite the fact that it is almost identical to its much more expensive twin, the Infiniti QX80. This platform sharing has both its positives and negatives.


Updates to styling and cabin technology…just not in Canada just yet.

In late September 2019, Nissan unveiled the new 2020 Nissan Patrol in the Middle East, its largest market, with a facelifted model and upgraded infotainment system.

These changes have not carried over yet into the 2020 Nissan Armada, which remains unchanged since the 2017 model year. This is not necessarily a bad thing as Nissan’s V-motion grille and strong angular front still look surprisingly bold and in line with the rest of the company’s products.


The Armada may not be the most popular large SUV on the Canadian market, but Nissan’s reputation for quality, the vehicle’s attractive bold exterior and serene interior are underrated compared with more mainstream vehicles such as the Toyota Sequoia, Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and the Ford Expedition.


Inside, the Armada’s classy outer shell, its cabin is extremely well insulated from outside noise.

Material quality is almost indistinguishable from its QX80 twin, a boon for owners.

My top-of-the-range Platinum model added top grain leather surfaces and a lot of chrome surfaces among other things.


Unfortunately, some of the glossy wood trim looked as dated as the infotainment system.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are not yet available, nor is a colour driver’s info display in the gauge cluster.

If you’re a hater of touchscreens but a lover of hard buttons to control the climate control and infotainment systems, you won’t be disappointed as there are plenty.

Pushing some of these control buttons will also reveal the thunderous 13-speaker Bose audio system.


My three-row Armada Platinum test vehicle easily accommodated seven passengers with its second row captain chairs and massive centre console. The chairs folded easily and quickly with a handle that springs the seat forward.


Third row seats are power folding on the Platinum model, controlled via buttons in the cargo area or on the third row’s armrests. Just don’t plan on doing this action if you’re in a rush as the motors move at a snail’s pace, if not slower.

Nonetheless, when you’re back in either the second or third row, you’ll find competitive amounts of legroom and cargo space.

My vehicle was also equipped with the rear-entertainment system option with wireless headphones, sure to be a hit for whomever is occupying the rear seats on long road trips (or for wary parents sitting up front).


Active safety systems

The 2020 Nissan Armada also stands out for its extensive suite of advanced safety and security technologies.

In addition to the Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies already available, the Armada is also equipped with Nissan’s latest Intelligent Emergency Braking system with pedestrian detection, Intelligent Cruise Control, and an Intelligent Forward Collision Warning system.

Like its more expensive Infiniti counterparts, just a push of the steering wheel button activates the majority of the systems whether or not you actually have a cruise control speed set. One could conceivably drive the vehicle with just one pedal in stop-and-go traffic, making the day-to-day driving tremendously more relaxing.

New from the 2019 model year onwards is Nissan’s Rear Seat reminder feature. Also found in other Nissan vehicles, Nissan’s system detects if a rear door was opened or closed before the car was started, but then wasn’t re-opened again after the vehicle was put in park and turned off. The system notifies the driver with display notifications in the instrument panel of the car.

If the driver still fails to open the rear door, the car will then emit subtle but distinctive chirps of the car horn.

The idea came from Nissan engineers Elsa Foley and Marlene Mendoza who wanted to find a way to remind drivers to check the backseat before leaving the vehicle. It is part of a growing effort by automakers to help tackle the problem of children dying of heat stroke from accidentally being left in vehicles.

Drivetrain and NVH

One engine choice remains, a smooth running 5.6-liter “Eudurance” V8 producing 390 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque. Both work through a very civilized seven-speed automatic transmission.

However don’t look for paddle shifters or selectable drive modes, such as with the Ford Expedition, as you won’t find any. Fuel economy was also below average even for a big SUV with me averaging a high 19L/100 kms in mostly city driving.

However, what the Armada lacks in engine options it makes up in acceleration. 0-100 km/hr runs take only 6.1 seconds with the powertrain making hearty exhaust rumbles while doing so.

