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[REVIEW] 2020 BMW M340i



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.

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, 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.


[REVIEW] 2020 Cadillac XT5 Sport



When one thinks of Cadillac and SUVs, the company’s first major entry into the SUV market, the Escalade, probably comes to mind.

Introduced for the 1999 model year in response to competition from the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Lexus LX, and Lincoln Navigator, the Escalade has been a resounding success for the Cadillac brand.

Over two decades later, the Escalade is still trucking along. However, no longer is the Escalade the company’s only SUV. Indeed, Cadillac has expanded the range significantly in order to satisfy the different niches that consumers are now demanding.

The Cadillac XT5, a relative newcomer to the brand’s sable of vehicle, is now its best-selling model in the automaker’s portfolio.

What is it?

As the CT6 demonstrates, Cadillac can build some brilliant-driving vehicles. The XT5 is part of parent company GM’s $12 billion dollar plan to revamp the Cadillac brand around the world.

Built on Cadillac’s new flexible architecture for SUVs, which also underpins the XT4 and XT6, the XT5 is designed to compete with the likes of the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class.

Styling wise, the XT5’s styling is unmistakably Cadillac, unmistakably American luxury. For those of you who know your Cadillac SUVs, the XT5 replaced the quirky-looking SRX in Cadillac’s range from a few years ago.

Originally launched in 2017, the 2020 XT5 has just undergone a refresh gaining a new turbocharged engine, slightly massaged styling, updated trim hierarchy, and new tech features.

Compared to previous model years, the 2020 model receives restyled bumpers, new wheel designs ranging from 18 to 20 inches, standard LED headlights, restyled LED taillights with new graphics, and a newly designed front grille with different mesh textures depending on the trim level.

The new base engine is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine also found in the XT4. Producing 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, this engine complements the XT5’s naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6. The four cylinder engine is fitted with a twin-scroll turbocharged and a unique three-step sliding camshaft to help the engine optimize performance across the rev band.

My XT5 test vehicle was fitted with the carried-over 3.6 litre 310 horsepower V6 which produces 271 lb-ft of torque. Like the 2.0, this engine also features direct injection, camshaft phasing, cylinder deactivation, and auto start/stop to optimize efficiency.

Additional Creature Comfort, Colours, Tech and Safety features for 2020

With so many options and choices available to consumers when it comes to shopping a midsized luxury SUV, Cadillac hopes that the sum of all its parts ticks the boxes. For 2020, Cadillac has introduced a variety of updates designed to make its best-selling SUV even more appealing.

In addition to the ubiquitous addition of new colour palettes for the cabin, a new centre console design now offers even more storage.

However, the big change for 2020 is the update to the infotainment system. The latest Cadillac User Experience (C.U.E.) interface continues to handle infotainment, with inputs made by Caddy’s next-gen rotary controller. Drivers are now able to use the controller to “jog” for more intuitive inputs.

Connectivity features also include Apple CarPlay 6 and Android Auto 7 capability, Cadillac Connected Apps and Cadillac 4G LTE with an available Wi-Fi hotspot (includes 3GB/three-month data trial).

The updated system and associated user interface is a huge improvement over the old CUE system. A much more intuitive interface combined with snappy performance makes it as good as the best systems out there. One of the biggest improvements for me personally is the ditching of the old capacitive volume touch bar in favour of a trusty and accurate volume knob.

The biggest change in the new instrument cluster, aside for a rearrangement of information, is the way the driver can now cycle through the available drive modes and engage all-wheel drive.

In the past, the All-wheel-drive menu was a bit confusing in that it was separate from the Mode menu. For 2020, it is integrated in with the vehicle’s four available drive modes: Tour (2WD), AWD, Sport (AWD) and Off Road (AWD), coherent with the rest of Cadillac’s line-up of SUVs.

There are also more standard safety features including forward collision alert with low-speed automatic braking, Intellibeam automatic high-beam lighting and pedestrian detection for front and rear.

The 2020 options list also gets fleshed out with newly available night vision, improved versions of the automaker’s HD Rear Vision rearview mirror and HD Surround Vision camera systems and more.


