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2018 BMW 530e Plug-In Hybrid First Drive | Review | Car and Driver

Meet John Green, the 42-year-old, single, surfer, fit, gluten-free target customer for the 2018 BMW 530e iPerformance, the newest plug-in-hybrid version of the 5-series.

He’s a startup star in L.A.’s Silicon Beach, where he stands around the office froyo machine discussing disruption, the firm’s desire to float an IPO, and the CEO’s McLaren P1. Green is image conscious, socially aware, and—when he isn’t flying to Vegas for dinner—environmentally friendly. His Toyota Prius, his third in a row, is no longer cutting it. The last venture round went well, and Johnny wants to treat himself to something new. Something that looks more at home in the garage next to the Porsche 911 Targa that he drives around Manhattan Beach on the weekends. He’s going to love the 530e.

Batteries Must Work

BMW claims that it’s now the third-largest supplier of electrified cars in the world, even if total volume in America remains quite small. The company’s eDrive system—which combines its turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter inline-four with an electric motor and a 9.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack—has now found its way across much of the German luxury brand’s lineup, including the 3-series, 7-series, and X5 SUV.

In the 530e, the four-banger is rated at 180 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque and the electric motor at 111 hp and 184 lb-ft, for a combined output of 248 hp and 310 lb-ft. That matches the stated totals for the 330e plug-in hybrid, but it’s quite a bit less than the output claimed for the larger and heavier 7-series plug-in and the X5 xDrive40e.

They all use the same ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic transmission, but the torque converter is replaced by the electric motor. Having it in this position just upstream of the transmission allows its ratios to be used in all-electric mode, which keeps the 530e from feeling like a leather-lined golf cart.

Although it’s slow compared with any Tesla Model S, the 530e will dust Green’s Prius, and it’ll keep up with his neighbor’s 530i. BMW claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 6.0 seconds for the rear-wheel-drive 530e and 5.8 seconds for the xDrive all-wheel-drive model, matching the times for the standard, gasoline-only 530i. Top speed is 146 mph, according to BMW.

In the freezing rain on the unrestricted section of Autobahn 8 east of Munich, we saw 130 mph. We were impressed by the car’s ability to get there quickly as well as its stability considering the weather and the snow tires fitted for Bavaria’s lingering winter. The 18-inch wheels wear 245/45 run-flat all-season tires as standard.

No Anxiety Here

The 530e will travel about 30 miles on electric power alone at speeds up to 87 mph. That is, it will if you never put the gas pedal on the floor. Leadfoot the throttle and the 2.0-liter joins in, but the transition is seamless. The turbo four turns on and off so smoothly you don’t feel it, and it’s very quiet. At low speeds, you’ll completely miss its operation if you have the radio on. BMW says charging takes three hours when plugged into a 240-volt outlet and less than five hours on a standard 120-volt wall socket. But it’s a hybrid, so total range is about 400 miles before you even have to think about charging.

We almost said “before you even have to think about plugging it in.” But a wireless charging system is on its way, and BMW expects it to be very popular. Parking the car atop an inductive-charging pad, which can be installed indoors or out, generates an alternating magnetic field with a secondary coil integrated into the underside of the car (the two never touch). BMW says it’ll take about 3.5 hours for a full charge. Unfortunately, the pad itself is not yet past the prototype stage of development. BMW expects it to be approved for production in 2018—when it is, the in-car technology will be waiting.

The big battery pack does encroach into the sedan’s trunk space. Cargo volume drops from 19 cubic feet in gasoline models to 15 in the PHEV, but BMW managed to retain the split fold-down rear seat. The gas tank is smaller, too, down to 12 gallons from 18.

Every Mode of a Modern Motor/Generator

This is a BMW so there are settings—lots of settings. There’s the usual Driving Dynamics Control with Eco Pro and the default Normal mode, plus Comfort and Sport alternatives, which basically change the rate and readiness of the gas engine’s involvement. In Sport, the gauges glow red and the engine is always on, adding power.

The eDrive button adds three modes for managing the battery. In the default Auto eDrive mode, the powertrain optimizes the interaction of the two power units depending on the driving situation. Max eDrive puts the car in electric mode all the time, unless you press through a detent in the throttle’s travel, when the gas engine will fire up because you’ve demanded more acceleration than the electric system can deliver. Battery Control mode allows you to save a determined level of battery power for later or even charge the batteries as you drive.

We don’t expect Johnny Green to dive into those selections often, although it would be sinful for him not to play with Sport mode and manipulate the 530e’s eight-speed automatic with the standard paddle shifters. When the driver does that, the transmission matches revs on the downshifts and the car almost feels like a standard gasoline 5-series. While the 530e has regenerative braking, it is not as strong as it is in most electrified cars, including the BMW i3. Back off the throttle and the 530e coasts freely like the cars we’re all familiar with driving.

Hypermilers may appreciate the graphic coaching prompts built into the gauge cluster to aid in maximizing the car’s efficiency. It shows a little arrow pointing up at a foot, telling you to back off when it thinks you’re having too much fun. And at the end of the journey you’re given a one-to-five-star rating based on how lightly you accelerated and other dynamics. It’s all easily ignored, if you so choose. We scored one star on our drive.

Weight is up compared with that of the gasoline-only 530i, but BMW has done a masterful job of hiding the additional 500 or so pounds. The ride is supple, and the sedan’s balance hasn’t been compromised. With more weight lower and in the rear, the weight distribution is even better than other 5-series variants, and it certainly has a lower center of gravity. We were able to maintain a satisfying pace over the twisting two-lane roads south of Salzburg in a rear-wheel-drive 530e, but the weather kept us from pushing hard.

Blue kidney-grille slats, blue rings around the BMW roundels on the wheels, assorted badges, and the charge door on the driver’s-side front fender distinguish the 530e from the rest of the line. Otherwise, it’s standard 5-series down to its dual exhaust pipes.

Now How Much Would You Pay?

The car is sold globally, but BMW expects that Americans like our Mr. Green will be the largest market for the 530e, which already is on sale. For a while, it enjoys a monopoly among German-built mid-size luxury sedans as Mercedes-Benz and Audi drag their feet on plug-in-hybrid versions of the E-class and the A6. The 530e iPerformance costs about $10,000 less than BMW’s former ActiveHybrid 5 (which had a turbocharged inline-six handling the gas-engine duties and boasted 335 combined horsepower). Whereas the ActiveHybrid 5 topped the pyramid for non-M 5-series sedans, the new 530e slots between the 530i and the 540i in the lineup, and it costs just $200 more than the 530i. Pricing starts at $52,395 with rear-wheel drive, and xDrive all-wheel drive adds $2300.

