William Clay Ford died yesterday at the age of 88 from pneumonia. He was the company founder, Henry Ford’s last surviving grandson. He was born on March 14th 1925, and became a part of the automakers company at an early age. At just 23-years-old, William Clay Ford was appointed to Ford’s board of directors and started working for the company in 1949 after he achieved a degree from Yale University.
Even though I personally only review one car per week, I typically try to get some seat time behind every single one of the test cars we have kicking around the DoubleClutch.ca garage. There are some that surprise me and others that come in exactly where I expected them to. This week, I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, and it blew my expectations right out of the water.
Earlier this winter, I actually had the chance to briefly drive this very Grand Cherokee. At the time, it had under 500km on it and hadn’t been broken in yet. I didn’t really have an opinion on it one way or another, so my views coming out of this road test were particularly shocking. Despite contrary belief, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel does not use a Mercedes-Benz or Chrysler-made motor. Under the hood is a Fiat-sourced 3.0L V6 diesel. Coming out of it are some typical diesel-esque numbers – 240 horsepower and 420 lb/ft of torque. I’ve spent quite of bit of time with diesel vehicles this winter, so I have a pretty good idea of what I was looking for out of it.
The Jeep accelerates with confidence, but its weight is very obvious and it does nothing to hide it. It feels heavy and therefore planted to the ground at any speed. Peak torque kicks in early and propels the behemoth to highway speeds without any struggle whatsoever. I will say though that the diesel motor in the Grand Cherokee doesn’t feel nearly as refined as the Mercedes-Benz or BMW units. There is a good amount of diesel clatter – whether you’re inside or outside, there’s no mistaking this for a diesel. In comparison, the Volkswagen Touareg TDI as well as the Mercedes-Benz ML350 Bluetec are significantly quieter.
Where the Grand Cherokee’s powertrain does really excel is the transmission. The 8-speed ZF automatic is absolutely lovely. In normal “D” mode with the “Eco” setting enabled, the gearbox does everything in its power to ensure you’re in the highest gear possible to maximize efficiency. The short gearing does mean that by the time 30 km/h is achieved, the Jeep is in fifth gear. If you need passing power, just give the throttle a friendly tap and the truck will downshift quickly to get you going without any fuss. In “Sport” mode, the EcoDiesel comes alive and holds gears longer.
I wholeheartedly encourage the availability of a diesel option in more mainstream SUVs. Jeep has decided that the Grand Cherokee’s diesel powertrain option is only available on the Overland and Summit trim levels, the top two. The engine is an option costing a few dollars shy of $5,000. This engine is great, and will undoubtedly sell well, but I would love to see this motor offered on the lesser Laredo/Limited trim levels. My tester came equipped with nearly everything offered on the Grand Cherokee, minus the rear DVD entertainment system. The as-tested price is a steep $69,955. I know that sounds silly amounts of expensive, but bear with me – every single part of the Grand Cherokee looks and feels premium. One cool toy I really did enjoy was the adjustable air suspension. The truck automatically lowers when parked, and has a few height settings including off-road modes to have the perfect ground clearance for any situation.
For just shy of seventy large, the Grand Cherokee Summit EcoDiesel comes with legitimately every toy you might expect. Heated/ventilated seats and heated steering wheel? Check. Uconnect with Garmin navigation? Check. Intelligent key system with factory remote starter? Check. 19-speaker sound system with a subwoofer that bumps seriously loud? Check and check! Other noteworthy toys include radar-guided cruise control, ParkSense with a reverse camera, and Forward Collision Warning. All of the toys work very well and everything is nicely integrated. Much like every other model from the Chrysler family with this Uconnect system, I seriously appreciate the use of physical buttons for the most commonly used functions. I would prefer to have physical buttons for the heated seats, but they can be programmed to automatically turn on with vehicle ignition.
