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[REVIEW] 2019 BMW M850i Coupe

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“An amount in the low three-digit million euro range”, reads the BMW press release.

That’s how much money the company has invested into BMW Group Plant Dingolfing in preparation for the 8 Series. As the plant already builds the company’s 7 Series flagship, it’s astounding to hear the amount of extra money that has spent in order to accommodate the company’s newest model.

The new 8 Series Coupe is designed to be the sports car launches BMW’s model offensive in the luxury segment. It’s no wonder that the company is investing a tremendous amount in order to consolidate its position in Lower Bavaria as the centre of competence for the luxury class.

What is it?

Is it a sports car, a grand tourer, or something in between? BMW has had a fine tradition of big BMW Coupes stretching back decades, but arguably, its flagships have somewhat lacked the deftness of dynamics to really appeal to the driving enthusiast.

Have they been ridiculously powerful? Yes. Stunning to look at? Certainly. But exciting and the sharpest to drive? Perhaps less so, as effective as the 6 Series family may have been.

The number “8” has only been applied to models in BMW’s portfolio that are pricier, more luxurious, and more unique. Recall the original 8 Series Coupe of 1989-1996, the i8, and the Z8 and you get the picture. After a 20 year hiatus, the nameplate is back.

While the new 8 uses elements of the same structure as the 5 and 7 Series, it’s a new separate model in its own right, designed to be a sporting grand tourer versus a luxury car. It’s not a direct replacement either for the old 6 Series, as it’s higher upon the scale in terms of cost and capability.

BMW says that the directive for the all-new BMW 8 Series Coupe’s design was to provide a thrilling driving experience. Body, powertrain and suspension were honed to achieve the agility, precision and poise expected of a top-class luxury sports Coupe.

The model was actually developed in parallel to the BMW M8 GTE race car, which has since already proven its potential in the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship long-distance races and in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The 8 Series is available in three body styles: a two-door 2+2 Coupe, a convertible, and now the four-door Gran Coupe. An M8 will be available in all three variants, but that’s still a few months away,

A new design featuring composite new materials

For the purpose of this review, we’ll be taking a closer look at the 2019 BMW M850i Coupe. The M prefix labels this model as an “M performance” car, rather than a full bore M Division-developed car as the M8 will be.

Happily, the 8 Series production model lives up to the expectations set forth by the BMW Concept 8 Series first unveiled at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in 2017. Its unique aura is the result of a new styling language focusing on modernity and emotional engagement.

This car is a looker with its low slung design, an elongated silhouette with slim window pillars, a long wheelbase with a wide track, and a roofline with distinctive “double-bubble” styling of classic racing cars.

For the first time in a series-production BMW model, the roof is also optionally available in carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) – which is also manufactured at the Dingolfing location in an innovative wet-pressing process.

In the spirit of intelligent lightweight construction, the supporting structures at the front and rear of the vehicle, other components, such as the roof, doors, hood, and the front firewall, are made of aluminium.

The BMW kidney grille showcases its increased proportions and features a hexagonal outline that widens towards the bottom and a single-piece surround that encompasses its various elements.

Full LED headlights with BMW LaserLight technology are now standard equipment. Incidentally, these are now the slimmest headlights of any BMW model to date.

The company’s signature “Angel eye” light tubes are used to generate the daytime driving lights as well as the low and high beam, thereby creating the signature brand look at all times.

The M850i Coupe’s greenhouse is sharply tapered at the rear, accentuating the muscular shoulder line. The elongated quarter windows terminate in a very tightly-angled version of the iconic Hofmeister kink “counter-swing”. The long, heavily raked rear window is a classic design feature of high performance luxury sports coupes of yesterday.

The car’s rear end is composed of sculptured, emotive surfaces that emphasize the car’s width and low center of gravity. The slender all-LED rear light clusters light up in a distinctive “L” shape, extending deep into the flanks to add to the effect.

Powertrain and Drivetrain

The launch of the M850i xDrive Coupe also marks the premiere of a new BMW TwinPower Turbo V8 engine. The latest generation of the 4.4-liter eight-cylinder engine has been radically revised with numerous detailed improvements.