Further tech updates include:
• One-touch phone pairing with Near Field Communication
• The wireless phone charging now supporting up to 15-watts of charging, the addition of USB-C ports
• Enhanced Automatic Parking Assist with Braking
• Rear Pedestrian Alert system

There are plenty of bins for stashing smaller items, and an easy-to-fold rear seat allows the Caddy to easily transform to a cargo king.

How does it drive?

With a heads-up display, clear forward visibility, and excellent side and rearward visibility afforded by the combination of the excellent digital rearview camera and large side mirrors, the XT5 is easy to drive and composed on the road.

My test vehicle was specified out in the Sport trim, equipped with the 3.6L V6 with 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque connected to a 9-speed automatic gearbox. The Sport trim comes standard with the V6 whereas the lower Premium and Premium Luxury trim lines come with the new 2.0-litre turbo four.

In addition to the standard equipment V6 on the new Sport trim, this line also features adaptive dampers and a new Sport All-Wheel-Drive system with a torque-vectoring, twin-clutch rear differential which is said to improve power delivery and stability while cornering.

The up-level V6 delivers power in a linear and smooth manner. However when compared to the available torque at lower revs offered by some of the XT5’s competitors’ turbocharged engines, it can occasionally feel a bit lethargic. In fact, Caddy’s smaller 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder may actually feel more responsive in daily driving, so be sure to test drive both variants before making a purchase.

Despite its similar looks to the SRX, the XT5 rides and handles far better thanks to being 300 lbs lighter and with a two inch longer wheelbase. The continuously variable damping system and strut/multilink suspension help the XT5 to feel relatively light and wieldy.

Can we say that the XT5 is fun to drive? Probably not. The Caddy is not quite in the same realm as the competition from Germany such as the Porsche Macan, BMW X3 M40i or Audi SQ5. But for normal day-to-day use, there is little reason to complain. That’s perhaps as backhanded a compliment as you can give to a crossover.

When confronted with a twisty road, the XT5 can certainly tackle it with confidence. But if it’s hairs on the back of your neck excitement you’re looking for, you may be a little disappointed. For example, the Cadillac’s steering is accurate with sell weighted responses, but I wish that it had a bit more substantial feedback.

Body roll is well-controlled and the vehicle always feels planted and substantial. Long highway stints are easily gobbled up in large chunks thanks to the impressively quiet and well-isolated cabin.

A V Sport version of the XT5 would likely spice things up a little, but with Cadillac’s large number of other models in the works right now, don’t hold your breath.

Final Thoughts

Modest improvements to the already well-packaged Cadillac XT5 make an already good vehicle even better.

While it doesn’t carry a similar degree of prestige and presence as its big brother Escalade, the XT5 should still appeal to a large group of buyers who are looking for American luxury in their crossover recipe.

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[REVIEW] 2020 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC



Long a luxury sedan benchmark, the Mercedes-Benz E-class has always placed comfort, function, and good reflexes over glitzy flash. These days, the Mercedes-Benz passenger car line-up is much larger than it used to be.

The E-Class still sits close to the top of the range as Mercedes’ traditional mid-sized executive offering, larger than the C-class, more practical but less expensive than the CLS four door coupe, while smaller and much less expensive than the flagship S-class.

Now in its fifth generation, first launched as a 2017 model, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz E-Class continues on with its refreshed look as the mid-size sedan aims to reinstate itself at the top of the mid-sized luxury car market. Like its bookend siblings — the compact luxury C-class and flagship S-class, the E-class embraces the same curvaceous Mercedes-Benz design language that brings it into line with the current family theme.

Over the years, the E-Class has maintained four different body styles as a sedan, a wagon, a coupe, and a convertible. For the purposes of this review, I tested the 2020 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC sedan.

What’s new?

Despite being three years into its total redesign, this iconic sedan remains competitive, but Mercedes-Benz shifts more of the focus of the E-Class toward handling agility and fuel economy.

Compared with its predecessor, there is plenty to report about this W213 E-class. It’s as lavish as a Mercedes-Benz should be, maintaining the same overall character as before. All the typical stuff that Mercedes-Benz engineers would’ve spent years developing is there. It’s stiffer, lighter, and bigger than the previous E-class, with a lot of technology from the 2020 S-class.