My observed fuel economy on the EcoDiesel was a bit better than I had predicted. Jeep says it’s supposed to get as low as 7.0L/100km on the highway. Naturally I didn’t expect to get anywhere close to that considering the bitter cold temperatures, but I couldn’t get the Grand Cherokee to do any worse than 9.8L/100km. When at highway speeds, the behemoth actually hunkers down into “Aero” mode to reduce drag. I did test the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel on the highway, and over an extended period, it returned a particularly surprising 8.1L/100km. The huge fuel tank does make for particularly pricey fill-ups, but the overall consumption is very, very good. We tested an Overland equipped with the 5.7L V8 last year, and couldn’t do much better than 12.9L/100km on the highway.
I did have a couple little gripes with the interior. For one, the shifter isn’t really that intuitive. When left alone, the transmission works well, and the paddle shifters are pretty responsive. However, the shifter alone is a bit tough to get used to. It resembles the one in the Audi A8, but I found myself going into “Park” when aiming for “Reverse” a couple times. I also accidentally engaged “Neutral” when aiming for “Reverse” once or twice. Also, I’m not exactly on board with the placement of the button to close the power trunk lid. It’s located on the inside of the trunk itself, so you’re required to push it, then quickly back away to avoid being smacked by the trunk – not exactly as convenient as it could have been. On a positive note, the remote starter works flawlessly – I particularly liked how it’s pre-programmed to turn on the heated seats and steering wheel so you’re a tiny bit warmer as you get into the car – a very classy touch.
The week I spent with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel left me with an interesting conundrum. As a truly capable, rugged, handsome and comfortable SUV that’s proficient in virtually any task you might throw at it, this thing is great. On the other hand, vehicles like the Volkswagen Touareg TDI Execline with the R-Line package can be had for a few thousand dollars less than the Jeep. The BMW X5 is right in line with the Jeep’s pricing too. Where the Jeep does excel is features and luxury. Though there are competitors from luxury marques that are priced similarly, I don’t think any of them feel quite as upscale as this entry that’s “Imported from Detroit”.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Gallery
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Even though I personally only review one car per week, I typically try to get some seat time behind every single one of the test cars we have kicking around the DoubleClutch.ca garage.
BMW has unveiled their all-new X4 online instead of the Geneva Motor Show – where it was originally supposed to be revealed but now will debut at the New York Auto Show. BMW is calling it a Sports Activity Coupe, and like the X5 and X6, the X4 will be a sportier model.
It will be offered in two trims for the North American market – the X4 xDrive28i and the X4 xDrive35i. The powertrain options…
Audi is showing off their new concept TT that is booming with more power. The 2015 TT with the best performance numbers is the TTS with 310 horsepower. But the show car, named the TT Quattro Sport uses a high-output version of VW’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that is good for 420 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. The power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch…
A few weeks ago, I tested BMW’s latest diesel entry to the Canadian market, the 2014 328d xDrive. The fuel economy was great, but I couldn’t help but be even more excited for what was to come. Fast forward a couple weeks and I arrived at BMW headquarters to pick up this 2014 BMW 535d xDrive tester. This is also the first 5-series that I have spent an extended period with, and it was well overdue. My Alpine White test car was glaring at me from the parking bay as I took care of the paperwork, and I couldn’t help but think of it as love at first sight.
The 535d shares the same diesel powertrain as the X5 xDrive35d and the now-defunct 335d. The single-turbocharged 3.0L inline-six delivers 255 peak horsepower and 413 lb/ft of torque. Peak horsepower is achieved at 4,000 rpm, and peak torque is anywhere between 1,500 to 3,000 rpm. This thing pulls like a freight train, and feels no slower than its 535i sibling. Not a drop of BMW’s excellent on-road behaviour is compromised; the 535d handles beautifully both on pavement and in snow. The steering is nice and heavy, though some drivers who aren’t as passionate about a purist driving experience as I am might find it a bit tedious at parking lot speeds. ZF’s 8-speed automatic is just as silky and close to perfection as it is in other applications – this is easily my favourite automatic transmission available today.