For comparison, this 0-100 km/hr run is roughly equivalent to what you will find with the Nissan Maxima sedan.

There is a selectable “tow” mode on the transmission which holds the shift points to higher revs, and the Armada is capable of towing a trailer up to 8,500 pounds.

You will have to add an aftermarket trailer brake controller though as there isn’t an option for an integrated OEM unit.

Also unchanged for 2020 is the Armada’s excellent all All-Mode 4X4 system with high and low range. As before, the advanced system lets the driver select various modes which have been designed to handle different on- and off-road conditions.

Nissan’s Hydraulic Body Motion Control ensures a more comfortable ride thanks to the improved suspension and vibration reduction.

Despite what its size suggests, the Armada handles surprisingly well. Sure, its soft suspension has an air of floatiness, but that doesn’t negatively affect the driver’s sense of control. My test car had a very comfy and quiet ride even though it rolled on large 20-inch wheels fitted with softer compound winter tires.

While it is far from sporty, the Armada feels more refined than its GM rivals; those alternatives, however, have much better steering feedback than the Nissan’s slow and imprecise steering rack.

Parting thoughts

The 2020 Nissan Armada has the content and capabilities to deserve some attention for those in the market for a big three-row SUV. These customers will likely be looking for the small choices of SUVs on the market that that can carry a load of cargo and seating for seven or eight while still towing a boat or a trailer.

The Armada’s quality cabin is a nice and quiet place to chew up some highway miles as long as you don’t mind passing up on the latest in driver technology.

Nissan’s solid predicted reliability will also attract those who have been burnt in the past by domestic brands who haven’t fared quite as well in this category.

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[REVIEW] 2020 BMW M340i

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The British statesman Joseph Chamberlain is known for his famous quote, “we are living in most interesting times”. The father of future Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain and future diplomat Austen Chamberlain, Joseph’s speech in 1898 assigned a complex meaning to “live in interesting times” with connotations of opportunity, excitement, anxiety, and danger.

And indeed we are living in most interesting times when it comes to the future of sports sedans. Once Munich’s bread and butter car, the BMW 3 Series invented this category, blending versatility, balance, power, rear-wheel-drive, and most of all fun.

But times they are a changing and the question that will be is whether anyone still cares about such factors. Long a stalwart support of the manual transmission, BMW was one of a diminishing number of car manufacturers that held onto their manual gearboxes.

As consumer preferences evolved though, one by one, BMW started dropping it from their models.

With the arrival of the seven-generation 3 Series, the manual is gone in North America. It’s difficult to blame BMW though. Statistics don’t lie and not only do a lot of great cars not have manual gearboxes anymore, but people simply aren’t buying them anymore.

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario as dealers aren’t willing to take the chance to stock manual transmission cars as they take longer to turn. Therefore, willing customers find themselves having to likely wait months for special ordered manual transmission vehicles, which likely will cost more as dealers are less likely to offer discounts on special ordered rarer vehicles. And so most customers conceded and opt for automatic gearboxes and thus the vicious cycle continues.

Why the “M” in front of “340”?

A couple of years ago, BMW introduced their M Performance line-up of vehicles. While not the full tilt hardcore BMW Motorsport models, M Performance vehicles were still factory designed and spec’ed, offering greater performance than standard BMWs.

Fast forward to present day and the M Performance line-up has proven to be so successful that it has grown to include not only the M550i, but also the X2 M35i, the Z4 M40i, the X5 M50i, etc., and of course the M340i.

The M340i xDrive actually is the only remaining model in the current 3 Series line-up with six-cylinder gas power. With BMW’s M division still applying the finishing touches to the next-generation M3, this is currently the hottest member of the new G20-generation 3 Series.

This M-tweaked hot halfway house joins the likes of the Mercedes-AMG C43 and the Audi S4, all of which serve as understudies to more established more powerful flagships.

Like BMW, those companies also have had their top engineers applying parts and development from their esteemed performance divisions, making this an interesting time to be a customer.