That makes this car a bargain—with more peak torque and better fuel efficiency—even before factoring in any applicable government tax incentives or fuel savings. Mr. Green is going to look so smart.

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2017 Audi RS7: Our View

I’ll admit I pre-judged the 2017 Audi RS 7 when I looked at its price tag. The highest-performance version of Audi’s stylish A7, it starts at $111,650 — a lot of scratch. Things escalated quickly from there in my test vehicle, which was an RS 7 Performance, a new trim level for 2017.

The RS 7 Performance adds more horsepower, suspension upgrades and larger wheels … for a cool $130,450, including destination charge. Add a few more safety options and a black Alcantara headliner, and the final sticker was $136,975.

This puts the RS 7 in rarified air competing against other high-performance, four-door luxury vehicles like the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, Porsche Panamera and Mercedes-AMG CLS63. Compare the RS 7 with those vehicles here and with last year’s model here.

To justify its price, the RS 7 has to deliver both performance and luxury, and it does — in excess.


From afar, the RS 7 keeps a low profile; it’s only when you get up close that it becomes apparent this is no “normal” A7.

The RS 7′s grille is larger and flanked by large air inlets on the lower portion of the bumper. The car is also distinguished by full LED headlights and taillights, oval exhaust outlets and larger side sills. The Performance trim level takes the aggressive aesthetic even further, with a rear diffuser, black tailpipes, carbon-fiber housings for the side mirrors, and a gloss-black grille with a mesh pattern that continues over the air inlets.

The styling of the A7 has always been a favorite of mine; it stands out against the more symmetrical proportions of Audi’s other sedans. So it’s no surprise that I really like the look of the RS 7, as well. It’s understated in a luxurious way, with small hints about its true nature — that of a beast.

Serious Speed

The RS 7 is blisteringly fast. It starts with the engine: a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8. In standard RS 7 models, it makes 560 horsepower and 516 pounds-feet of torque. That figure jumps to 605 hp in the RS 7 Performance, which also adds an overboost function that can temporarily bump torque output to 553 pounds-feet for even more acceleration.

An eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is standard, as is all-wheel drive with a rear sport differential that allows torque to move from left to right when slippage is detected.

That extra horsepower doesn’t shave a lot off the car’s zero-to-60-mph time, though: Regular RS 7 models make the sprint in 3.7 seconds, while the Performance does it in 3.6, according to Audi. The Performance’s top speed does bump up to 190 mph, versus 174 mph in the standard RS 7, but I didn’t get anywhere near those speeds in my week of testing on public roads.

The RS 7 isn’t small; it has a curb weight of nearly 4,500 pounds and a pretty big footprint. But the engine moves it along like it’s made of paper, with effortless acceleration from any speed. It’s seriously addicting.

Press the accelerator slightly and the RS 7 remains pretty docile; even with all that power, it’s easy to drive slowly on the street. Tilt the pedal past a certain point, however, and the world turns instantly blurry — the sheer acceleration this car is capable of is shocking.

The RS 7 isn’t small; it has a curb weight of nearly 4,500 pounds and a pretty big footprint. But the engine moves it along like it’s made of paper, with effortless acceleration from any speed. It’s seriously addicting.

The sport exhaust that comes on RS 7 Performance models is incredible. It spits and crackles on shifts, roars when accelerating and causes general mayhem anywhere above 3,000 rpm. Whenever I found a tunnel or underpass, I cranked the RS 7 into sport mode, dropped all four windows and rousted the dead. I loved it.

Beyond Acceleration

The RS 7 Performance adds two components that aid the driving experience in ways besides power. Carbon-ceramic brakes are standard, adding needed stopping power to this monster. Also standard is Audi’s Dynamic Ride Control system, which helps keep the RS 7 from being a one-trick pony: it’s not just fast, it has agile handling to match. In contrast to other performance cars’ electronically controlled adaptive shock absorbers, Dynamic Ride Control is a fully mechanical system. It works by joining the shock absorbers at opposite corners of the RS 7 through central valves. Those valves control the flow of oil from one shock to the other, and by doing so help create counterforce that keeps the RS 7 flatter when cornering, accelerating and braking.

Though this is an older system than modern adaptive suspensions, it still works wonders. The RS 7 may be a heavy car, but it doesn’t drive like one. All that power is more than enough to make it feel quick off the line, and it’s incredibly stable in corners, removing much of the body roll that would unsettle the car laterally.

Fuel economy is predictably poor at 15/25/18 mpg city/highway/combined on required premium fuel. This is midpack among competitors. The BMW M6 Gran Coupe is 2 mpg worse in combined driving, and the Porsche Panamera Turbo is 3 mpg better.

Interior and Technology

The RS 7′s interior is very close to the A7 in design and layout, even coming with most of the same standard features, including four-zone automatic climate control, navigation, front and rear parking sensors, and heated front seats, though the RS 7 has four seats rather than five.

Materials and ergonomics are excellent, especially in the RS 7 Performance. That car adds sport seats that — as seen in my test car — can be covered in optional black Valcona leather and Alcantara, with honeycomb blue stitching and carbon-fiber inlays with blue accents. I found them to be more comfortable and accommodating than most sport seats, while providing enough bolstering to keep you secure during enthusiastic driving.

Audi’s multimedia system comes with standard support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but there’s a caveat to using them. Due to the screen’s placement high on the dash, it’s not a touchscreen — all inputs to the multimedia system come through a rotary knob controller between the front seats. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are designed with touchscreens in mind, and using them with a physical controller is cumbersome. In Android Auto, I was unable to access a few functions within supported apps like Spotify and Google Maps that I use regularly.

If I had one more nit to pick with the RS 7, it would be on the safety front, where many driver assistance features — such as adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane keep assist and a corner view camera system — are optional. On a car that starts north of six figures, it feels a bit cheap.


Parting with the 2017 RS 7 had no sweetness to it, just sorrow. My initial skepticism about it began melting the first time I hit the accelerator, and within a few hours, it was gone completely. The speed in this car is addicting, and the suspension keeps it balanced and stable even during rapid acceleration. Some might crave styling that hints more at the car’s performance potential, but I like it as it is.

