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[REVIEW] 2014 Acura MDX Elite – A jewel in its class

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Acura sells a lot of MDXs to folks who want a plush luxury three row SUV with Japanese reliability and sporty handling.

For the 2014 all-new model, they rounded off some of its rough edges and made it a bit lower profile and sportier. The look is still conservative and arguably even a bit boring.

However, buyers in the segment don’t want anything too radical, so Acura smartly stuck with what has worked so well in the past.

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EXTERIOR

This 3rd generation MDX is very important to Acura. No longer does it share the same platform as the Honda Odyssey minivan but in fact is the first vehicle to be spawned from Honda’s entirely new light truck architecture.

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This platform will eventually be shared with a future Honda Pilot and Ridgeline. Being the premium brand though, Acura got first crack at it.

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Outside you can tell that it’s still an MDX. The window shape cues and body lines are still reminiscent of the previous generation models. It’s a look that is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

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Regardless this still looks like an Acura, and a recent one at that with the addition of parent company Honda’s JewelEye LED headlamps.

I thought that the lights were visually and technically stunning, but some people weren’t quite as flattering, comparing them to offspring from a bug mating with the MDX. Your mileage may vary!

Regardless of what you think, the JewelEye LED headlamps add a very distinct look to the brand. It’s one that you’re unlikely to mistake for any other vehicle other than a Honda or Acura.

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That being said, I found that the MDX’s LED headlamps didn’t necessarily work significantly better than other Bi-Xenon based systems. The higher (whiter) colour temperature output that resembles daylight more closely is great for reducing driver fatigue.

However I didn’t find the beam pattern to be significantly wider or brighter than a Bi-Xenon system with active cornering (which the MDX’s system doesn’t have).

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That being said though, the Acura RLX flagship luxury sedan’s LED headlamps work noticeably better than the MDX’s (more on that in a future review). Perhaps because it has almost double the number of projector lenses to cast a more evenly spread and wide beam.

INTERIOR

Inside the MDX you’ll find a comfortable and functional cabin. It’s all very plush and a really nice update from before.

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While they could use a bit of extra lateral bolstering, the MDX’s front seats are one of the most comfortable I’ve experienced ever, and not just in an SUV but in any car.

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As with previous MDXs, you’ll still get 3 rows of seats and standard 7 passenger capacity. The 2.8” longer wheelbase means that there is now more room in the 2nd and 3rd rows.

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A new multilink rear suspension that is both lighter and more compact provides a lower floor for 3rd row access compared to the outgoing trailing arm setup.

This setup also has fewer frame connection points and allows loads to be better managed to quell road noise.

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That being said, the 3rd row is still best for kids or small adults on trips more than an hour. If you absolutely must have true 3rd row seat comfort for full-sized adults in a luxury package, you’ll need to go to a full-sized luxury SUV (a la Mercedes-Benz GL-Class or Cadillac Escalade ESV) which wouldn’t have the handling characteristics of the MDX.

A new one-touch folding system for the 2nd row seats, dubbed 
”One Touch Walk-In”, means that even kids can fold up the 2nd row seats for access to the 3rd row.

Just press the button and the seatback tilts forward and the whole 2nd row seat slides forward. A similar button is also located on the back of the 2nd row for the 3rd row passengers.

Other clever touches include an absolutely gigantic centre console that can store a small laptop and easily swallow several iPads. This centre console has a slick sliding shelf that also doubles as the lid.

I liked the grippy rubber ribs on the wood grained shelf as you can put things on it, such as a cellphone, without the items sliding around.

The previous generation MDX had a large number of buttons and knobs making the dash look cluttered. Acura’s designers really tried to simplify things this time.

What they came up with was a high tech looking dual LCD screen setup with a lower (smaller) touchscreen that houses a lot of the functions including seat heaters, climate control, radio, navigation, and vehicle settings.

 

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A larger upper (non-touch) LCD screen shows the GPS navigation map as well as other information. A large rotary knob below the lower LCD screen is how you can make your selections on the upper display.