Beyond the name badge

While the 330i puts out a respectable 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine, the M340i offers up a significant bump in power to 383 horsepower thanks to its new turbocharger and particulate filter among other detailed changes.

The B58 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine offers up a healthy dose of torque too, 369 lbs-ft to be precise, between 1,600 to 4,500 rpms.


With peak torque tuned to be available throughout such a large portion of the rev range, the M340i always feels eager and ready to go.

Combined with BMW’s tried-and-true ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox, the vehicle never feels breathless, no matter what the situation.


Paired with xDrive permanent all-wheel-drive, the M340i is the perfect sports sedan for all-round use in Canada, be it sunny, wet, or snowy conditions. According to BMW, the M340i just edges out the Audi S4, Genesis G70 3.3T, and Mercedes-AMG C43 in 0-100 km/hr runs by about 1/10th of a second.


The M Performance badge doesn’t just buy you an uprated engine combo. Improving upon the standard 3 Series’ platform, the M340i gets a standard torque-vectoring rear differential, firmer springs, thicker anti-roll bars, a lower ride height, more wheel camber, and adaptive dampers.

The latter has four levels of dampening stiffness via Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus modes to provide what BMW describes as “sporty and authoritative” handling.


What about the tech toys?

The M340i brings along with it seven generations of legacy, and with it, some high expectations. In fact, there seems to be a setting to adjust pretty much every aspect of the car’s behaviour.


Open the driver’s side door and you’re met by a classy-looking cabin with an upmarket air. There are digital gauges, expensive-looking chrome or satin trim bits, and a 10.3 inch infotainment touchscreen.

While it all feels sporty, the cabin doesn’t feel as special as it would’ve in the past. This is in part because Audi’s and Mercedes’ interiors have caught up in recent years.


Ironically, BMW’s brand new virtual cockpit is less configurable than Audi’s, but overall it still displays an impressive range of information, including a full range of driver assistance systems.

My test vehicle was also equipped with BMW’s latest Assisted Driving Assistant system, which provides semi-autonomous driving.


This impressive system allows for hands-free and pedal-free driving at lower traffic speeds (below 60 km/hr) thanks to a variety of radar, camera, and ultrasonic sensors.

There is even an infrared and optical facial recognition camera that is pointed towards the driver to ensure that the appropriate attention is being paid to the road in front.


With the combination of all the aforementioned systems, if the conditions are right, the M340i can even automatically change lanes by the activation of the turn signals when the Assisted Driving Assistant is active.


The G20 3 Series’ centre console and gear lever area now houses the familiar iDrive controller, a wireless phone charging pad, the Driver Experience modes buttons, as well as the engine start/stop button.


The latest iDrive 7.0 operating system is easy to operate and premieres BMW’s new personal assistant activated by saying ‘Hey BMW’. Creatures of tactile habit will rejoice that BMW has still seen fit to include an appropriate number of hard buttons for frequently used functions for the climate controls and infotainment system.

iDrive is now more intuitive (and more feature heavy) than ever, and adjusting the various controls via the iDrive controller or touchscreen soon becomes second nature once you take the time to understand its various menus and submenus.


As before, BMW continues to be the only auto manufacturer that supports wireless Apple Carplay, allowing the system to just work (via WiFi) once you step into the vehicle. Place your phone on the wireless charging mat to keep it juiced up with no cables to fiddle around with.

The instrument screen can be modified to show navigation, active safety programs, G-forces, or be minimised altogether. The head-up display, jacked from the 7 Series, is industry-leading for clarity and quality.


Still the Ultimate Driving Machine?

The M340i is one rapid driving machine with the engine revving eagerly up to 6,800 rpms. To be precise, it’s a full 0.5 seconds faster than the old 340i despite its larger dimensions.


To put this in perspective, the M340i is just 0.3 seconds slower than the outgoing fifth-generation M3, whose twin-turbo 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder punches out a greater 425 hp and 406 ft-lbs of torque.