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Sphero Lightning McQueen review

What is the Sphero Lightning McQueen?

If you’ve heard of Sphero, you’ll probably know that they make spheres. Awesome – but expensive – robotic spheres that you can make whizz around your floor using a smartphone app.

Sphero has finally taken this concept of tech-powered toys and applied it to a car, specifically Lightning McQueen from the Cars movie franchise. It’s the company’s first remote control car, and took a year and a half to build. A big part of that time, Sphero CEO Paul Berberian tells me, was spent going through numerous reviews with animators at Pixar “to make sure he’s as true to character as possible”.

That work has paid off; the car looks and drives like an animation, showcasing Sphero’s incredible attention to detail and the company’s clear passion for toy-making. With playful handling, authentic voice scripting, and a bevy of features and easter eggs, this is a brilliant testament to the colourful Cars universe.

But the crunch comes by way of its huge £299 price tag, which many parents will struggle to justify. Can a toy car ever really be worth that much money?

Related: Best toys

Sphero Lightning McQueen – Design

As far as design goes, Sphero’s latest creation is hard to knock. The car is based on Cars protagonist Lightning McQueen, which first arrived on screens back in 2006 as a rookie race car hoping to compete in the Piston Cup. We’re soon to see Cars 3 (June 16, 2017) and Lightning is, arguably, as beloved as ever.

As far as authenticity goes, this is the real deal. Sphero and Pixar have made sure that every detail about the car is accurate. All the paintwork – and it’s all paintwork; no cheap stickers here, folks – is exactly as you’d see it in the movie, right from the racing red chassis to the ‘Rust-eze Ointment’ sponsorship logos and the Lightyear tyres. There’s no mistaking it – this is Lightning McQueen.

Although the car is built from lightweight plastic (and rubber, for the bumper), Sphero went a step further to boost realism. This comes from the custom-built trapezoidal screen that renders animated eyes in real-time. These eyes dart around in different directions, making Lightning feel truly alive. There’s also a motorised mouth on the front bumper that’s synced with speech, so when Lightning deals a classic quip, it looks like he’s actually saying the words.

It isn’t only the car’s looks that will pull you into the Cars universe though; it’s how the car moves, too. Lightning boasts six independent motors that allow the vehicle to bob and tilt while stationary. He’ll sit there wiggling and looking around, as if he’s eagerly waiting for you to play with him. Unfortunately, sometimes he shuffles a little too much, as I found out when I heard him falling off the kitchen worktop while charging and crashing onto the floor. Beware of where you set him down.

However, there are plenty of other details that breathe life into Lightning too. For instance, the charging cable plugs directly into Lightning’s petrol filler hole. The downside to this, however, is that the rubbery filler cap is seriously awkward to unplug and re-plug, and I even managed to tear a bit off trying to open it. Nevertheless, it’s still fun to see him sitting there looking like he’s being pumped full of gas.

Another quirky feature is the lighting. The red tail lights seem to be turned on all the time, but the headlights are activated courtesy of an ambient light sensor. This means that if you drive Lightning under your sofa, his headlights will turn on – just like a real car.

The chassis of the car features five capacitive touch panels that respond to your touch, prompting Lightning to tilt away from your finger.

Even the instruction manual – usually jettisoned at the first instant post-unboxing – is carefully crafted to look like a service manual. A great touch that adds to the excitement when first unboxing the toy.

So aside from a few minor niggles, there’s nothing to really complain about with regards to Lightning’s design. He’s certainly the most lifelike toy I’ve ever used, blowing the still-impressive Sphero BB-8 toy (of Star Wars fame) straight out of the water.

Sphero Lightning McQueen – Setup

In my experience, I found Lightning’s setup a slick and quick process. As soon as you take the lid off the box, you’ll find the car just pulls right out – no wires or cables tying it down. Beneath the car you’ll find the service manual and the charging cable – and that’s it. Simple and efficient; it was very similar to unboxing an Apple product.

The app, too, is quick to get started. It’s sizeable at 215MB (iOS), which is about the same as Crossy Road (225MB), and heavier than Messenger (186MB), LinkedIn (178MB), and Uber (161.MB). But it’s packed full of features, which I’ll detail later.

Once installed, you simply activate Bluetooth on your phone, and then place the handset near the car. After a short while, the car will sync with the phone, and install any necessary firmware updates – of which I’ve only had to suffer one, which took about five minutes.

As soon as you’re into the app, hit the ‘Push to start’ button and you can start driving – no faff, just play. It’s also worth noting that if you haven’t had time to charge the car fully yet, you can still play with some of the additional app features while Lightning is charging.

Sphero Lightning McQueen – App Features

Beyond the driving, which I’ll tackle next, the app is chock-full of features. For instance, there’s a game called Pit Stop Panic, where you have to make sure that a virtual Lightning McQueen (and friends) is ready to race by selecting appropriate tools from a rolling conveyor belt. There are several difficulty modes, and your Lightning car will even say relevant phrases out loud while you’re playing.

Then there’s a scripting feature, which lets you create custom scripts for Lightning to say. There are more than 300 phrases that were all recorded for the product by Lightning’s actual voice actor, Owen Wilson (the Wedding Crashers actor). You can assemble a few in an interesting order, and then roll Lightning up to a friend and launch the script.

There’s also a ‘Drive In’ mode, which is similar to the Sphero BB-8’s movie viewing feature. When you activate Drive In, you can stick on the Cars movie and set Lightning up nearby. As the movie goes on, Lightning will respond to scenes in the film. He’ll even feel awkward about the way he acted in earlier movies, because he’s moved on so much since the first film.

Sphero has also built a race mode into the app, where you get the chance to win the Piston Cup. However, this feature didn’t seem to be working when I reviewed the product. Similarly, the Achievement Centre –ffor prizes earned while racing – was also inaccessible. I’ll update the review if that changes.

Related: Sphero Force Band

Sphero Lightning McQueen – Driving Performance

All features aside, the main reason anyone will buy Sphero’s Lightning McQueen is to drive him around – and the good news is that it’s really quite fun.

The driving mechanism is app-based, and follows the same basic format as other Sphero products. The main joystick can be moved around in a circular space; this lets you control direction and speed. The further you tilt the virtual joystick towards the edge of the circle, the faster he’ll go. It’s tricky to get used to controlling his speed at first, but it’s a breeze if you’re used to Sphero toys.

