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[REVIEW] 2014 Range Rover Supercharged – Climb every mountain, ford every stream

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You know what they say about super heroes right? That you should never meet them because they may not live up to your expectation. That all those years of pent up excitement could be deflated in just an instant.

As a small boy, Land Rovers and Range Rovers were one of my very favourite vehicles. This continued well into my teens and, despite the trend towards swoopy looking SUVs, I still appreciated their chunky regal styling and British heritage.

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For the last 17 years, I’ve kept a Land Rover sales booklet that was clever disguised as a comprehensive “guide to SUVs” (of yester-year). Yes, I admit that it is in ridiculously pristine condition for its age, but for those who know me this will come as no surprise.

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How did I get it? When I was a teenager, I had requested some Range Rover brochures (via post, imagine that!) from Land Rover Canada and this was one of the items they sent to me.

But despite a short one day’s notice at giving the 2014 Range Rover Supercharged a go for a week, I decided to chance the risk of disappointment and graciously accept the keys.

Would my expectations be dashed as I got a chance to meet one of my childhood superheros? Keep reading to find out!

Heritage

Ah the Range Rover. It’s as British as English afternoon tea. It’s a vehicle adored by the jetset and those on the VIP list. Even Queen Elizabeth II drives one. It doesn’t get more British than that.

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When the first Land Rover vehicles appeared in 1948, off-road vehicles weren’t considered fashion statements. The term “lifestyle” or “crossover” had yet to be invented. These early Land Rovers – nicknamed “Landies” – were hard-working, tough vehicles capable of meeting almost every challenge.

They earned a reputation in remote villages around the world and eventually were sold in more than 120 countries except Antarctica (although Land Rover vehicles have journeyed there on expedition).

Land Rover’s Range Rover has often been regarded as the original luxury SUV and one of the finest luxury utility vehicles of all time. Designed by Charles Spencer King in the late 1960’s, Mr King brought his taste for speed (as a test driver/engineer of Rover) to the Range Rover.

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And so the Range Rover broke new ground when it was first unveiled. Equipped with a powerful V8 engine and a comfortable ride due to large tires and coil spring suspension – these were all firsts for a four-wheeler.

The vehicle was originally designed to leave London on Friday night for a 100 mph sprint to an country estate for a Saturday morning off-road pheasant hunt across the English countryside.

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Long story short, its design was so successful that a Range Rover was even featured in an early 1970s exhibition at the Louvre Museum as an example of exemplary industrial design.

Although the original Range Rover was a 1970’s child, the newest Range Rover definitely marries its retro looks with up to the minute engineering. Still a favourite with the country set, the Range Rover is now also the transport of diplomats, sheiks, footballers, and other celebrities.

The Exterior

Now in its fourth generation, codenamed the L405 and introduced for model year 2013, this latest Range Rover has been certainly continued to transform the fortunes of the Land Rover brand. Heck even in it’s 10th (and last) year of production, the outgoing model posted a record 21% increase in global sales.

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With its new state-of-the art new low-energy Solihull UK factory running 24/7 to keep up with demand, there is still a North American shortage of Range Rovers.

Customers are still happy to wait a few months for their “Landy” to arrive. It’s safe to say then, that the new design is a hit.

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Overseen by Chief Creative Officer and Design Director, Gerry McGovern, the all-new Range Rover has been re-engineered from the ground up. It has a clean and elegant shape derived from a fresh new interpretation of classic Range Rover design cues.

But it still has the side gills, the floating roof (with all black pillars), clamshell hood, split folding tailgate (now fully powered) and the squared-off chiseled front corners.

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It’s nice to see that despite ownership now resting with India’s Tata Motors, it’s still instantly recognizable as a Range Rover. However one that takes a significant step forward with a bold evolution of the model’s iconic design language.

Although traditionalists may find it tacky, I really liked the the new LED daytime running lights. Whether during the day or at night, it creates a very distinct light signature that is impossible to mistake.

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At just under 5m long, the new Range Rover has a very similar footprint to the outgoing model, but with a smoother and more streamline profile. In fact with a drag co-efficient of 0.34, this is also the most aerodynamic Range Rover ever.

Compared to the third generation model, the four generation’s roofline sits 20mm lower in access (entry) mode.

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The interior

To help you get into the sumptuous interior , a revised Access mode in the Air suspension system kneels the Range Rover low enough that running boards are really quite unnecessary.

