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Holiday Shopping: Stay in the Black, and Out of Debt with These Tips

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The holiday shopping season has officially kicked off and if you’ve been to a mall lately, it certainly looks festive and enticing to buy the latest toy, fashion trend or gadget for those on your list. After the sales are over and the pretty wrapping paper sits in the recycling bin, comes the big bills.

Debt isn’t the best way to kick off the new year, so we’ve so we’ve partnered with Sybil Verch from The Wealthy Life to give you some tips on curbing holiday spending so 2017 can start on a financially sound note.

The number one question: How do people curb spending during the holidays?

Sybil: When shopping, take the emotions out of the decision-making. This can be easier said than done as our senses are overwhelmed at the malls with the energy of other shoppers, big sales by the retailers and unique items that look like a great purchase at the time. To stay focused and protect your wallet, make a list of who you want to buy for, and set a limit on the amount you want to spend so you can find the right gift within your budget. Often we go shopping without a clear set of intentions or a plan and then get easily swayed into spending more than we planned. Remember that it’s the thought that counts, not how much you spent. By having your shopping list handy at all times, you’ll less likely be enticed to buy things you don’t need.

Sybil adds that you should review your list and maybe consider shortening it if possible.

Sybil: Do you really need to buy something for everyone on your list? Would a thoughtful card suffice? Consider doing a name draw with friends and family so you only buy for one person rather than for the entire group. In recent years, I’ve seen groups of friends donate time &/or money to charity rather than buying gifts for each other. This is a rewarding experience that reduces stress and is good for a budget.

The dreaded credit bill is what we’re afraid of so credit vs debit – what’s better?

Sybil: For the majority of people, debit is better. Using debit prevents people from spending more than they have (unless they have an overdraft line of credit linked to their debit card, but then that really is credit too).

For those people who are extremely disciplined and pay off their credit card in full each month, using credit is better as it allows you to earn points or other perks associated with your credit card. But use caution, even the most disciplined people tend to overspend during the holidays as it’s way too easy to get swept up in the hype of it all.

Whether using a credit or debit card, set a budget and stick to it. Only spend what you can afford.

There are still gifts that we need to buy so how do we purchase gifts and still stick to a budget?

Sybil: Keep track of what you’ve spent to ensure you don’t go over your holiday budget. There are many great gift ideas that don’t break the bank. Finding something special and personal for those on your gift list may require some creativity and time, but doesn’t need to cost you much.

And finally, what is the number one tip for spending this holiday season?

Sybil: Make a shopping list, set a budget and stick to it. Don’t give in to temptation and end up buying more than you need.

Keeping these points in mind and sticking to a budget for the next holiday shopping trip might help keep the panic of bills out of the way and kick 2017 off with a bang. Happy sound shopping!

About Sybil Verch: Sybil is a financial guru with Raymond James and the host of The Wealthy Life, which is in its second season. Sybil dishes advice on a variety of financial questions from guests as well as expert advice. The show airs on CHEK Television in Victoria and the Lower Mainland. Check out all the episodes on YouTube.

For more information about The Wealthy Life, visit http://www.thewealthylife.com/.

Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.

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Automobiles

[REVIEW] 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63s coupe

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My favourite marketer, Seth Godin has always purported the notion of marketing to the outliers. To paraphrase his saying, average companies make things for average people.

The key to success is appealing to appeal to the edges of the bell curve, whether it’s very cheap or very expensive, to get a minimum viable audience that will absolutely love your products.


Case in point is my test vehicle for this review, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63s coupe.

What is it?

As Porsche has very successfully proven with its line-up of 911 sport cars, you can convince customers to pay for more while giving less “stuff”.

From a pure financial or practical standpoint, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63s coupe might not make a whole of sense. For about $2,000 more money, you get less cargo space, less rear passenger headroom, and less metal compared to its traditionally shaped SUV stablemate, the Mercedes-AMG GLE63s SUV.


The GLE coupe has about 2.55 inches less rear headroom and 779 versus 954 litres of cargo space with the second row seats up.

What your extra dineros buy with the GLE63s coupe versus SUV though, is less of a soccer mom or dad image and more of a crossover vehicle with a sporty character that will be different than that of your neighbours. For better or worse, it’s the classic case of keeping up with the Jones.