Near to the joystick is a small orientation button that syncs Lightning to the direction you’re facing. This allows you to move around the room without your direction de-calibrating. I found that Lightning barely ever became disorientated, so you’ll probably have to do this once before each play session.

There are three other buttons that are integral to the driving experience. The first is ‘reverse’, which is fairly self-explanatory; although note that speed is reduced while backing up. The second is ‘drift’, which, when held down while turning, lets you perform an endless series of donuts for maximum happy fun time. The third is a turbo boost, which amps up your top speed.

As far as handling and performance goes, the Sphero Lightning McQueen is a real blast to drive. He won’t go blisteringly fast (RC die-hards, beware), but it’s more than quick enough to cause high-speed collisions in an open-plan kitchen living room.

When turning at high speed on smooth surfaces, Lightning will often start drifting. However, Sphero promises this is by design, and it makes total sense. Watching Lightning’s body lean into turns and career around self-made obstacle courses is fantastic fun, so I thoroughly recommend trying him out on wooden flooring with some sharp U-turns.

The amount of control you have over Lightning depends on your skill, and it’s mostly a matter of reducing speed as you enter corners. All in all, Sphero has crafted a very compelling driving experience that somehow manages to feel cartoonish in just the right way.

It’s also worth mentioning that I didn’t have a single issue with the Lightning McQueen losing connection to my phone, even when driving it across the office. And as far as battery life goes, Sphero quotes an hour; I haven’t used it until the battery died, which means the battery life is certainly enough for your average half-hour play session.

Related: Best Star Wars toys

Should I buy the Sphero Lightning McQueen?

If you’re weighing up purchasing the Sphero Lightning McQueen, there should be no question about whether it’s fun. It’s guaranteed joy for kids and adults alike, and will be a dream toy for anyone who likes the Cars movies.

The app is packed with features, the car is great to drive, and the animation-style design is wonderfully unique. There’s basically nothing to dislike about it as a remote control car, unless you’re used to seriously high-end, all-terrain RC vehicles.

But the big advantage Sphero’s Lightning McQueen has over conventional RC cars is that it feels truly alive. Lightning feels like he was pulled straight out of the movie, and this makes it a much more attractive proposition for children – as well as fans of the franchise at any age.

The problem – as is often the case with Sphero – is the price, which is more egregious than ever before. To pay £299 for it simply feels like too much to ask of most parents; a moment of silence for any mum or dad with a Cars-loving child this Christmas, please.

Given the fact that you can pick up a Sphero BB-8 for as little as £89 now, this is a really hard sell. You could buy three BB-8s for the price of one Lightning McQueen, and have loads of fun doing family races – with a bit of cash to spare for building your own racetrack. You could even get your child an Xbox One S with five games, and they’d arguably get more hours of use out of it.

We’d find it a much more compelling proposition if it managed to squeeze in under the £200 mark, or even £250. But at £300, it’s seriously tough to recommend unless you’re an absolute Cars nut – or you’re the silver spoon-wielding child of a city banker with lots of money to spare.

Sphero’s Lightning McQueen is on sale from May 24, 2017, and is available to buy from Amazon, Apple, John Lewis, Disney Stores, and Disney Retail Stores for £299.


Undoubtedly one of the most fun toys – especially from a movie franchise – ever built, but the high price tag will make even the most dedicated Cars fans wince.

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Maruti Suzuki Dzire 2017: First drive review

In a market where buyers are increasingly aspiring to own bigger vehicles, the desire to get behind a sub-four metre sedan has seen a perceptible dip in recent times. In such a scenario, the Swift Dzire has continued to be a volume driver for Maruti Suzuki in the Indian market and for reasons evident to most. Compact yet practical and with decent mileage are some of the things that made the car a hit since its first launch in 2008.

Almost a decade is quite a long time in a rapidly evolving Indian car market and no one, perhaps, is more aware of this than market leaders Maruti. The result?
The all-new Dzire 2017+
– minus the Swift badge but now with a whole lot of additions to make it an almost fresh and new offering.

The view

The new Dzire is based on the Baleno platform and so, the car looks quite different from the outgoing model at first glance. The large front grille with chrome outline captures attention first up. There is a minor resemblance here to the horizontal-lined front grille on Ford’s Aspire. Complimented with redesigned projector head lights with DRLs though, the car’s face manages to stand on its own in a pleasant manner.

The side profile is where the car retains the genetics of the Dzire body structure but the chrome-accents through the base of the window lines and a re-designed A pillar are key new highlights. The 15-inch diamond-cut alloys are quite gorgeous and the sloping roof line towards the rear complete the sight from the side.

Over at the back, the tail lights are completely re-designed – and a bit quirky. There is generous addition of chrome on the rear which – thankfully – blends with the rest of the body seamlessly rather than appearing like a patchwork or as an after-thought.

The feel

If the new Dzire boasts of fresh looks on the outside, the interiors have comfort and convenience added in almost the right measure to make for a congenial cabin.

The layered two-tone dashboard is bashfully copacetic` and the faux wood finish here, on the sides and towards the bottom of the now flat-bottom steering wheel are a good visual addition. There are small measures of chrome additions on the inside as well which adds to the ‘premium-ness’ without trying too hard.

The large touchscreen infotainment system – seen previously in the Vitara Brezza and Baleno – is vivid, sharp and cares two hoots for glares and reflection. It is equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay which, frankly, is becoming common sight in every segment. The interface is easy to use making for weaving through options like Bluetooth, navigation, USB, Aux-music and SD-card quite effortless. There’s one 12V charging port at the front and another in the middle of the front seats.

Storing personal and precious items is quite effortless as well with numerous storage places carved around the car for practical purposes. Here though, it’s important to highlight that the addition of a cooled glove box would have gone well with the overall intent to keep the car contemporary. However, the shallow glove box remains a reminiscent of the outgoing model.

Planting oneself on the seats though will erase any memories of the Dzires from the past. The seats really are where the magic is at with the 40mm increase in overall width on the outside and 20mm spacing between the front seats bringing with it a roomier experience. The well-cushioned fabric seats are soft and promise to turn long journeys into happy journeys. There is good overall lumber support but the appreciable under-thigh support on the front two seats should have been replicated for passengers on the back. Instead, they would have to make do with the comfort of better air conditioning. Yes, the addition of rear AC vents is quite a welcome addition considering the notorious Indian summer.