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For the most part, this dual LCD arrangement works well. The haptic feedback system is responsive and syncs well to the virtual button pushes on screen. Acura’s implementation is probably the model for others in the industry to follow.

However the headunit’s graphics look a bit simplistic (more Honda, less Acura-grade) and a bit boring. Navigating the dual screen system can also get a bit convoluted for certain functions especially when you are new to the vehicle.

I never quite knew when to look in the main menu or in the settings. Further adding to the confusion is a second layer settings within each function. Confused yet? But such is the price we pay in order to reduce the button count on the dash in modern vehicles.

With some usage and time, I eventually figured out the dual screen setup. Thankfully Acura provides a clever shortcuts function that allows you to store not only radio functions but climate control as well.

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

The new MDX is now much quieter than before. Acura did a lot to make this SUV quieter, including extra sound dampening and thicker acoustic glass. All of these physical changes keep road noise at bay.

But there is even an active noise cancellation system built into the sound system to keep those decibels to a minimum.

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It’s a good thing too because my Elite package MDX was equipped with Acura’s 546-watt Premium Audio 12 speaker Surround sound system with DTS Dolby Pro Logic II.

The Elite package also adds Acura’s DVD excellent entertainment system with the unique 16.2” ultrawide LCD screen, wireless headsets, and an integrated remote control.

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This impressive system plays DVD movies and can accept anything that has an HDMI output. There is even a 110 volt inverter built into the back of the centre console which allows game consoles to be plugged into the vehicle.

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If one of the rear passengers doesn’t want to watch what the other is watching, no problem! The ultrawide LCD screen’s real estate can be split in half, allowing two distinct video feeds to be displayed.

One person can even be listening to the satellite radio system or a CD while the other plays a game or watches a movie. Let’s just say that your rear seat passengers will be hard pressed to be bored.

SO HOW DOES IT DRIVE?

Power comes from a 290hp 3.5L direct-injection V6. This new power plant features cylinder deactivation technology and can run on only 3 cylinders to save on fuel consumption under light load conditions.

While output is less by 10 horsepower compared to the previous generation MDX, a 275+ lbs weight reduction balances it all out. Due to this serious diet, Acura claims better acceleration times and best-in-class fuel economy.

I found the new 3.5L V6 to be responsive and refined. Acura lists the fuel economy figures of 7.7L/100 kms on the highway and 11.2L/100 kms in the city. I averaged a respectable 12.5 L/100kms over my week with the MDX Elite in 80% city driving.

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Acura loves touting their Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system via the prominent badge on the tailgate. More than once I was asked about what the “S.H.” stood for. As an advertising and branding tactic, the badge has done its job.

While the name may seem typically Japanese-gimmicky, the system works very well in the real world.

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SH-AWD uses an active rear differential with clutch packs to split torque side-to-side. You can really feel the system working in corners where the computer can send extra power to the outside wheels to tuck the vehicle tighter in line.

The system does work only under power (i.e. your foot has to be on the throttle pedal) and is no substitute for careful driving. But it really does make the vehicle handle better than you would expect for something so large.

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Change the IDS (Integrated Dynamics System) setting into Sport mode and SH-AWD sends even more power to the outside rear wheel for even tighter handling. The effectiveness of SH-AWD was particularly noticeable during inclement weather where the MDX didn’t understeer very much under power even when attacking slippery corners.

A nifty active display in the gauge cluster shows the driver how much power is going to each corner of the vehicle.

In addition to the SH-AWD’s rear axle torque vectoring, a brake-based stability control system also helps to stabilize the MDX’s handling in off-throttle situations.

Perhaps slightly disappointingly though, in making the MDX more plush, some of the sportiness was loss. The move over to the electric power steering has resulted in a system that is precise enough but lacks road feel. Despite the three IDS modes (Comfort, Normal, Sport), the steering feel was still lacking.