What was formally the entry-level E300 has been replaced by the E350, with a power bump from 241 to 255 horsepower. My E450 4MATIC sedan continues on unchanged with its twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 producing 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque.

Although the E-class may be seen as a cut-price version of the S-class, that’s a good thing as it delivers on the same level of polish, interior quality, and refinement as the flagship sedan. Not much has changed for 2020, but the full complement of driver’s aids is still on offer including air suspension, self parking assist, and Mercedes’ semi-autonomous system.

A serene environment

The 2020 E450 is a comfort-biased car with handling to match. Passengers are pampered by a solid yet plush ride, extremely comfortable and supportive seats, all ensconced within an impeccably finished interior.

With the air suspension set in its most comfortable mode, the E-class is the perfect environment to knock down the highway miles as it glides over pavement undulations in a solid and predictable manner.

Descriptors such as “creamy”, “serene” come to mind as most feedback from the road is muted with only slide imperfections communicated into the cabin. Cabin noise is kept to a whisper and you’ll hear almost nothing except for the engine, which like a church mouse with a slight snoring issue.

Yet, as you push the E450 in corners, it never feels overwhelmed. After decades of experience in what E-class customers want, perhaps it’s no surprise that the chassis engineers have gotten the car’s steering just right. It’s precise, but not too light or heavy, with just the right amount of assist.

The cabin itself is beautifully detailed with generous combinations of matte wood, brushed aluminium, satin finished switchgear, and leather. It’s a fantastic blend of old-world Mercedes charm and high-tech wizardry, feeling warm and inviting modern. Prominent Burmester speaker grilles and large round vent registers invoke steampunk. Sculpted seats feature pillowy headrests, and even the carpet is high quality.

The seats are perhaps not quite S-class levels of comfort, but yet comfortable and supportive. My test vehicle also came equipped with the optional massage feature for both front seats. Like other Mercedes vehicles, basic seat adjustments use a pictogram-like set of switches on the door panel. More advanced adjustments, including lumbar and side support, are made through the infotainment center screen and controller knob.

Additional niceties include an optional fragrance diffuser, integrated into the ventilation system, which can fill the cabin with your preferred scent. While not unique to Mercedes-Benz, the molecules have even been engineered to not cling onto your clothes when you exit the vehicle. For me, it’s a preferred scent over the typical new-car smell.

The rear seat accommodations are not quite as generous as the front though. Compared with competitors such as the Audi A6 or BMW 5-series, they fall slightly short with expectations for the class. There is certainly sufficient knee and legroom, but I was surprised to find that the rear bench had a bit of a low and short cushion, which sacrifices some thigh support for those who are taller.

The E450’s shapely rear does open up to a sizable trunk and lowering the rear seatback opens up much more space for hauling cargo. The seat backs don’t fold completely flat so you’ll have to be careful when balancing some loads.

Other technical features

My 2020 E450 tester came standard with a large array of infotainment features, all incorporated into a wide high-resolution hooded display. It looks expensive and positively dominates the dashboard as the high-tech focal point of the cabin. The gauge cluster is also made up of another set of virtual dials housed in a second 12.3 inch screen, similar to the 12.3 inch COMAND infotainment display.

Alas, Mercedes’ fantastic MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Interface) that was launched in the A-class, will not make an appearance till the 2021 model year. For now, the Mercedes COMAND system can be controlled in three ways: a rotary knob combined with a touchpad on the centre console, voice commands, or by using Blackberry Bold-like mini-touchpads on the spokes of the steering wheel.

Simple audio functions were easy enough to adjust but entering a destination in the navigation system requires considerable effort, even for someone like myself who has been a past Mercedes-Benz owner and already familiar with the COMAND system.

Like Audi’s MMI system, BMW’s iDrive system has consistently improved over time and both are more intuitive. Fortunately, voice commands do work relatively well, and the COMAND system does have the ability to run Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A wide variety of advanced driver systems can help avoid crashes and assist the driver. Both the NHTSA and IIHS, America’s two leading vehicle safety agencies, give the E-class top marks when it comes to safety equipment.