Due to our Canadian climate, it has become particularly tough to find a new BMW without the xDrive all-wheel-drive system as standard equipment. The 5-series is no different. Theoretically, you can still buy a rear-drive model, but it would need to be special ordered from the factory unless you find a dealer who has them in stock. I understand their position as most people spending this kind of dough on a non-sports car want the added security of all-wheel-drive. The competition from Audi and Mercedes-Benz (A6 and E-Class, respectively) also essentially force all-wheel-drive on you. That being said, the xDrive system is great. I never found myself looking for grip in icy or snowy conditions; the DTC and stability control systems worked well to keep the car in a straight line. I do appreciate how BMW gives you the option to turn all systems off if you so desire.
What most people care about when it comes to diesels is the fuel mileage. The 328d xDrive got impeccable fuel mileage both in the city and on the highway. This larger, significantly more powerful car got nowhere near the 4.9L/100km number I saw on its smaller sibling. I had expected my best economy numbers to be on a long highway haul to New York state, but what particularly surprised me is how efficient the car actually is in the city. Going with the flow of traffic with the car in “Eco-Pro” mode without using cruise control, I averaged 6.3L/100km, and saw as low as 5.6L/100km. This is through hilly roads with temperatures pushing the -15 degrees Celsius mark – not shabby at all. In the city factoring in rush hour as well as a significant period where I was stuck in line to cross the Canada-US border in Niagara Falls, the car still didn’t do any worse than 8.0L/100km. The 70L fuel tank means particularly long distances between having to refuel, too.
Starting in the $60,000 range, my 5-series tester was loaded to the gills. The as-tested sticker on this car was $81,100. Literally everything was on board in this tester, and it was a thoroughly luxurious experience. Things like iDrive with navigation, Harman/Kardon sound (a system I really did like a lot), heated front and rear seats, and a sunroof are on board. I learned just how comfortable BMW’s optional Comfort Seats (with the leather dyed a truly gorgeous tone of brown) are on the road trip I took with the 535d. My back can get fussy and require me to pull over every hour or two, but these seats seemed to soothe it to a point where I never wanted to get out of the car. They’re simply sublime. Rear seat passengers get treated to not only heated seats, but side window shades as well as a rear window shade for maximum privacy. The touchpad on the iDrive system in the 5-series now allows you to “write” letters when entering destinations or searching for music on connected devices – definitely a neat “touch”.
There are a few points I noticed with the 5-series that made me especially appreciate the precision that went into the development of the car. For instance, the sunroof shade is electric, a first I’ve noticed for a non-panoramic roof. It allows the shade to fully retract without having to leave enough room for a grab handle to close the shade – another very nice touch. The rear quarter windows have their own individual shades too, which impressed me even more.
I had to work a bit hard to find flaws with the 535d, but alas, nothing is perfect. There was a bit of a rattle coming from what appeared to be the rear parcel shelf at idle. I cannot emphasize enough that there is minimal diesel clatter with the car, but this vibration at idle is particularly annoying to rear-seat passengers. I found that when the car was snow covered (my drive back from Rochester, NY consisted of a bit of a snowstorm), the cameras and sensors outside the car got dirty and caused a bunch of the electronic systems (Forward Collision Warning, Surround View cameras) to malfunction. Manually wiping them down made everything functional again, but apparently the Adaptive Cruise Control system wouldn’t work when any of the driving assistants were malfunctioning.
Love at first sight is a perfectly accurate way to describe my relationship with the 2014 BMW 535d. The most important thing is that it’s quiet! Other than the unique driving characteristics (tons of torque, sounds a bit different than a conventional gas-powered car) there’s no identifying it as a diesel. I measured a particularly-quiet 71 decibels at wide-open throttle, and that is a seriously good sound. Most luxury automakers in this class focus on the luxury – what sets the 5-series apart is that it still holds true to the brand heritage around an involving driving experience, and that’s particularly important to me as a consumer. If I were in the market for a midsize luxury sedan, BMW would definitely be getting my money; the 2014 BMW 535d is pretty much my perfect vehicle for the daily grind.