While there is no more manual transmission gearbox, BMW has equipped the M340i’s eight-speed auto with its own unique ratios and an integrated launch control function.


The exhaust note is nicely tuned, goiing from whisper quiet to throaty, depending on which driver experience mode is selected.

While the M340i never feels as precise as that of a true M-badged car, stability and refinement are clearly amongst the car’s strong suit. Challenging roads are where the car shines, and the directness of its handling reins supreme. Until the M3 arrives later this year, this is the most agile member of the 3 Series family.

The M performance brakes are also well worth the upgrade, firm, confidence inspiring but with a strong initial bite and progressive pedal feel.


While some auto critics have criticized the 3 Series for trying to be all things to all people, to me, it simply feels like it has grown up more to suit the tastes of its audience. Those who want something even more engaging can wait for the M3.

Parting thoughts

Times they are a changing. Perhaps what is the most astounding is that no longer does one need to buy the most expensive BMW in the line-up to get access to 90 per cent of the tech gadgets. You can pretty much have it all on the M340i.


While there might not be heated armrests or built-in fragrance pods, you can still enjoy semi-autonomous driving, BMW’s novel “caring car” relaxation program within the iDrive system, Laser headlights, adaptive dampers, self-parking, and even the ability to use the BMW Connected Drive app to check out what is going around your vehicle remotely via your smartphone.

It’s all there…on a 3 Series!


While the M340i may no longer be the only player in the sports sedan segment and the BMW design language has arguably evolved to be a bit derivative, the M340i still feels polished, confident, and the one of the best combinations of status, performance, tech, luxury and value.

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Automobiles

REVIEW – 2019 Ford Expedition

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The 2019 Ford Expedition is a great choice for those with a small family or perhaps just want a mid-range SUV for camping and other outdoor activities. The 2019 Ford Expedition weighs in at 5,900 pounds and offers you up to 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. It seats up to eight people comfortably and has plenty of storage in the back and even more when the seats are folded down.

Performance

The 2019 Ford Expedition comes with a 3.5L EcoBoost engine that feels the most responsive of any sport utility vehicle on the market today. The direct injection helps maximize the amount of power squeezed out of the EcoBoost engine and it even has twin air-to-air intercooled turbochargers for a boost of power when you need it.

The 3.5L EcoBoost gets up to 375 horsepower and produces a stunning 470 pounds per foot of torque.

The 2019 Ford Expedition also has a best-in-class towing ability with up to 9,300 pounds of towing capacity when the Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package is installed.

Trim Levels

The 2019 Ford Expedition for sale at a new car dealership comes in three available trim levels — the XLT, Limited, and Platinum. Each of these trim levels comes with a six-cylinder 3.5L EcoBoost engine with twin air-to-air intercooled turbochargers. The XLT, Limited and Platinum trim levels all seat eight people and all come with a 10-speed automatic transmission. There is also an extended-wheelbase version of the XLT and Limited called the Max.

The XLT is already equipped with 18-inch alloys, running boards, an 8-inch touchscreen, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable driver’s seat, and the choice of four-wheel drive. There are four USB ports and a 6-speaker audio system with satellite radio as standard.

Move up to the Limited for 20-inch wheels, parking sensors, heated seats throughout, and an upgraded Bang and Olufsen 12-speaker audio system.

The Platinum builds on the Limited and adds interior wood accents, an improved leather trim, noise cancellation, and the ability to increase horsepower and torque when 93 octane fuel is used.

There is also a variety of small upgrades such as aluminum wheels as opposed to hubcaps that can be chosen on the Limited and Platinum models.

Interior

Every part of the interior is classy and looks immaculate. The tasteful chrome accents and light tan leathers make the 2019 Ford Expedition a pleasure to be in.

The 2019 Ford Expedition is loaded with technology for modern times with a Wi-Fi hotspot build in that can connect up to ten devices at a range of 50 feet, a wireless charging station, and an 8.5-inch infotainment system at an easy to reach level.

The seating arrangement benefits from the added dimensions of the body and the 2019 Ford Expedition is roomier than ever before.