My 2020 E450 was equipped with all of the latest active and passive safety features expected in this class. You’ll find collision mitigation automated emergency braking, lane keeping assist, self-parking, adaptive cruise control, as well as a semi-autonomous driving feature.

An excellent 360 degree surround view camera provides one of the clearest images I’ve seen on any vehicle in the market, with multiple selectable angles to avoid bumps, scrapes, or curb rash on the wheels.

Notably, the E450 is also among the first vehicles that include vehicle-to-vehicle communication capability, allowing for pre-warning of hazards on the road ahead. For now, since this benefit depends on other cars communicating with yours, it is of limited use. Nonetheless, it is a preview of what is yet to come especially as high speed 5G connectivity is now starting to roll out globally.

How does it drive?

With its well-shaped and supremely padded front seats, most drivers will find the E450 to be a wonderful road trip companion. Turn on the massage function to enjoy actively pulsating air bladders that can massage the back and shoulders.

The E450 is as unflappable, if not quite as eager in corners, as any sports sedan. Steering response is quick, and the car doesn’t lean much tackling curves. Even bumps in mid corner don’t faze it in the least. On-center feedback in the steering is minimal, but its effort is appropriate, and its linearity instills confidence. The rear-biased 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive system is completely transparent.

While the car feels solid and initially imparts an impression that it’s absorbent, the large wheels and low profile run flat tires do allow some rough surfaces to permeate into the cabin as hard but muted kicks.

The optional head-up display is optional makes it easy to read the speedometer, and navigation turn-by-turn information is also clearly indicated. The system lights up an icon when the self-steering system is activated, making it easy to tell when the computer has partially taken over.

The twin-turbo V6 engine is smooth, quiet, powerful and clearly the one to get over the smaller engine in the E350. 0-100 km/hr sprints are accomplished in around 4.8 seconds and the power delivery is strong throughout the rev range. For those wanting more power, an E53 AMG is available, with a 48-volt mid-hybrid system and even more horsepower.

The 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly in most circumstances and there are steering wheel mounted paddles for engine braking or for sportier roads. In Eco mode, the system automatically shifts into neutral when the throttle pedal isn’t depressed, activating a “gliding mode” for better fuel economy.

Final thoughts

The E450 continues on with the E-class’ tradition of feeling like a luxury car that has been engineered to reduce as much stress and fatigue as possible during the daily commute grind. 100 kilometre round trips are less of an issue than ever before thanks to the new Drive Pilot enhanced adaptive cruise control system.

While the infotainment system may not be the easiest to use for now, the upmarket interior, plus a competitive powertrain and dynamic character make the E450 well worth considering. Although in this iteration, my test vehicle was more clearly biased towards comfort, other E-classes can be configured to have a greater sporting edge.

If you’re looking for a civilised, capacious, and quietly efficient mid-sized luxury car, the E-class continues to be a good choice.

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[REVIEW] 2020 Acura MDX A-Spec



Costco runs, after school sports, family road trips. These are just some of the common activities that are shared amongst many who are toying with the idea of owning a 3 row crossovers. SUVs with 3rd row seats have continued to be one of the most popular types of vehicles on the road.

Honda/Acura was one of the companies who jumped onboard the trend relatively early on with their Honda Pilot/Acura MDX models. With the current generation originally launched in 2014 and facelifted in 2017, the MDX is now in its third generation.

As before, Acura has essentially taken the practicality and user-friendliness of the Pilot and added a more premium image, bolder styling, nicer cabin materials, and of course, a higher price tag.

For years, the upscale MDX has been a popular choice in Canadian suburbs so much so that it doesn’t draw too much attention on the street these days. It’s not difficult to see why as it is still rather conservatively styled, comes with Japanese brand reliability, and carries over Acura’s “fun to drive” reputation.

When it was redesigned for 2014, Acura introduced a lighter-weight body structure that was a whopping 700 lbs lighter than its predecessor. Impressive given that the new design also added new reinforcements to help the MDX score well in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) new small-offset front crash test.