2014 BMW 535d xDrive Gallery
2014 BMW 535d xDrive A few weeks ago, I tested BMW’s latest diesel entry to the Canadian market, the 2014 328d xDrive…
Honda has unveiled the latest Civic Type R Concept at the Geneva Motor Show. Official details such as pricing are being kept under lock and key, but Honda has given us a small glimpse of what to expect.
Previous to this concept, the last Civic Type R stopped production in 2010. Mainly sold in Europe and Asia, the Type R has been around since 1997. It has gone through many changes…
The new Lamborghini Huracan has had quite the buzz recently and made its official debut at the Geneva Motor Show. The new coupe holds a beast under the hood with a new naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10, good for 610 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque.
Lamborghini estimates that the Huracan can jump, from a stop to 100 kilometres per hour in just 3.2 seconds. The power is sent to all…
Granada, Spain – Just like BMW, Audi and Porsche, Mercedes-Benz is rounding out their SUV fleet with a smaller option for its customers. As most of you know after its unveiling at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show – it’s the GLA-Class. Mercedes is hoping to appeal to new consumers who couldn’t afford a luxury SUV in the past, as well as creative a smaller alternative for their existing clientele. A select few Canadian journalists were sent out for its long-lead launch as the GLA-Class is not hitting the showroom until September. Therefore, we won’t have all the details such as price, options, etc. but we can at least tell you about the vehicle.
There will be two types of GLAs coming to Canada: the main focus being the 250 4MATIC (Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive version) and the 45 AMG. Europe will receive plenty of other options including a diesel, as well as front-wheel-drive being standard in the 250, but as of now, it’s just nice to see it coming to the great white north.
The GLA 250 takes on many characteristics of the CLA-Class, as well as the A-Class that’s available in other regions. One thing that stays consistent with those cars is the same 2.0-litre turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that churns out 211 horsepower and 258 lb/ft of torque. That engine is mated to Mercedes’ seven-speed double clutch transmission.
On the other side of the spectrum, the GLA 45 AMG is the option when you’re looking for something truly frisky. It uses the AMG 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharger that’s as powerful as anything in its class with 360 horsepower and 311 lb/ft. of torque. We won’t be focusing on this one for the review, but I can tell you that the standout feature in it is the optional automatically controlled exhaust flap that looks, performs and sounds similar to a race car. Just to provide you a glimpse of its power – the 45 AMG can go from 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds compared to the 7.1 seconds the 250 can achieve.
Going back to the GLA250, at first glimpse it doesn’t appear to be an SUV and if you thought that, you wouldn’t be so wrong. It actually resembles a hatch with its height only elevating 58.8-inches off the ground and its length only at 173.9-inches. If you think that sounds crazy for an SUV – it’s only reactionary to the demand of consumers who are after smaller and more fuel efficient transports as is common in Quebec and Europe.
What might just separate the GLA from the rest of its competitors, mainly the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3, is its style. It stands short, but strong and curvaceous similar to a physically-fit short athlete– think tennis player Dominika Cibulkova (now you will want to look her up). Getting back on track, the GLA’s jewel-like headlights immediately provide a sense of modernized style. Sharp-edged lines run through its body giving it a sporty look that’s completed with its striking rear spoiler.
Even though the GLA 250 will be at an entry-level price, the interior doesn’t reflect that in the slightest. The high-grade wooden materials with matte satin finish that filled the dash of our tester are optional, but well worth the extra coin. If styling isn’t a priority – you’re still treated to a soft-black leather dash that comes standard.
The rear is where the more hatch-like thoughts become a bit of reality. There’s a lack of rear legroom that could be desperately used for some taller individuals. If the driver or passenger sits comfortably back – I wish those back seat drivers the best of luck. With that being said, the GLA-Class is not for large families – Mercedes is hoping to attract smaller families or those individuals who are looking for a little bit more room. If the size of your vehicle is of most importance – stop reading now and move on to a review about the GLK, GL, or ML.