Two twin-scroll turbochargers with charge air cooling located within the V-shaped space between the cylinder banks, High Precision Injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve control and Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing all form part of the M Performance TwinPower Turbo technology, whose extensive overhaul has given a substantial boost to maximum power, torque and efficiency.

Output is now rated at 523 hp between 5,500 rpms and 6,000 rpm, and 553 lb-ft of torque from 1,800 to 4,600 rpms.

Power is transferred to the wheels via the latest-generation eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission that boasts a wider gear ratio spread. Even sportier gear shifts and can be operated by means of shift paddles on the steering wheel.Completing the all-round package for an engaging driving experience is the BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system, which is fitted in a newly improved version that has been tuned for this specific model.

The rear-wheel bias of the xDrive system and the rear differential lock ensures maximum agility and precision when the car’s sporting capabilities are being put to the test.

Whether it’s the rainy streets of Vancouver or the snowy highways in Toronto, the addition of xDrive turns the M850i truly into an all-weather grand tourer built for Canadian winters. Just don’t forget the winter tires!

Driver-focused cockpit

As with other BMW coupes, the M850i’s interior has been designed to be very much driver oriented. The seating position is notably low and the car’s wide centre console rises up towards the instrument panel at the front, separating the driver and front passenger areas.

This centre space encompasses the audio control unit and its function buttons, the air conditioning control panel, and air vents as well as the freestanding and frameless Control Display gauge cluster, all arranged above each other in a clear, horizontally partitioned structure.

One of vehicle’s truly stunning options is called “Crafted Clarity,” which adds Swarovski glass detailing to the gearshift lever, volume knob, start/stop button. Even the slightly redesigned iDrive controller with active haptic feedback has been fitted with this treatment.

At night, the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System and the illuminated gearshift lever complement the luxurious interior ambience.

BMW says that due to the low seating position of both rear seats, it has been possible to design the head restraints as an integral part of the backrests.

However, as it is a 2+2, the rear seats are really designed only for flexibly short adults or children as rear legroom is rather modest.

Standard on the 8 Series Coupe is Adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers. Both compression and rebound are adjusted continuously and independently. The electronically controlled dampers respond adaptively to road surface conditions and driving style in order to eliminate undesired vehicle movement.

Damping characteristics can be adjusted via the Driving Experience Control switch – SPORT and SPORT+ modes for maximum handling ability, and the requisite comfort-oriented damper setting for everyday driving in both in ECO Pro or COMFORT modes.

Infotainment Technology

As the M850i is one of BMW’s flagship models, it includes all of the company’s latest bells and whistles.

The latest iteration of gesture control, initially introduced on the 7 Series several years ago, is now available on the 8 Series. The improved system now supports custom gestures and feels more responsive than before.

There are now a plethora of connection options including a 12 volt outlet, aux-in, Bluetooth, and WiFi. BMW has also taken the unusual step of making almost all the ports USB-C only (except for one). It does modernize the interior but is also a bit inconvenient for Apple iPhone users who will need to invest in new cables.

There is a Qi-compatible wireless charger nestled far forward of the centre console deep into the dash that charges both phones and the BMW Display key.

The M850i is equipped with iDrive 7.0, the company’s latest iteration of their infotainment system. First making its debut in the latest G05 X5, the new system is being rolled out across all BMW models as you read this.

Apple’s fantastic wireless CarPlay’s integration is basically the same, save for the larger screen that makes every part of it visually stand out more. Strangely, most automakers supporting CarPlay still don’t offer it wirelessly but BMW has done so since first adopting CarPlay.

With the larger iDrive touchscreen, the icons are big and bright and can also be selected with the iDrive rotary dial. The latter is just a bit more cumbersome as using the dial means cycling through the menu via a lot of scrolling. I found it easier to use the touchscreen with Apple CarPlay. Android Auto is not supported at all.

Compared to the previous iDrive generation, iDrive 7.0 constantly adapts to the situation and is more orientated to the needs of the driver. The new information tiles are not only live, but can be added to a personalized home screen with up to four live tiles.