What’s new for 2020

Not much changes for 2020 with the MDX carrying over its appearance, mechanical components, and available features. My test vehicle was the A-Spec model, which joined the regular MDX and MDX Sport Hybrid model in 2019.

Since the MDX is Acura’s bread and butter, leading the company’s sales for years on end, it made sense for Acura to add a sportier trimmed model much like its sedans. The revised “diamond pentagon” schnoz that replaced the odd-looking Acura “shield” grille has aged well and looks cleaner and less bizarre than the beak that it replaced.

As cool as the A-Spec may sound though, the trim level doesn’t go too far beyond unique exteriors colour, wheels, and badging. The MDX wears it well though, as the attractive package helps it to stand out from the rest of the line-up.

I particularly liked the A-spec-only Apex Blue Pearl colour which certainly adds some excitement compared to the drab white/silver/black colours that most vehicles seem to be painted in these days.

The half-inch-wider 20-inch grey aluminium wheels wearing lower profile 265/45R20 tires are rather fetching when matched with larger (real) exhaust tips, body-coloured rocker panels, and a unique A-spec front fascia. Body coloured rocker panels and gloss black and dark chrome exterior trim finishes off the package.

Inside, the seats are wrapped in either perforated red or black leather with black Alcantara inserts. I found the front seats a little bit short on thigh support but were otherwise very comfortable. My vehicle was fitted with the Alcantara trim with contrast stitching, which makes it pop out nicely.

Other interior goodies include A-Spec red gauges, A-Spec-badged door sills, black Alcantara door panels, and even a wonderfully perforated thicker-rimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters. There is also red ambient lighting to match and a red engine start/stop button.

My A-spec tester came particularly well equipped with a blind-spot monitoring system with rear-cross traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, as well as the whole Acura Watch suite of driver assist features. The MDX’s semi-autonomous driver aid systems, once cutting edge, are getting a bit long in the tooth on though, and cannot keep the vehicle in the lane in sharper corners.

Compared to the previous Acura MDX which I drove several years ago, the infotainment system has been updated to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.

Alas, what you cannot get on the A-Spec is the Entertainment package, with a rear-seat entertainment and comfort package. Nor can you get the Tech Plus package’s second-row heated captain’s chairs, surround-view camera, and active dampers. The A-spec makes do with the standard vibration-reducing amplitude reactive dampers.

Price-wise, the A-Spec is actually the mid-model in the range at an MSRP of $59,690 versus the Tech at $58,090 and the Elite at $66,190.

What is it like to live with?

The MDX’s 290 horsepower, 3.5-litre V6 with 267 lb-ft of torque offers more than sufficient power that most drivers will expect in a crossover SUV. With variable valve timing and lift (aka VTEC), direct injection, and cylinder deactivation, Acura has designed the V6 for efficiency.

The naturally aspirated V6 does need a bit of time to get to power, but its strong and the engine note is pleasant. There is even a bit of an unexpected snarl higher up in the rev range.

Is it as torquey as other SUVs on the market (particularly from the Germans) with their turbocharged engines? No, certainly not. You’ll have to go for the MDX Sport Hybrid and its additional torque and power for that.

Nonetheless, the regular MDX A-Spec can still tow 5,000 pounds when properly equipped, so the engine has been tuned with family hauling duties in mind.

The new 9-speed automatic transmission works well, for the most part, and typically starts off in second gear for smoother take-offs. Flooring the throttle does result in it stepping down to first gear for maximum trusts. There is also a selectable “dynamic” mode, which holds the gear changes till higher revs and is also more aggressive with the engine mapping.

The ride is satisfyingly firm but not harsh and the MDX’s accurate steering rack continues to be a strong point.

What exactly is SH-AWD?

Acura heavily advertises that the MDX comes with SH-AWD; the acronyms short for “Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive. Since the majority of SH-AWD Acuras are based on front-engine, front-wheel-drive platforms, up to 90 per cent of the power is initially directed to the front wheels.

Under hard acceleration, or upon slippage, sensors detect rearward weight transfer and can alter clutch engagement to direct up to 45 per cent of power to the rear wheels for better acceleration.

The way that SH-AWD gets its so-called “Super Handling” characteristics is by the rear differential being able to vector torque (aka the power balance) between the rear wheels.