Like the GLE63s SUV, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 coupe comes in two flavours. Powerful, and even more powerful. Both trims are powered by Mercedes-AMG’s latest evolution of their twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, paired up with a 48-volt high powered electrical system and a “EQ Boost” mild-hybrid starter-alternator system integrated between the engine and the nine-speed AMG Speedshift auto transmission.


To distinguish the GLE63s from its non-AMG brethren, Mercedes-AMG has updated the exterior with what they say is “the embodiment of hallmark AMG Driving Performance”.

What this marketing speak really means is that there is an AMG-specific Panamerica grille, a jet-wing designed front bumper, prominent power domes on the hood, as well as unique side skirts, mirror housings, and flared wheel arches.


The rear bumper features an AMG-specific rear apron, a diffuser, and a chrome trim strip to further accentuate the GLE63s coupe’s width. The twin AMG tailpipe elements round out the package.

My vehicle was also fitted with the AMG Night package, where the front splitter and front apron trim, inserts in the side skirts, mirror caps, and window frames were finished in black. In addition, the twin tailpipe trim elements were also finished in high-gloss black.


Powerrahhh

In “standard” non-“S” fair, the GLE63 coupe already outputs 571 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. The addition of the “S” bumps this up to a whopping 603 horsepower and a staggering 627 lb-ft of torque between 2,500 to 4,500 rpms. The two twin-scroll turbochargers are arranged between the cylinder banks in a “hot inside V” design to increase responsiveness versus an exterior turbocharger configuration.


The EQ Boost starter-alternator setup combines a starter motor and an alternator in a single, powerful compact electric motor producing an additional output of 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The 48-volt on-board electrical system serves as both an alternator and is also responsible for the hybrid functions.

In addition to the temporary power boost, the system works absolutely seamlessly in allowing for virtually imperceptible restarting of the engine when the start/stop function is active.


Although AMG owners might not prioritize fuel efficiently, Mercedes-AMG nonetheless equipped with the GLE63s coupe with a cylinder deactivation system. When set to “comfort” drive mode, the system functions between 1,000 to 3,250 rpms.

A display in the instrument cluster shows when the system is in four-cylinder mode. Unlike other systems on the market where it’s immediately apparent when four cylinders have been shut down, the GLE’s is almost completely transparent.


Interior accoutrements

If you’ve been in recent Mercedes-AMG models, you’ll feel right at home in the GLE63s coupe. Similar to the SUV version of the GLE, you’ll find comfortable thickly bolstered heated, ventilated AMG front sports seats covered in nappa leather and alcantara.

These seats can even be optioned out with active dynamic side bolsters to hold you better during hard cornering maneuvers.

Count me in as a big fan of the fat alcantara/leather AMG three-spoke heated steering wheel with satin-finished aluminum paddles and buttons. I also love the configurable AMG steering wheel buttons that allow for the driving dynamics to be adjusted on the go with a twist of the dial or a press of either one of the two buttons.

The centre console houses an AMG-specific control unit with additional switches that are used to regulate the 3-stage ESP stability control system, the manual transmission mode, the Adaptive Damping System, the AMG Performance exhaust system, and the GLE63s coupe’s air suspension ride height level.

Also benefitting from the 48-volt electrical system is the AMG Active Ride Control roll stabilization system. This system responds faster than the usual hydraulic-based system, adapting to the conditions within milliseconds.

The system uses two independently operating, electromechanical actuators at the front and rear axles, each with their own integrated planetary gear. This not only reduces body roll when cornering, but also allows for more precise tuning of the cornering and load cycle properties.

The GLE63s’ MBUX infotainment system has a few AMG-exclusive bits and bobs including a “Supersport” view that provides extensive AMG-specific information such as upshift prompts in manual mode as well as a few new visualizations.

I was most impressed with the animated presentations of the driving assistance programs, particularly the gradient/incline displays, and differential lock graphics when the Trail and Sand modes are activated.

How does it drive?

In a nutshell, the GLE63s coupe is blisteringly quick, engaging, and certainly has all the sounds, character, and excitement expected from a full fat AMG vehicle. There’s no lack of theatre when you want it, if you want it.

And yet in comfort mode with the exhaust system toned down, you can easily carry on a conference call thanks to the excellent noise cancellation algorithm for phone calls integrated into the MBUX Infotainment / Burmester sound system.

In comfort mode, the GLE upshifts early and the vehicle is set-up for full comfort and economical motoring.