The drive

The notorious Indian summer is second only to the notorious Indian traffic. Little wonder then that Maruti is offering Automatic Gear Shift (AGS) technology in petrol as well as diesel options in the new Dzire.

The AGS is a practical choice in either of the two fuel options. The petrol AGS though sure take its gradual time to build up power which means overtaking would require quite a lot of planning. Having said that, the 1.2-litre petrol engine remains as polished as ever and putting the car through its paces in everyday city commute would be a joy.

The diesel AGS would be the right choice for the spirited but hassle-free driver who wants to have power on demand. There is hardly any noticeable lag upon shifts during regular drives and what does exist when pushing the pedal to the metal is something that one can live with considering the advantage of not constantly working through the gears. It is easy to see why the 1.3 DDis engine – 73 hp and 190 Nm of torque in the new Dzire – has been a favourite among Maruti buyers and the AGS version emerges as a clear winner among all variants on offer. It is also the most expensive but more on that a little later.

The diesel in manual option continues to be one of the most fun options from Maruti and while the engine itself may not have changed, the now lighter car – thanks to it being based on the HEARTECT platform – makes the Dzire zippier than ever before. This is true for all variants but most evident in the manual diesel.

For those looking to be in complete control and preferring petrol over diesel, the manual version should suffice as the overall light steering, excellent suspension that cushions occupants over passengers over gravel, bumps and speed breakers, make Dzire petrol a well planted car. The 81 hp of power and 113 Nm of torque sure do not make for absolutely great numbers and neither will the drive offer the thrill of the diesel counterpart. Then again, advantages of a petrol over diesel are well established and well documented.

The verdict

When the Dzire was first launched, there was not much competition in the sub-four metre segment. Times have changed and so has the competition. Honda has its Amaze, Volkswagen has Ameo, Ford’s Ameo has done good numbers while
Tata’s Tigor+
promises to attract many with its looks and feature list. Even Hyundai has brought out
Xcent in an all new form+
. The Dzire though is likely to retain still its numero uno position. And that is not because of past laurels but due to new promises.

New design, smart features and AGS option promise to take a winner and turn it into a champion. Plus now there’s ABS and dual airbags as standard across variants. Priced between Rs 5.49 lakhs and Rs 9.41 lakhs (ex showroom, Delhi) for the top-of-the-line diesel AGS, the real test for the Dzire now lies in how the sedan and sub-compact sedan segments handle pressure from outside (hatchbacks and SUVs) rather than within.

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Volvo V90 review: An effortlessly modern and elegant estate car – Pocket

Unless you’re a fully paid-up Volvo hater (and we’ve found a few), then it’s hard not to admire what the Swedish company is doing at the moment. The “human-made” advertising campaign cuts to the heart of the brand’s Scandinavian design appeal and marks a point of change in the brand’s portfolio.

For years there’s been a genuine lack of alternatives in the premium car space, with the “default” BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6 being the obvious go-to choices. But Volvo has recently and rather suddenly got its act together in a way which just might upset that German applecart. For the new V90 is a great car (as is its saloon sister, the S90).

The aforementioned Beemer and Merc have each just been refreshed and are truly astounding products — sophisticated and dripping with tech — so to see the Volvo D5 Powerpulse AWD Inscription model (as tested here) compete in a different way, shows that Volvo is on top form.

Of course, Volvo estates have always been different. Their unapologetically square aesthetic — complete with upright tailgate — always gave them a unique appeal throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s models. It made Volvo estates beloved of antique dealers and upper-middle class families. Because of the engine hanging out front, these cars were known as the “turbo brick”.


Then Volvo stagnated, BMW and Audi took over the mantle of being the preferred transport of upwardly mobile European families. Their angled rear-screens meant the 5-Series Touring and A6 Avant were less commodious in the boot than a V70 or V90, but few cared — factors such as image, performance and technology made the German cars more appealing.

The V90 is Volvo’s newest riposte. While it may ditch that upright screen and not even have the biggest boot in its class, objectively it represents a far more appealing proposition than Volvos of old.

The form is much easier to love, and by a turning of the tables, the V90 manages to be a far better resolved piece of estate car design than either the new 5-Series or E-class with their fussy detailing and occasionally afterthought estate attributes.


Simply put: the Volvo estate now isn’t a square turbo brick. It’s effortlessly modern, elegant, impeccably resolved.

Up front, the Thor’s hammer headlamps which debuted on XC90 make a second appearance — presenting a face for which apologies are no longer needed. It’s distinct and commanding, so the V90 will clear a fast lane as well as any Audi. But it doesn’t resort to the naked aggression of the German cars.


Step inside the V90 and the difference becomes even more marked. Instead of the stark, black-plus-black business suit of a traditional executive car, you can go down the spec route of our test car — high quality blonde leather, fine crystal-cut aluminium bezel details and modern, open-grain wood.

One benefit of Volvo’s touch-based Sensus in-car technology system is that it cleans up the cabin environment, presenting a space that isn’t bewilderingly full of buttons.

Dropping down into the leather chairs, the V90′s environment seems to have borrowed from the historic approach of ones of its core rivals. Mercedes-Benz used to say of its car interiors, that they should lower your heart rate by 10 beats per minute. The clam, warm, reassuring qualities of the new Volvo’s interiors do just that too.


We can’t think of a car interior the small side of £100k that has the ability to make you feel as good as when sat in the V90.

So Volvo has succeeded in generating a very appealing car, before you even turn the wheel.

But this is supposed to be the part where we tell you the Volvo is terrible to drive and actually you should just buy a German car anyway, right? Well, when you do drive the Volvo in anger, it remains consistent in its design approach, by prioritising calm, refined progress over dynamic excellence.


Many who are stepping out of the more powerful versions of 5-Series, E-Class and A6 are likely to feel that the Volvo is a step backwards in the driving experience it offers. With their adaptive suspension set-ups, the German cars certain ride and steer with greater panache. The V90 uses a very unusual rear spring set-up and is sometimes caught out by road conditions, yet most of the time comfort is the standout quality of the drive. So long as you don’t start trying to drive it on its door handles it remains composed.

The greatest issue for those switching from German brands is likely to be the engine. The D5 Powerpulse (so named because the engine features a novel anti-turbo lag design), produces 235bhp — which is not unimpressive from its 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre capacity. In general, it’s refined and fast enough — 0-60mph takes 6.9 seconds, which isn’t too shabby. Compared to a BMW straight six-diesel however, the Volvo’s diesel engine lacks culture, lacks firepower and isn’t as economical (it returned 45mpg in our hands, but that included 300 miles of motorway). We await with keen interest the arrival of the T8 plug-in hybrid petrol version.