Depending on the cornering forces, up to 70 per cent of the engine torque can be sent to the rear axle, of which 100 per cent can be directed to the rear outside wheel, helping to push the vehicle forward. This inward yaw moment gives the feeling of rotation through a corner, reducing the need for steering input and allowing power to be applied sooner.

The system noticeably works, and you can really feel it in more aggressive corners where it helps to minimize understeer or oversteer. It was certainly more evident on snowy surfaces, such the week where I had the MDX, and performed flawlessly in poor road conditions.

Just don’t expect the MDX’s system to act as dynamically aggressive as the Acura NSX sports car’s system, as it is still set-up for safe understeer if you go into a corner too hot. Entertainingly, a small display in between the speedometer and tachometer displays a live view of where the torque is going side-to-side.

Tell me more about the interior

It’s easy to see why the MDX has been a popular choice. The cabin is well-rounded and does most things well, such as keeping noise at bay. Better sealing and insulation along with thicker acoustical glass quiet the cabin nicely.

Although it has been around for a couple years now, Acura’s clever one-touch button function to fold the second row seats forward is still rather unmatched for ease-of-use and speed. There are actually two buttons, one on the back of the seat and another on the side, cleverly both are lit at night.

Press either one and the second row can be slid all the way forward on tracks that permit the fore-and-aft adjustment. The system is so easy to use that kids can climb aboard unassisted. When fully folded, the middle and rear seats form a flat cargo floor for maximum utility. There is some cargo area behind the third row, but it’s best saved for a few small backpacks or grocery bags.

The MDX’s third row is perfectly ok for children and smaller adults, even on longer trips. However, due to the limited legroom, average sized adults will likely start grousing after the 45 minute mark. A flat floor, both in the second and third row footwells, maximises as much foot room as possible. Kudos to the engineers for packaging things very efficiently.

Perhaps the areas in which the Acura shows its age the most is in certain interior plastic quality (such as the turn signal stalk and window switches), as well as the dual-screen infotainment system and gauge cluster (no virtual cockpit here).

Yes, I do concede that it is a bit unfair to compare the MDX’s interior with those of posh European competitors since the Acura does cost quite a bit less. Nonetheless, even the MDX’s domestic rivals have caught up.

The infotainment system splits duties by having a lower touchscreen for certain inputs, and a upper display unit that is primarily controlled by the physical knob on the dash. HVAC operation from the dash is intuitive enough, thanks to the physical buttons, but the multifunction knob and the complex menu structure is cumbersome to live with.

While you do get used to it in time, changing radio stations or turning on the heated seats can be a multi-step process.

It’s also a bit weird, and slow, to control Apple CarPlay with the knob as CarPlay seems to really be designed for touchscreens. Acura’s new trackpad infotainment system, on their latest RDX crossover, is significantly easier to use.

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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The 5th Anniversary Of Fvded In The Park Brings Top Talent



The Best Line-Up Yet For One of Western Canada’s Top Music Festival

Vancouver, B.C. Blueprint and Live Nation Canada present what is sure to be the best FVDED in the Park to date. Headlining the summer’s IT festival are:

Khalid | Zedd

Tory Lanez | French Montana | Louis The Child | RL Grime 6LACK | Lil Yachty | A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie | Kayzo | Lauv  Green Velvet | Lil Mosey | Ekali | JOYRYDE | Shoreline Mafia | Elohim SAINt JHN | Yung Gravy | Cedric Gervais | Elephante | Gashi | Felix Cartal Say My Name | Anders | 1788-L | Gammer | Channel Tres | Dr. Fresch Falcons | Yultron | bbno$ | GG Magree | Manila Grey Evan Giia | Baby Goth | Tails | SoDown | Horsepowar We Are Fury | Cozway | Prado

Hip-hop, R&B, rap, electronic, and pop are just a few of the genres that will draw crowds upward of 45,000 people to Holland Park, Surrey on July 5-6. Khalid, who just dropped his latest single Talk on February 7th, is sure to be a festival favourite this summer.