For those who have stayed reading, you will be happy to know that technology assistance comes standard including Attention Assist and a radar-based Collision Prevention Assist with adaptive brake assist. If you want to add some more safe technological packages, Mercedes has come up with their own form of Collision Prevention Assist Plus that can autonomously brake, even at speeds up to 200 km/h. If the vehicle you’re about to hit is stationary – the autonomous braking kicks in at speeds up to 30 km/h. Other technology options include Active Park Assist and Lane Tracking package that includes Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist.
Our drive for the GLA-Class had us start in Malaga, Spain and head to the Sierra Nevada in Granada. It’s a route filled with thin curvy roads and picturesque mountains helping you understand why Mercedes sent us there in the first place. The GLA 250 performed admirably through those windy roads mainly due to its exceptional handling. The electric steering was efficient and quick, but it was hard to tell how much of a difference it created. It has a very lightweight feel to it and that’s not without reason – it is 25 per cent lighter than any of its competitors, achieving class-leading aerodynamics with a coefficient drag of 0.29. Fuel economy numbers haven’t been confirmed yet, but its lighter load will most likely help it achieve a fuel economy rating of around 7.1L/100 km.
One negative that seemed to creep up throughout the drive was the initial acceleration lag. This was even more evidenced when switching from reverse to drive (and if you’re thinking I took a wrong turn – you would be right, but it was mostly noticed when setting-up for pictures). Off-roading capabilities are usually a feature that helps sell cars, but are rarely used. This will most likely be the case for 95 per cent of GLA customers, but lucky for us, we were able to still test it out through a course set-up by Mercedes. Granada wasn’t too tough of a locale to set-up a make-shift off-road course – all you needed to do was look out the window.
In order to get it ready for your off-road adventures, simply find the special off-road driving mode on the LCD screen situated on its own at the centre of the dash. This will change the shifting points and adjusts throttle based on how and where you’re driving. If you need to go down a steep hill, just press the descent button below the radio knobs and adjust your speed setting by pushing down on the lower lever to the right of the steering wheel and you’re set. The GLA will take over acceleration and braking – all you will need to do is turn the wheel accordingly.
I can talk all I want about the car, but price will be the most important factor that will motivate consumers to head to Mercedes-Benz. As mentioned previously, the numbers weren’t released yet for Canada, but from what I picked up in Spain, we’re looking most likely at a starting MSRP below $40K. As for the 45 AMG – it should fall somewhere in between $52-56,000. Canada’s prices are expected to be released in the summer time with an on-sale date to be at the start of the fall season in September.
2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic Gallery
First Drive: 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic Granada, Spain – Just like BMW, Audi and Porsche, Mercedes-Benz is rounding out their SUV fleet with a smaller option for its customers.
The craze with so-called “four-door coupes” has not been around forever. The whole idea behind such a term doesn’t really make sense (and still doesn’t), but when people got to see what it meant in practice, some eyebrows were raised. It is generally accepted that the Mercedes-Benz CLS brought the style into the recent mainstream. What defined it is: four-doors, and a fast roofline that suggested a coupe-like silhouette. For the first few years, the design was fresh and quite successful. Practicality took a hit with the loss of rear headroom, but if you’re riding in style – who cares?
The original Volkswagen Passat CC was launched to get Volkswagen into the four-door premium coupe lineup. Based on the previous-generation B6 Passat, the Passat CC, abbreviated from Comfort Coupe, was positioned as a more stylish choice compared to its very-utilitarian cousin. At the time, it offered seating for four with a large fully-featured centre console between the rear occupants. Styling was a big hit and the main selling point, with its wide and low-slung stance that looks great from all angles. Powertrains were largely carried over from the Passat, with the 2.0T implanted into the volume models, with the VR6 available with 4MOTION all-wheel-drive. VW’s excellent DSG double-clutch automatic gearbox is also carried over from the standard Passat. 2012 saw a minor facelift, and a change in name. The “Passat” nameplate was dropped and the car became simply known as the “CC”. I always thought the CC looked pretty cool, so I picked up the keys to a Urano Grey CC 2.0T. Would the rest of the car match up to the sleek exterior styling?