Nonetheless, four-wheel drive on this model makes for easy, unflappable progress in all-weather conditions and the Volvo has appealing big-car stability.

Using the 9-inch centre portrait touchscreen and 12-inch TFT driver display in-car entertainment system, the V90′s experience is little changed from the XC90 that we drove in 2015.

That means that the V90 is an interesting, but ultimately mixed-bag from an on-board technology point of view. Most things you might want, in spec-terms, you get as standard. The large touchscreen has multi-touch capabilities (pinch-to-zoom and so forth), but because it’s actually an infra-red screen tech, you can use it with gloves on.


A head-up display (HUD) is an option (but wasn’t fitted to this review car), as is Apple CarPlay (£300) and Volvo’s Pilot Assist technology (featured as standard) will do the driving for you in certain circumstances.

Because the V90′s hardware is relatively new and clearly backed by decent-spec processors and memory, it all works and responds quickly. The way things are set out means it’s quite easy to use even for a first timer. The lack of physical buttons means you’re relatively limited in the choice of things to adjust unless you want to go delving into sub-menus (which is a good thing), and you do still get some physical touchpoints such as a volume knob (again, a good thing).

On-screen buttons are big, the graphic aesthetic is clean and congruent with the rest of the interior. Spend some miles behind the wheel actually using it and you’ll discover quirks that sometimes become irks. The UI design is very wireframe-like, which means it lacks much in the way of finesse or colour/grading to help you out when using it at a glance on the move. Notably, it looks like in the next update of this system will address this (which will debut on the XC60).

Layout and logic are other bug-bears: the screen layout hops about from menu-to-menu page, so it’s hard to learn consistently where on-screen buttons are likely to be, particularly once you get past the initial pages.


Despite online connectivity, programming the satellite navigation system can be a frustratingly time-consuming faff — with the Volvo system insisting you enter things in a set order which it prescribes. Despite online connectivity and search options, it repeatedly failed to find some very obvious, well known landmarks. Happily, getting your phone running through the system is easy and the large, 9-inch screen means the V90 allows you to run Apple CarPlay in one segment of the window, while having other car-native apps visible in the other sections of the screen.

We’d like to see the option of a little more variation in the cluster arrangement (for instance, to reduce content to just display speed, much in the same way that Peugeot now offers). Also the sat nav map and turns integration in the cluster is graphically woefully compared to what Audi offers.

Volvo’s ascension to the premium big league is confirmed by the V90′s price. Rather than undercutting an Audi A6, BMW 5-Series or Mercedes E-Class, the V90 goes toe-to-toes with them.


Assuming you can get over any brand snobbery this seems entirely reasonable, and the standard equipment list is generous: that 9-inch Sensus system, sat nav, connected services, 8-speed auto box, LED lights, leather upholstery, pilot assist, adaptive cruise control, a powered boot, heated seats and of course Volvo’s famed safety qualities are all standard.

But it’s tricky not to review a premium car without referring to the all-important options list. Our test car came with nearly £10,000 of options, but we don’t think they made a great difference to the core experience or verdict. Some £5000-worth were made up of the Xenium pack: £2k for panoramic roof, 360-degree park camera and park pilot; plus £3k for the Bowers and Wilkins sound system.

We’d stick to the Winter Plus pack, for adaptive lights, heated wheel, nozzle jets (£925), CarPlay (£300, a price that feels mean given it’s standard on low-spec Seat and Skoda cars) and the 19-inch alloys (£700), which set the design off nicely.


Notably, this D5 Inscription V90 is above the new £40k threshold for an additional £310 per year. And it is unlikely to be the one which makes sense for company car drivers — the combination of the D5 engine and all-wheel drive system tip the CO2 to 129g/km, whereas the front-drive D4 is 119g/km.

For those with more generous budgets or un-encumbered by tax regimes, the D5 is the one to have though — we’ve briefly driven a D4 and the extra 45 horsepower and all-wheel drive (AWD) make the D5 experience preferable on the road.


Not only is the V90 a likeable car, it’s a talented car — which is illustrative of Volvo’s new found premium qualities.

Ok, so the Volvo doesn’t outpoint a BMW 5-Series or Mercedes E-Class in many areas, but what makes it likeable is its confidence to tread a different path. While certain recent cars we could mention feel like they have been so closely benchmarked against German opposition that they almost lose their own character (cough, Jaguar and Alfa), the V90 says “here’s a different way”. We like that.

The V90 is spacious, supremely refined and comfortable, and in this D5 AWD guise it’s possible to cover ground very quickly. The luxe interior, with its competitive tech, will make you feel better about life every time you step into it, too, and we happen to think this is the best looking large estate car out there.

By normal automotive journalism standards, the V90 isn’t top of the class. But perhaps it’s time to assess things in a different way. If you’re looking for an antithesis of the go-faster, aggressive, hyper-competitive executive world, it’s well worth trying the Scandanavian option.

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New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Review

The sub 4-meter sedan segment that the new Maruti Dzire is a part of is one that is unique to India. Formed out of legislation, it is the perfect example of how an automotive manufacturer can adapt to a circumstance that is more ‘jugaad’ and less sensibility and still make a ton of money out of it. Maruti Suzuki has nailed the formula with the Swift Dzire in the past, but with the sub 4-meter subcompact sedan market on the whole looking at a decline, could there be a hat-trick in the play for the new Dzire? Well, read on to know what the new, 3rd generation, subcompact sub 4-meter Dzire – that has now dropped the Swift name – is all about..

Also Read: New Maruti Suzuki Dzire – Top 10 Things You Need To Know! 

new maruti suzuki dzire front

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire front

Lets start with the exterior. Straight away, the new Dzire is most certainly the prettiest one yet and you can check out our exhaustive gallery for that. From the wider and lower dimensions of the new car, to the squat stance, the new car looks a lot more proportionate than ever before. The wide grille combined with the chrome accents, accentuates this wide stance and the LED headlamps and daytime running lights add to the design up front, making it look very current! The profile of the new Dzire is well sculpted and although the new car has been likened to an Ambassador reincarnate, we still think that the Maruti designers have put a ton and more of thought into this vehicle.