Most of the MDX buyers won’t care about this though, and the MDX will continue to sell in droves. Over the course of my test period with the MDX, I came to realize that many soccer moms who drive these vehicles really just want an easy-to-drive SUV. One that can soothe the driving experience, especially when they have to deal with potentially up to 5 screaming kids in the back!

LKAS, ACC, FCWS, LDW…WTF?

Most MDX’s are packed with driver convenience and safety technology. My Elite package MDX came with just about everything that Acura could throw at it.

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Here’s a quick glossary to help you decipher the systems:

ACC – Adaptive Cruise Control (with Low-Speed Follow)
LDW – Land Departure Warning
LKAS – Lane Keeping Assist System
FCWS – Forward Collision Warning System
CMBS – Collision Mitigation Braking System

As a technology geek, one of the MDX systems that I was most looking forward to testing out was its LKAS (Lane Keeping Assist System). Available only on the Elite model, this system is as close to fully autonomous driving as one can get at the present moment.

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The system works by using a combination of the lane departure warning camera as well as the electric power steering system. It will literally keep the vehicle centred in between the painted lines as long as it can see the road markings and provided your speed is high enough.

You will still need to keep at least one hand on the wheel as the LKAS shuts off if it detects no human steering input for more than a few seconds.

How does it feel? Well think of it as having your front passenger reach over and provide minor steering corrections with two of his/her fingers. They’re there to assist, but still easy for you to overpower and take back steering control.

The system works best on straight roads making minor steering corrections, but it can also handle slight curves.

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Combine LKAS with the Adaptive Cruise Control system and you have an SUV that can practically steer and accelerate/brake itself! Fantastic for long distance road trips.

Around town, the Adaptive Cruise Control’s Low speed traffic follow function works well too. It provides pedal free driving in stop-and-go traffic and I found really effective in reducing driver fatigue in rush hour traffic situations. The MDX stopped safely and securely each and every time.

Regrettably, there are a couple of limitations with some of these systems. Strangely, LKAS only works from 72 km/hr onwards and up to a maximum of 145 km/hr.

Curiously too, the lane departure warning system doesn’t work until you’re at 64 km/hr and above (up to 145 km/hr) Most other vehicles that I’ve tested with such systems do not have such speed restrictions.

Other tech niceties include a 360 degree Surround View camera system to assist with parking. I particularly liked the system’s ability to automatically turn on the front view camera when slowing down.

This made parking into tight spots an absolute clinch. Or you can be amused at red lights watching people’s shoes while they’re walking across the intersection.

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When you’re backing up, the rearview camera can display 3 types of angles. A super wide angle (with some barrel distortion), a typical rearview camera angle, and a split rearview and top down 360 degree display. I opted for the latter in most cases.

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Of special mention is the integrated remote starter system equipped with all MDX Elites. There’s nothing quite like slipping into a warm cabin onto a pre-heated seat with a pre-heated steering wheel to warm the hands.

This system was truly appreciated during the cold mornings and this is the first time I’ve seen a factory system that sends visual feedback to the key to indicate that the engine has been started.

WRAP-UP

It seems clear that Acura has aimed aimed its gun sights on Lexus’ top selling RX luxury SUV. While the RX only seats 5, it still competes with the MDX in both price and some features.

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Not wanting to rock the boat, this latest MDX doesn’t look too different than its predecessor. However I still consider this progress as the MDX is now lighter, quicker, and more fuel efficient than before. Handling does suffer a bit with less agility and numb steering though.

On the plus side, the active safety and tech features are very impressive and easy-to-use once you get the hang of them.

Overall, I also thought that this redesigned model was very well-rounded with its comfortable and functional cabin. The hushed cabin and comfortable (but not floaty) ride is a definitely step-up from the previous generation MDX.

With all of these great attributes in mind, it’s no wonder that the 2014 MDX won the Automobile Journalists Association’s coveted 2014 “Luxury SUV of the year over $60,000” award.

So if you’re in the market for a luxury SUV that can seat seven passengers, your next vehicle may not be any further than the closest Acura dealer!

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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.

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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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