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The luxurious new interior has a modern character incorporating distinctive Range Rover design cues. I’ve always liked the previous generation’s interior with its mix of high quality leather, real wood trim, and bright metal trim, so this new interior is simply an improvement.

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Designers set out to create an interior environment with a fresh and very contemporary treatment. The cabin retains the characteristic strong, architectural forms emphasised by clean and elegant surfaces fitted with the finest leathers and veneers. Satin or gloss metal trim around the air vents gives it the finishing touch.

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Building on the signature Range Rover interior architecture, the centrepiece of the cabin is the bold intersection between the strong horizontal elements of the instrument panel and the vertical lines of the centre stack.

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There is actual rear legroom now (up by almost 12cm), important for the chauffeur driven Chinese market where Land Rover hopes to sell lots of Range Rovers. There is even a remote switch for the rear passenger to move the front passenger seat forward! The rear seat climate control panel has been updated and is now even worthy of being inside a Bentley.

There isn’t an ounce of visible penny pinching anywhere in this cabin.

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The steering wheel is also probably one of the nicest ones I’ve seen in the industry. With its combination of heated leather/wood and beautiful aluminum turrets that house the controls on either side of the airbag, it’s just something that you know you can spend hours or indeed years using.

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For me though, the biggest visible change compared to the outgoing model is how much simpler it all is. Land Rover has really tried to clean up all of the knobs and dials that were on the previous version by integrating many of the functions into the 8” touchscreen headunit.

There are now only a few redundant hard button controls for the audio and climate control systems. In fact, the total switch count has been cut by half.

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Standard on all Range Rovers is also the Surround Camera System which uses five cameras situated around the vehicle to create an almost 360 degree view on the touchscreen.

There are two cameras located on the front bumper, one under each rearview mirror, and the backup camera.

The idea is that the screen views help to ensure that drivers don’t miss objects below their line of sight and also give vital views at blind intersections.

While the system works well enough in daylight conditions, it is let down by cameras that aren’t the best in image quality at night, and a headunit with not enough graphical processing capability.

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With one or two camera views displayed, the on-screen video quality is smooth and good enough. But add in the surround view display (where all 5 camera feeds are displayed) and the video feed looks more like watching video on the internet from 10 years ago over a dial-up connection.

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It is surprisingly pixelated, choppy, and the touchscreen becomes a bit laggy.  A small disappointment considering that my 2014 Nissan Pathfinder press vehicle, which cost less than half the Range Rover’s sticker price, had better camera picture quality and an easier-to-use interface.

But all is not bad with the system because its Towing Assist mode is absolutely fantastic. Not only does it help the driver to line-up the tow ball to the trailer’s hitch receiver with 100% accuracy each time, but it also equips the driver with lines to show the angle of the trailer when reversing.

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More impressive is the 12.3” LCD unit that replaces the traditional gauge cluster for the driver. This virtual instrument panel uses the same technology found in high-quality computer laptops and can be both personalized and adapted to suit various driving conditions or driver preferences.

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During night time driving, the instrument panel’s “torchlight” setting can highlights only the essential information on the speedometer and odometer.

When driving offroad, key dynamic information can be displayed in the middle of the screen to complementing the main touchscreen display. Rather than it being a distraction, I found that it delivered very valuable ‘at a glance’ vehicle status information.

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The interior is packed with a full suite of premium features to provide both front and rear seat passengers with the same peerless luxury experience.

Their well-being is assured by the latest interior technologies for comfort, convenience and seamless connectivity. The new and improved features include:

  • Convenience – premium features including keyless entry, soft door close with power latching, power upper liftgate and lower tailgate, front cooler compartment
  • High-end audio – exclusive Meridian surround sound music systems with audiophile-quality sound
  • Climate control – all-new best-in-class climate control systems, including the powerful new premium four-zone system
  • Luxurious seating – upgraded seating with luxurious new features such as multi-mode massage for the front heated/ventilated seats
  • Interior illumination – the latest LED illumination for subtle and sophisticated ambient lighting, including the ability to change the colour scheme to suit the driver’s mood

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To help customers to create their perfect bespoke vehicle, the unique luxury ambience of the new Range Rover can be extensively tailored with an indulgent palette of colours, finishes and special details, from the immaculately-trimmed colour-themed interiors of the exclusive Autobiography series.