Also Read: Maruti Suzuki Dzire Variants Explained

new maruti suzuki dzire side

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Side

One of the biggest problems with the older car was the fact that it looked too much like the Swift hatch. This time around, even though the front face of the new Dzire and the Swift hatch, which will make its way to India next year, is familiar, the A pillar has been redesigned from being quite upright to a more angular swooping look. This gives the new Dzire a more purposeful and sedan-like feel. The car also gets a set of 15-inch wheels; steel ones on the lower variants and diamond cut alloys on the higher spec. A set of 16-inch wheels would have certainly looked cooler but Maruti has taken a conscious decision to not go that route and choose a more comfort oriented wheel and tyre combination.

new maruti suzuki dzire rear

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Rear

And that brings us to the boot. For a change, the boot does not look like a hasty copy-paste botch job but one that was designed from scratch to go with the car. The addition of the chrome strip on the tail gate (or silver on the lowest variants) is also a good touch and does well to interlink the tail lamps. The tail lamps are LED units and are standard on all models, which too is a good move – both for the way they look and the added visual light that they emit.

new maruti suzuki dzire front seats

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Front Seats

On to the interior then. With the Maruti Suzuki range moving to a more premium form of mobility in as many segments as they possibly can, it comes as no surprise that the new Dzire is plusher and more well equipped than ever. And it is also larger. A new platform always means more space and the new Dzire is wider in the front and in the rear as compared to the older car.

new maruti suzuki dzire rear seat space

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Rear Seat Space

The front seats are 20mm more apart which gives the passengers an airier feel. The rear seats are 30mm wider and this had been accomplished both by a wider platform and a reworked seat design. The front seats are comfortable and even after driving for over two hours, I personally felt no real signs of fatigue. The rear seats too are nicer than the older ones and give more lumbar and under-thigh support. You also get a rear AC vent and a fold down central console with some cup holders.

new maruti suzuki dzire dashboard

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Dashboard

The dashboard itself reminds us of the older Dzire and is well layered with dark grey up top and a beige bottom. The dashboard itself has a wood panel divider that is now much much nicer to touch and has great dark-wood style texture as compared to previous generations. The AC vents get a silver surround that perfectly match the silver on the crisp and clear instrument cluster and the flat bottom steering wheel with the wood inserts ties everything up well.

new maruti suzuki dzire screen

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Screen

The centre of attraction in the Dzire though has to be the gloss black central console, which as always, is prone to finger print marks and dust. The console has a touchscreen infotainment unit that I personally have grown quite fond of. The touchscreen unit has Apple CarPlay and Andorid Auto as standard and also houses inbuilt navigation. The touchscreen is responsive and easy to use and is one of the nicest screens on any sub 10-lakh rupee car out there. The new Dzire also gets climate control on the top spec Z and Z+ models.

new maruti suzuki dzire side view

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Side View

The Dzire gets both the petrol and the diesel engine that was in the last generation and also gets a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed AMT automatic, or, as Maruti calls it, AGS (Automated Gear Shift). The petrol engine makes 82 bhp or peak power and 113 Nm of peak torque. The more popular diesel on the other hand makes 74 bhp of peak power but 190 Nm of torque. In the past, buyers have always preferred the diesel engine option in the Dzire so lets talk about that first.

new maruti suzuki dzire diesel engine

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Diesel Engine

The maual gearbox and the 1.3-litre DDiS engine is the quintessential Maruti Suzuki pairing that the common man enjoys. And why not! It has always been a fun little motor to drive especially if you learn the way the power comes in once the turbos begin to do their thing. The engine is relatively the same as before in terms of driving feel and even though the turbo lag in a higher gear and lower speed combination remains, the diesel manual is still a zippy little car to drive. The gearbox itself feels solid and the short shifts and light clutch that we loved in the previous generation continue to stay the same.

new maruti suzuki dzire amt gearbox

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire AMT gearbox

The diesel engine also gets the 5-speed automatic AMT or AGS gearbox as we mentioned earlier. The diesel engine and the AMT gearbox make a great pair and there is very little lag between the shifts when driving normally. Floor the throttle a little more and the car does tend to have a bit more lag but it is definitely something you can live with. A sport mode would have really helped this package by leaps and bounds making it respond a lot better to throttle inputs. That said, the tuning of the AMT gearbox and the manual now makes the diesel Dzire return a fuel efficiency figure of 28.4 kmpl making it the most fuel-efficient car in the country!

new maruti suzuki dzire petrol engine

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Petrol Engine

The petrol engine too is essentially the same unit as the last generation car and also the one found in the likes of the Ignis and the Baleno. The 1.2-litre unit does feel slightly underpowered as compared to the diesel even though it is rated higher in terms of horsepower as it does make a lot less torque. But, with a strong top end power band it can keep you entertained if you rev it hard although that will have a direct affect on your fuel economy.

new maruti suzuki dzire

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire

The new mechanical addition to the Dzire though is the AMT gearbox pairing with the petrol engine. This is the same unit as the one on the Ignis but the shift timings have been modified slightly to offer a smoother shift in order to maximise comfort. There is still a bit of the typical automatic gearbox nod when it shifts between gears and just like with the diesel AMT, the petrol would have been much better off with a sports mode of some sort to make the shifts faster.

new maruti suzuki dzire badges

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire badges

Also similarly, once you know how the gearbox responds to your throttle position and throttle movements, the Dzire Automatic petrol is as good to drive as any other AMT out there. The AMTs though, do get hill hold assist and crawl mode, both of which work with no judders and drama at all. In traffic too, the AMT responds well when one takes their foot off the brakes and transitions to the throttle. If driven sedately, both the manual and the automatic petrol return a respectable 22 kmpl of fuel efficiency.

new maruti suzuki dzire review

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Review

So the Dzire might have this radio taxi or just-your-average-family-sedan sort of image but when it comes to actual driving dynamics, it is a pretty fun car to drive. The last generation was one of my favourite cars when it came to hitting a mountain road and this one with the new Heartec platform is even better. It is lighter which means the steering turn in is a little more precise. Steering feedback is just as good and it does have that balance between ride and handling which is almost perfect. So when you want to throw it around corners, you can do that, and then when you want to settle down and just enjoy the drive, especially with your family considering the fact that this is going to be mainly a family car, it does that well as well.

new maruti suzuki dzire alloy wheels

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire Alloy Wheels

In terms of safety features, Maruti have gone that extra step and have made two airbags and ABS standard on all variants. The platform that underpins the Dzire also meets all future crash norms which include offset and pedestrian safety. And you get Isofix mountings as standard for your toddlers child seat too.

new maruti suzuki dzire in india

New Maruti Suzuki Dzire In India

Also Read: Maruti Suzuki Dzire Prices 

The new Dzire then is just a great all round package. It looks nice, especially compared to the older versions, is packed full of gadgets, has the petrol and diesel engines and the manual or AMT option too and is well priced. The sub 4-meter subcompact sedan segment might be slumping but the Dzire is definitely going to set sales charts on fire. Considering the car already has thousands of bookings, Maruti has a sure shot winner here. And why not. In my personal opinion, if a sub 4-meter sedan is what you really want, this is possibly the best one out there.