On the other side of the spectrum is Sport+ mode, where the computer even double-declutches the gearbox on downshifts and targets torque interventions on upshifts with cylinder deactivation for optimized shift times. The idle speed is raised for faster pulling away and there is an even more dynamic setup for the suspension, steering and powertrain.

In the unlikely event that you wish to take your GLE63s coupe to the track, Mercedes-AMG’s engineers have you covered with a dedicated “Race” mode for dynamic driving on closed circuits. In this drive program, efficiency is completely thrown out the window and all of the parameters are configured for max performance.

While there are too many other technical systems to cover in this review, the 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system deserves special mention. This system is different from the non-AMG GLE coupes in that it has an electronically controlled locking rear differential as standard equipment and is integrated into the multi-mode stability control system.

Final thoughts

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63s coupe combines two classes of vehicles, each with its own distinctive style, to make a new model.

The sporty nature of the coupe dominates the vehicle’s silhouette, imbued with the traditional box shape of an SUV. With its flowing side contour, elongated and low greenhouse, and the striking Panamericana AMG grille, the GLE coupe shares many styling features typical of sport Mercedes-Benz coupes.

So now comes the $150,000+ question. How does it compare with its main rival, the 2021 BMW X6M coupe?

Surprisingly, the Mercedes is somehow snortier, more raw, more visceral than its rival from BMW. Although the X6M’s driving position is arguably better, mainly thanks to a lower dash, as far as sights, sounds, feel, and quality, the Mercedes has the slight edge over its rival from Bavaria.

It’s brawnier than the X6M, if that’s what you’re looking for. But as far as finesse, the BMW is still a more entertaining vehicle to drive at speed.

Ultimately, while nobody “needs” a two-ton SUV coupe that can challenge some supercars in a straight line. But if you’re shopping in this upper end of the market, which vehicle you choose will likely come down to some minute preferences to bring maximum smiles per kilometre driven.

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Automobiles

[REVIEW] 2021 Dodge Durango Citadel

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As far as SUVs are concerned, the Dodge Durango has been one of the O.G.s, as the kids would put it today.

Now in its third generation, the Durango has stuck to its formula of being a mid-sized three-row V6 or V8 SUV since it was introduced by Dodge for the 1998 model year.

Despite being a bit long in the tooth, the Durango still exemplifies the bold muscular styling of the Dodge brand, wrapped in a capable and functional package.

Sharing the same platform as the previous generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango is longer in order to accommodate a reasonable sized third row seat.

What’s new on the outside for 2021?

Although the Durango has been in its current generation for almost a decade, it has received multiple refreshes and upgrades inside and out to help it to remain competitive.

For 2021, Dodge has nipped and tucked the Durango’s look with new LED headlamps, a handsome new upgraded front grille, a revised rear spoiler, and a new front bumper. These small exterior changes have succeeded in keeping the Durango looking surprisingly current, even when compared to the other three-row SUVs on the marketplace.

Dodge has been careful in retaining the machismo / muscle-ute styling in order to help distinguish the vehicle from the “softer” crossovers in the marketplace.

Yet, the Durango further stands out in this comfortable class of vehicles due to its available V8 engine, making it perhaps the best choice in class if you want to pack everyone and everything into a mid-sized SUV while still being able to tow a mid-to-large boat or trailer.

Cargo room is generous sand the Durango tows 1,000-2,000 pounds more than competitors, depending on how you spec it out.

What’s new on the inside?

Inside, the 2021 model year changes are more immediately pronounced with a dashboard that is slightly angled towards the driver for more usability, as well a significant update to the UConnect infotainment system. There new controls include dedicated heated and cooled seat buttons and a more intuitive gear selector.

My top-of-the-range Citadel-spec luxury-orientated Hemi Durango was equipped with this new 10.1-inch infotainment system running the latest version of the Uconnect interface. This system is one of the best, with intuitive menus and a nice mix of hard and soft button controls.

UConnect systems with this larger display also include a long-awaited wireless smartphone charging pad, bringing the Durango up to snuff with its competitors.

Infotainment-tech aside, the Durango is still spacious, quiet and comfortable, impressively blending workhorse utility with a lot of creature comforts.

The interior is well-finished with room for up to seven, and cargo space is generous. Drivers sit high in big, supportive front seats, and the second row can be ordered with individual captain’s chairs or a three-position bench. My test vehicle was equipped with the former.

Either way, outboard passengers have a roomy and comfortable seat, but the bench’s cushion is a bit low, presumably to accommodate the fold and tumble mechanism.