Aside from my complaints about the Surround view cameras and the underpowered headunit, my only other quibbles are that while the Piano Black wood trim look gorgeous, dust and scratches show up easily. I would suggest a patterned wood trim instead.

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Also, the hard cargo cover shelf was very finicky to fold-out after it has been stowed away. I spent several minutes in the cold and dark trying to assemble it properly from its fully retracted position (courtesy of the previous journalist).

As a special note, I’m delighted to see that the split folding lift/tailgate is now power operated. It has got to be the fastest mechanism in the industry too. A far cry for the slow beeping hydraulic rams from other vehicles I’ve tested.

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One of my good friends, an existing Range Rover Supercharged owner, also noted that the lower tailgate portion is now thoughtfully sculpted inwards so that owners can lean in and reach further into the cargo area.

So how does it ride and drive?

There’s nothing like the driving experience of the Range Rover. These cars hit new heights when the third generation was launched back in 2002.

Now you can see them on every corner of every corner in the world. Even people who own Bentleys, Rolls Royces, or Ferraris will likely have a Range Rover as a daily driver.

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Although the Range Rover is big, it doesn’t take you long to get used to it to dial into the luxury ride. The Command Driving Position, which provides drivers with a supreme sense of confidence and control whatever the road conditions, is an essential part of the Range Rover DNA.

Like its predecessors, the new Range Rover places the driver in an elevated, upright seating position which offers class-leading all-round visibility. The sense of control offered by the elevated driving position is enhanced by the vehicle’s outboard seating location with clear visibility to the side, and outstanding forward visibility over the characteristic sunken profile of the clamshell hood.

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Unlike previous generations of the Range Rover, the L405 is built on an all-aluminum unibody structure, a first for an SUV. This has resulted in a claimed 700 pounds of weight reduction!

Did I feel the weight difference compared to the previous Range Rover Supercharged? Absolutely! While this is still a 5250lbs SUV, it is shockingly nimble with its new rigid lightweight chassis and Land Rover’s latest active air suspension setup with dynamic anti-roll bars.

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While there is no stiffer user-selectable sport mode for the air suspension, I was able to drive the vehicle at a much quicker pace and with much higher confidence than I expected on my usual test loop (with lots of elevation changes and narrow twisty roads with mixed surfaces).

All of this is thanks to a clever new system called two-channel Dynamic Response. It uses electrohydraulic anti-roll bars to counteract bodyroll through the twisty bits and can work on both the front and rear axles independently.

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In short, the system’s control module constantly monitors inputs from a pair of accelerometers – mounted at roof and chassis level respectively – plus steering angle and vehicle speed.

When cornering forces are detected, electronically actuated pressure control valves apply a hydraulically generated rotational torque to the anti-roll bars to oppose the lateral cornering force.

With cornering forces of up to 0.4g, the Dynamic Response system will almost entirely neutralise body roll. Go past this set point and the system will allow some controlled progressive lean to occur to warn you to ease off. This is still a tall vehicle after all.

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By altering the stiffness front to rear, Dynamic Response can also improve comfort on uneven road surfaces by reducing ‘head toss’ induced by undulating pavement and pitch movements.

With 510hp and 461 ft-lbs of torque, the supercharged 5.0L V8 motor basically screams “You want power, I’ll give you enough power to feel as if you have a bee sting right on your bum cheeks”.

Combined with its diet, this Range Rover Supercharged hustles as if the Queen herself had gathered up her skirt and was saying “Alright, we’re late, let’s make a dash for it”. Of course this is fictitious as the Queen, being famously punctual, is never late. Your Majesty, if you’re reading this, I apologize for making such a crass joke at your expense.

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But it’s not the power or the intelligence of the 8 speed ZF transmission that makes it impressive when you put your foot down. It’s the surprise of the power and the quickness of the shifts. When you drive a Lamborghini or a Porsche, you expect it to accelerate quickly, to hustle down the road.

But when you bury your right foot into the Range Rover’s throttle pedal, you’re simply not ready for the savagery. The overwhelming wave of torque that pushes you into your seat will shock you into a fit of giggles.

But yet the Range Rover is quiet, comfortable, beautifully air conditioned and heated.

Let me be clear thought. Despite having over 500hp, the Range Rover doesn’t encourage you to be sporty or aggressive. It’s just so…nice!

The benefit of the new aluminium chassis is also in fuel economy gains. Land Rover claims an improvement of 9% despite being quicker to accelerate than ever before.