Exterior

One thing that Ford has changed about the 2019 Ford Expedition is the seams and contours of the different panels from the quarter panel to the doors. Now the vehicle feels even more seamlessly connected than before. The great line work in the Expedition shows the level of sophistication that modern sport utility vehicles are capable of.

Newly designed front grilles with LED headlamps cut through the snow and fog.

Safety

The 2019 Ford Expedition is one of the safest vehicles on the market in the sport-utility division. There is nothing but great safety technologies between you and the roadway when you’re driving the 2019 Expedition. The NHTSA has given the 2019 Ford Expedition a five-star overall rating.

Features such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go make driving a hassle-free experience and help prevent collisions with its many sensors. There is also a Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection system that will automatically brake in the event that the driver fails to do so. BLIS, or Blind Spot Information System, is another excellent feature that reduces common accidents by showing drivers what is in their blind spot.

It is hard to choose which color looks best on the 2019 Ford Expedition, but if push comes to shove the Blue Metallic is looking like a very nice choice. There are a host of other colors to choose from such as Stone Gray, Silver Spruce, and Ruby Red.

If you haven’t been won over by the 2019 Ford Expedition yet just take one for a test drive and you will feel what it is like to ride in comfort and class without sacrificing any of the power we have come to expect from a sport utility vehicle.

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Automobiles

Is It Safe to Work Under a Car on Jack Stands?

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Any auto owner needs to access the underside of their vehicle, at least occasionally. However, lying under a heavy object poses risks. Manufacturers of modern ramps, as well as jack stands, guarantee safety. But is there truth in advertising?

Of course, nothing can beat a professional hydraulic system. In general, ramps are regarded as more reliable. Consider some of the top low profile car ramps sold on Amazon. Jack stands, though, will also be safe as long as you follow these basic guidelines.

Precautions

Whatever maintenance you are planning, begin by choosing the surface. Your car must be placed on hard and even ground. Under no circumstances is it possible to perform the work on gravel, dirt, let alone a slope! The same gravity that keeps your automobile steady may cause it to roll back down.

If you think lack of hardness may be compensated by sliding wood under the jack, think again. Another mistake that could prove fatal is propping a vehicle with breeze blocks, bricks and similar items that may crack.

Which Jack is Best?

It may be tempting to go with the device that came with your vehicle. Although it may be suitable for tire changes, relying on it for something more complex is precarious. Therefore, always choose a top-quality support system. Never work under a car which is supported by a single jack!

Base your choice on objective criteria, including the weight limit. Remember that you will not be lifting the entire weight of the vehicle. A two-ton device may be strong enough to raise a car weighing two and a half tons. Ensure a certain safety margin is allowed. Generally, use stands capable of supporting no less than half of the weight.

The second dilemma is the choice between low-entry and high-lift models, which are suitable for low and higher vehicles, respectively. Thirdly, remember that a large jack is heavy, so make sure you can carry it from the storage to the car. It may be best to choose a lighter model provided it can support the required weight.

Additional Precautions

Overall, these tools are less safe and more difficult to use than car ramps, as confirmed by reviews on jonsguide. With the necessary precautions, you can ensure a safe working environment. Here are three important conditions.

  1. Extra Support
    Although a jack is supposed to ensure safe access to the underside, it should not be used on its own. Use additional supports, such as a trolley jack. This will prevent potential damage to the sill, even though a standard jack should fit into the corresponding jacking points.
  2. The Right Points
    Refer to your guides for both the car and the supports to identify safe points. Avoid raising the vehicle by placing the supports under its gearbox, engine or plastic undertray. The perfect locations include chassis rail, subframe, and suspension mounting point.
  3. Chocks
    Chocks provide support regardless of their material. They may be produced from rubber, metal, wood or plastic. Once your transmission is in the park or in gear, place two chocks around the wheel on the side opposite to the one being raised. One of them is put in front and the other one behind, so the wheel is firmly secured.
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