This all-new home screen presents an optimal use of the vehicle’s various displays that can be tweaked per driver.

There are also a number of small touches that showcase BMW’s attention to detail, such as the on-screen rendering of the car matches the paint colour on the actual car.

A brand new flat menu structure that enables fast access to most settings and functions. Previous BMW owners will need a bit of time to get used to the interface, but the menu structure is intuitive and there are handy tool tip bubbles that pop up at the top of the screen and the learning curve is not very steep.

A fundamental change in iDrive 7.0 is the integration with the car’s 12.3 inch all-digital Control Display gauge cluster as well. A navigation map can be displayed between the speedometer and tachometer displays and the whole cluster will change colour and type of presentation depending on the driving situation or model. It’s all seamless, uniform, and intuitive.

As expected in, there is also a built-in WiFi hotspot with a couple of plans being offered by BMW Canada. BMW’s ConnectedDrive system, which provides news, weather, navigational maps, and mobile phone app connectivity, is free for 12 months and then can be subscribed to for up to 20 years.

While much noise has been made around Tesla’s availability to push over-the-air updates for its cars’ systems, BMW now has the ability to do that as well with the iDrive operating system and navigation maps.

Additionally, by using the ConnectedDrive smartphone app, owners can connect to their vehicles to remotely start, lock/unlock the doors, flash the lights or sound the horn.

You can even pre-condition the climate control at a set-time, or send a destination from your smartphone to the in-car navigation system. While the system is not as instantaneous as a physical keyfob, but it’s still pretty neat nonetheless.

For me, perhaps the pièce de résistance is the ConnectedDrive app’s ability to remotely access the car’s Surround View cameras to see what is going on around your BMW.

This feature, called “Remote 3D view” gives the car’s owner a perspective around the vehicle at his/her pleasure. In an era where many of us have IoT smart security cameras at home or integrated to our door bells, Remote 3D view is a nice-to-have feature for peace of mind.

How does it drive?

The M850i is a GT car in character, so don’t expect M4 coupe levels of handling prowess. Don’t get me wrong though. You can chomp down a twisty and difficult road at a crazed rate without batting an eyelid even with the car in comfort mode.

Weighing 1.9 tonnes, there is a lot of clever chassis tuning and adaptive management going on to shepherd and marshal the car’s weight. However, the adaptive damping system, four-wheel-steering, active anti-roll bars are mostly transparent from the driver’s perspective. It is all very well disguised, well-sorted, and the M850i feels like it is a car a couple of hundred kilograms lighter than it actually is.

The massive brakes can be optionally spec’ed out as carbon ceramics, but the steel rotors are plenty powerful for road driving. Like the suspension, BMW’s engineers have done a remarkable job at making things feel natural despite a lot of technology happening behind the scenes.

xDrive keeps things protective and super-secure. Select Sport or Sport Plus mode for a bit more fun as even more power is shunted to the rear for you to be able to throw the car around a bit. The combination of xDrive and four-wheel-steering resulted in the big coupe constantly surprising me with its nimbleness, even on a tight and twisty track.

There is an initial softness to the car though, be it the steering, or handling, or the noise levels. No doubt the M8 will be sharper, so perhaps this slight isolation is deliberate given the clientele who is likely to buy the M850i over the M8.

As expected, the 8 Series can be fitted with BMW’s latest advanced driver aids including a semi-automonous adaptive cruise control system that even has an infrared and optical camera in the Control Display system to monitor your attentiveness.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to this latest boy’s toy, there are plenty of cars that can cover the M850i’s talents and price range. But arguably, there are few that can meet it on equal ground.

While the Lexus LC500 coupe is eye catching and has a great engine, its ride quality is disappointing. The Mercedes-AMG S63 S Coupe excels on luxury and refinement as well, but is considerably more expensive and is not as dynamic to drive.

As for the Porsche 911, it is far more of an outright sports car experience compared to the Sports Grand Tourer nature of the M850i.

Therefore, the M850i sits in a niche of its own, turning out exactly as BMW intended.

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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[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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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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[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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