The Durango is wide enough to comfortably fit a third person in the center rearmost bench seat, but the low cushion lacks thigh support. While three adults can fit in the third row, it’s not the place for a long trips and is best suited for smaller adults or children.

The Durango gives you lots of options for carrying people and cargo. Most of the time, you’ll likely have the 50/50-split third-row seatbacks folded flat into the floor. While that gives you a large cargo floor, it gets just a bit narrow near the third-row seat armrests.

If you need to haul lots of people and have all seats in use, there’s still room for a large suitcase and two duffel bags behind the third-row seat when it’s up

How does it drive?

The 2021 Durango’s ride is composed and comfortable despite the large 20-inch wheels on my Citadel model. The overall feeling is one of sophistication and the composure, though not sportiness. The ride is supple enough with some underlying firmness particularly at low speed. Handling is surprisingly responsive for a vehicle this big.

While most buyers will be satisfied with the 295 horsepower 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine, my Citadel Durango was equipped with the 360 horsepower 5.7-litre Hemi V8. Equipped with this engine and all-wheel-drive, the Durango Hemi can tow up to 7,200 pounds. SRT V8 Durangos offer even more, with a whopping 8,700 pound towing capacity.

A slick eight-speed automatic helps make for smooth and prompt power delivery. Acceleration is smooth and effortless with both the engine and transmission well matched together. There is a nice V8 exhaust burble, but the Durango Citadel is clearly tuned for comfort versus sportiness.

The Hemi V8 also includes a cylinder-deactivation system that turns off half of the cylinders when cruising on light throttle. While not new, the system has been refined over the years and is almost seamless with only a small indicator indicating when it is in 4-cylinder mode.

As expected for this class, Dodge fits the Durango Citadel with the latest in active safety systems. These include a superb active cruise control and forward-collision monitoring system. A semi-autonomous steering system is not available, perhaps a sign of the age of the vehicle’s platform.

Final thoughts

The 2021 upgrades to the Durango make a competent SUV even better than before. Luxurious, refined, functional, the Durango Citadel rates near the top of its category and if you need a vehicle that can tow and yet have room and cargo hauling space for up to seven.

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Politics

Top 5 Reasons Why Psychologists Should Be Covered Under MSP.

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Recently, Premier John Horgan expressed that he would be willing to consider including psychologists under our BC medical services plan coverage. This would mean that those seeking mental health supports would have an easier time accessing those services, regardless of their extended health benefits or ability to pay.

COVID-19 has put British Columbians under enormous stress and now anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts are at an all-time high. The Premier’s willingness to consider including psychologists under MSP is an important step towards treating mental health like any other medical issue. Here’s why it matters:

1. It takes a team

Successful medical treatment requires a team of professionals working together including nurses, physicians, pharmacists and specialist healthcare providers. The same is true for successful mental and behavioral health. Now is the time to ensure that British Columbians have all qualified professionals available to be a part of their healthcare team—including psychologists. This will not only improve our overarching standard of health care, but it will improve lives for many individuals as well.

2. Family doctors need support

By integrating psychologists into MSP (or the APP) we can get care for people sooner, treating matters as they arise and not waiting until people are in crisis. Not only is this better for patients but it also benefits family doctors, who are currently bearing the burden of providing the vast majority of mental health and behavioural health services in this province. By being able to refer patients to psychologists, general practitioners will have more hours available, reducing waitlists.

3. Therapy is medicine too

While therapy has long taken a backseat in the medical field it is finally gaining the respect and recognition it deserves. People’s mental health is equally as important as their physical health to their overall well-being. Psychologists are an important part of BC’s mental health care system and the work they do should be covered for those that require their medical expertise in our province. 

4. Not having coverage costs taxpayers money

Investing in people’s mental health before there’s a crisis saves money in the long run. When people have a mental health event, they are more likely to harm themselves or others which puts a much greater strain on our MSP budget than the initial investment would be to protect their mental health. We see this extra money spent on emergency room visits, hospitalizations, prescription medicines and increased sick leave, much of which could be avoided with psychologist coverage.

5. It creates a healthier community

Having access to more psychological services under MSP is a great benefit for everyone living in British Columbia. People who are mentally well have more capacity to contribute to creating safer, happier communities. Increased access to mental health services will result in much-improved quality of life for all British Columbians. 

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Automobiles

[REVIEW] 2020 Cadillac XT5 Sport

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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

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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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