Part of the reason why VW split up the Passat and CC nameplate is due to the former’s recent Americanization. The Passat is now a much larger vehicle more in tune with North American tastes for getting the most amount of car for the money. Similarly to the Jetta I recently reviewed, its objectives are now quite different of previous Passats. Whatever VW is doing, the sales numbers show that this isn’t the wrong strategy. Thankfully, the CC retains the traditional premium VW charm and feel, with high quality finishes inside and out. Soft-touch plastics are generously used, and the frameless windows are a nice premium touch.
The standard heated leather seats are par for the course in this class, but the additional fifth seat in the centre rear position is new for the refreshed model. Outside, the CC features standard HID low-beam headlamps and LED daytime running lights – neither of which are available on the standard Passat. While this car comes decently equipped, it’s important to keep in mind that the base model CC is lacking a sunroof and navigation system. One slightly curious decision by VW is to have the Bluetooth management interface entirely within the little screen between the speedometer and tachometer, rather than the large touchscreen that houses the entertainment system.
Providing the motivation is VW’s 2.0T direct-injected, turbocharged, and intercooled four-cylinder engine. Widely used across the VW and Audi lineup, it produces 200 horsepower and 207 lb/ft of torque. The flat torque curve makes for confident city driving and easy highway passing. Lighting up one wheel with wheelspin is not a difficult task when the traction control is deactivated. It is paired up to the widely-used DSG automatic transmission. The double clutches in this transmission carefully manage and improve shift quality, as well as increase fuel efficiency. I’ve always liked the way VW’s DSG performed – shifts are lightning quick and very smooth. The actual output felt from the seat of your pants feels more than the modest horsepower rating would suggest. This over-achieving powertrain punches above its weight class.
Volkswagen rates the CC 2.0T at 9.7L/100km in the city, and 6.6L/100km on the highway. Despite another frigid week here in Toronto, I managed a respectable 9.0L/100km in a combined cycle. On a long highway stint, I was able to get the average readout down to 7.7L/100km – and still falling. While city fuel economy is exactly average in this class, what the CC has going for it is overall range. With a 70L fuel tank, each stop will let you go farther before having to stop again. I was able to run to almost 600km before having to fill up again on Premium fuel.
The CC competes with several large premium front-drive sedans from various automakers around the world: the Toyota Avalon, Kia Cadenza, Buick Lacrosse are three that come to mind that fit a similar mold in terms of pricing and intended audience. This is where I start to see the shortfalls associated with the CC. Firstly, other than the refresh in 2012, the CC has lived on largely unchanged since 2008. Many of its competitors have gone complete replacements in that same six year timespan. Secondly, the value quotient of the CC is really its strong suit. All of its competitors offer more horsepower, sunroofs and navigation. $37,450 is a lot to swallow to be missing those two items – the decked-out Jetta that costs over $10,000 less manages to offer both items.
At the end of the day, it seems to me that people interested in the CC would be those who place an emphasis on style above many other things. Underneath that sleek exterior is a solid offering from Volkswagen. The four-door coupe body style is here to stay, so if VW can update the styling to take more risks (now that the standard Passat is its own separate car), they may be able to put more customers behind the wheel. I know of some people who refer to the CC as the “working man’s CLS”, and they’d be partly right, as that is also a car that sold largely on its style points. One just needs to set the right expectations, because the 2014 CC does a decent job acquitting itself against the notion of something purely of style, without substance.
2014 Volkswagen CC 2.0T Gallery
2014 Volkswagen CC 2.0T The craze with so-called “four-door coupes” has not been around forever. The whole idea behind such a term doesn’t really make sense (and still doesn’t), but when people got to see what it meant in practice, some eyebrows were raised.
Celebrating their 20th birthday this year, Koenigsegg is taking the hypercar to the next level with the Agera One:1. The Swedish specialists claim that the car is the world’s first megacar, because it is the first production car with 1,341 horsepower and a one-to-one ratio of power-to-weight, meaning the car is beyond a super or hyper car.
The Agera One:1 is powered by a twin-turbocharged…