 The year’s line-up showcases upcoming Canadian artists, Ekali, Felix Cartal, Anders, bbno$, and Manila Grey. The diversity of musical genres, the scenic outdoor space and excitement that comes with attending FVDED in the Park has allowed for it to become one of the most successful festivals in Western Canada.


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2 Day Festival General Admission and VIP Passes starting at $189.99 + (s/c) & $299.99 + (s/c) and can be purchased at


FVDED in the Park is a two-day music festival held in Holland Park, Surrey. Going into its 5th and biggest year, it brings in some of the industry’s top talent. Put on by ThisisBlueprint and Live Nation Canada, FVDED in the Park is now one of Western Canada’s biggest musical festivals.


Based in Vancouver, BC, Blueprint is one of the largest lifestyle, concerts and events companies in Western Canada, dedicated to providing the best in entertainment. Always at the forefront of entertainment culture, Blueprint, founded by Alvaro Prol, Bill Kerasiotis, and Chris Kerasiotis offers an impressive scale of nightclubs, over 700 events annually, along with a boundless array of pubs and liquor stores.


Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE: LYV) is the world’s leading live entertainment company comprised of global market leaders: Ticketmaster, Live Nation Concerts, and Live Nation Media & Sponsorship. For additional information, visit

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7-Eleven Canada Celebrates 50 Years and 7-Eleven Day with Free Slurpee Drinks Across Canada



7-Eleven Canada is celebrating 7-Eleven Day and 50 years of serving Canada – and serving Slurpee in Canada – by giving away 885,000 free Slurpee drinks to fans across the country.

On Thursday, July 11th from 11am until midnight, all 590 7-Eleven Canada locations from BC to Ontario will each be giving away 1500 Slurpee drinks in exclusive 12 oz. commemorative cups. Stores across the country will be partying like it’s 1969, as passionate Slurpee fans flock to the stores to celebrate 50 years in Canada.

The first Slurpee was poured in Calgary, Alberta in 1969, beginning a nationwide fandom for the iconic beverage. 7-Eleven Day celebrates Slurpee fans across the country that continue to make the beverage a Canadian favorite. For the 20th consecutive year, Manitoba has been named the Slurpee Capital of the World, consuming the most Slurpee per capita than anywhere else in the world.

“We are honoured to be celebrating 50 years in Canada. The impact our stores have had on Canadian culture has been incredible and the iconic Slurpee has become part of the Canadian identity. We are grateful for the love and support of Canadian Slurpee fans and their loyalty that has made Manitoba the Slurpee Capital of the World. This is our opportunity to thank Canadians for 50 incredible years of memories, and to celebrate 50 more to come!” – Doug Rosencrans, VP and GM of 7-Eleven Canada.

This year’s exclusive Slurpee Cups are a composition of images of fans. Paying homage to the loyal Canadian fanbase, fan submissions are displayed on each cup along with an exclusive Snap lens that can be unlocked to get fans dancing through the decades! The gifts don’t stop with a free Slurpee drink, either. Customers can also scan their 7-Eleven Day cup to get 1000 free 7Rewards points. 7Rewards members can spend 1000 points to ‘pay’ for a medium Slurpee on their next visit.

To make 7-Eleven products even more accessible for Canadians, 7-Eleven Canada has announced their partnership with Uber Eats. This means Canadians can now get the new and innovative feature summer Slurpee flavors in Sour Patch Kids Orange and Fanta Lite Mango Passionfruit delivered right to their door!

A Canadian classic for 50 years, Slurpee celebrations have fans challenging each other to #DancetheSlurp. World renowned dancer Carlo Atienza developed choreography to a remix of the original “Dance the Slurp” record from the late 60s.

The viral dance has fans showing off their moves to help reach the goal of 25,000 uploads, at which time, 7-Eleven Canada will donate $50,000 to Food Banks Canada! $50,000 for serving Canada for 50 years.  For more information about 7-Eleven Day, visit

7-Eleven, Inc.

7-Eleven, Inc. is the premier name and largest chain in the convenience retailing industry. Based in Dallas, Texas, 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 66,000 7-Eleven stores in 17 countries, including 11,600 in North America. Find out more about 7-Eleven Canada at

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