Off-road Capability

It has been widely reported that fewer than 10% of SUV owners take their vehicles off-road. But according to Land Rover, approximately 25% of their customers use their vehicles for off-road adventures.

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Since there is only one Range Rover Supercharged press car out west here though, I was eager to return the vehicle undamaged for my fellow journalists.

Therefore my most ambitious impression of being Sir Edmund Hillary (the New Zealand explorer and mountaineer) was thus limited to a private estate where I could get above the tree line to see this view. Fantastic isn’t it?

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As such, I took Land Rover’s claims of the Range Rover’s improved off-road prowess as being truthful.

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I was impressed that the aforementioned Dynamic Response system even automatically detects off-road conditions reduces the level of roll compensation at speeds below 40 km/hr in order to provide greater axle articulation and tire contact with the terrain.

The system is also able to detect a side slope of greater than 11 degrees and locks the antiroll bars for increased stability.

As on previous Range Rovers, the four-corner air suspension is able optimize the vehicle’s versatility off-road by offering variable ride height (with more than 12 inches of ground clearance). The air springs are cross-linked for maximum axle articulation.

With a permanent 4WD system (with a 50/50 torque split front/rear) and a two speed transfer box with low range gearing, the Range Rover is also available with an active rear locking differential.

Controlling all of these advanced 4WD and suspension systems is the latest generation of Land Rover’s multi-award winning Terrain Response 2 system.

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This system is now able to automatically detect the type of terrain the vehicle is traversing and seamlessly optimise traction and performance abilities for the prevailing conditions. It uses a number of inputs, including ambient temperature, engine torque, transmission gear, suspension travel and even altitude to determine over what type of surface it is traveling. Very smart.

But the driver is still able to manually choose from a set of distinct operating modes including General Driving, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl with a twist of the rotary switch. Pushing down the top of the rotary control selects the Auto mode.

In a nutshell, depending on the mode, Terrain Response 2 calculates the optimum settings necessary for uninterrupted travel across whatever terrain you are on. It does this by instructing the various systems of the car – including the transfer case, transmission, torque delivery, ABS and traction control settings – to alter their parameters accordingly.

If you’re in the wrong mode, the system is even smart enough to suggest if another mode is more appropriate.

Engineers have also applied the same sort of intelligence to the air intake system, and repositioned it to the top of the front fenders. Known as the Queen Mary intakes due to their resemblance to the famous British oceanliner, this clever bit of engineering has increased the wading depth of the Range Rover to an unmatched 900 mm (about 3 feet of water).

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All of this off-roadability confirms that the 2014 Range Rover is still a true Land Rover, not just a flashy luxury SUV.

Wrap-up

Is all the hype around this latest generation Range Rover worthy of the accolade “the very best of British”? Does it put the “great” back in “Great Britain”? I think so.

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The 2014 Range Rover Supercharged looks great and drives even better. It is contemporary, fresh, and clearly highly desirable. At an as tested price of over $125,000 it’s all those little bits of character and heritage that have to make a car look handsome and feel beautiful. If you’re in the market for a luxury SUV, you really have to sample the glamour and capability for yourself.

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And although the Range Rover is now the ultimate four-wheeled status symbol to a generation of rappers, professional athletes, celebrities, and striving suburbanites, it has lost none of its Land Rover DNA.

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Despite a few quibbles, I have to say that the Range Rover still remains one of my favourite vehicles of all time. This is high praise but I can honestly say that despite its flaws, I hold it in the same high level of regard as the Jaguar F-type S that I reviewed a couple of months ago.

What other vehicle can you think of that can take you to the far corners of the earth while in the safety, comfort, and class of a Rolls Royce?

So in closing I’m happy to report that I did meet my superhero and indeed got to hang out with “him” for a week, I definitely got to thoroughly learn his strengths and weakness true and through.

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However while parting is such sweet sorrow, I have to say that I was far from disappointed.

Some good stories do have a happy ending after all!

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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

[REVIEW] 2020 Acura ILX A-Spec

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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.

Interior Accoutrements

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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Automobiles

How Changes at ICBC Will Affect BC Drivers

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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.

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Automobiles

[REVIEW] 2020 Acura MDX A-Spec

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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.

Final thoughts

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.

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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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Automobiles

[REVIEW] 2020 BMW M4 Competition Cabriolet

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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.

Rivals

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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