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Chevrolet Bolt EV Review: At 200+ miles with juice to spare, this is …

Chevrolet Bolt EV connected to a Level 2 charger at home
Chevrolet Bolt EV connected to a Level 2 charger at home

For years I have been waiting for automakers to come out with an all-electric car that can travel over 200 miles on a charge and costs less than $40,000. While a handful of cars have met one of my two criteria, it was only this year that a car hit the market that checked both of those boxes. The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV starts at $37,495 and has an EPA-estimated range of 238 miles per charge.

Buying a Bolt EV

With my old reliable 2001 Saturn SL2 pushing well past 200,000 miles, I was definitely intrigued by the Bolt EV when Chevrolet first announced it last year. The catch (because there’s always a catch): The Bolt EV was initially sold in late 2016 only in California and Oregon, rolling out to the rest of the country throughout 2017. While dealers in Washington State were scheduled to start receiving the Bolt EV by April, test driving one before then was going to be a challenge.

Chevrolet Bolt EV Availability, from an email sent by Chevrolet in early April
Chevrolet Bolt EV Availability, from an email sent by Chevrolet in early April

Fortunately, I happened to be in southwest Washington in mid-February to visit my parents and interview the inventor of another electric vehicle (who also happens to own a Bolt EV), which afforded me the perfect opportunity to jump across the river for a test drive at a Portland Chevy dealer. After a few calls, I found a Bolt EV available to test drive at Wentworth Chevrolet. When we arrived, a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic salesman named Michael Earl was happy to give my wife and me a test drive, even knowing that we were unlikely to purchase from him.

After the test drive, my wife and I were sold on the Bolt EV. At this point however, most Washington State dealers had already placed their first orders with the factory. We assumed that we would be waiting for wider availability later this year before we could buy, but we decided to stop into the Everett Chevrolet dealer just to find out what their schedule looked like. Amusingly, when we asked about the Bolt EV we learned that we knew more about the car than anyone at the dealership, since none of them had even seen one in person yet. But as luck would have it, one of their initial pre-order customers had just cancelled, opening up a customizable order for one of the first Bolt EVs to hit Washington State from the Chevy factory.

A row of Bolt EVs at Everett Chevrolet in late April
A row of Bolt EVs at Everett Chevrolet in late April

Imagine my surprise when I showed up at Everett Chevrolet in late April to pick up my just-built Bolt EV and the dealer had a whole row of them lining the street. It turns out that some Chevy dealers in California have been receiving Bolt EVs from the factory more quickly than they can sell them, so they’re trading cars with Seattle-area dealers. Luckily for you, this means that if you’d like to check out the Bolt EV yourself it should be relatively easy to find one to test-drive in the Seattle area now.

Fully loaded with the Premier trim, premium “Orange Burst Metallic” paint, the “Infotainment” and “Driver Confidence II” packages, as well as DC Fast Charging Capability, the price of our Bolt EV came out to around $43,000 before taxes and licensing. We’ll get $7,500 of that back in the form of a federal income tax credit next year, and the Washington State sales tax bill was $3,100 less than on a similarly-priced gas vehicle thanks to our state’s EV sales tax incentive that exempts the first $32,000 of the purchase price from sales tax. Still though, that was a pretty big check to write, considering that I’ve never spent more than $5,500 on a car before this. Thankfully, three weeks and over 800 miles later, I’m happy to report that I have not yet experienced any buyer’s remorse.

Driving the Bolt EV

If you associate a loud engine with power, you’ll be surprised at just how quickly the Bolt EV can move. Whether I’m driving around my hilly Everett neighborhood or cruising down I-5, I have never found the Bolt EV to be lacking in power. It climbs hills like they’re nothing, and regenerates a considerable amount of power into the battery on the way back down. Even when you are already driving at freeway speeds, you can feel it push you back in your seat when you really step on the accelerator.

Under the hood of the Chevrolet Bolt EV
Under the hood of the Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt EV gear shifter has four positions: Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, and “L,” a mode that lets you drive using just the accelerator pedal. In “L” mode, you press the accelerator to speed up, and let up on the pedal to slow down and stop, regenerating power into your battery rather than wearing down your brake pads. It took a little getting used to, but this is by far my preferred driving method in the Bolt EV.

The interior of the Bolt EV is roomy for what looks like a relatively small car on the outside. My daughter’s full-sized car seat easily fits in the back, with room for two adults to sit next to her, although I will grant that this arrangement is a bit snug. Headroom is plentiful, and even my tallest friends that have ridden in the car have no issues with ceiling clearance. The leather seats are comfortable in extended use, and the heated seats and heated steering wheel are perfect for the occasional cold morning drive.

The Bolt EV dashboard at night
The Bolt EV dashboard at night

The dashboard consists of a driver’s screen and a center screen with a small selection of physical buttons below it. A suite of five cameras provide front and rear-view views on the screen for parking, as well as a magical overhead 360º view that seamlessly stitches together views from all around the car (check it out in action at about the 7:30 mark in our video review). You can also flip a toggle below the rear-view mirror to turn it into a wide-angle screen that shows the view from a rear-mounted camera.

The Bolt EV is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which allow you to connect your phone for music, maps, and (voice-controlled only) messaging. I’ve been using Android Auto, and the experience has been very positive. It’s hard to imagine going back to a clunky manufacturer-designed car entertainment UI again. I do occasionally have issues getting a good initial connection, but once it’s connected, the maps and music experience is basically just like what you are used to on your phone.

The driver’s display contains some great at-a-glance information about how much energy the car is currently using (or regenerating), a min and max estimated remaining range, as well as whether the type of driving you’ve been doing over the last few minutes is likely to get you closer to the min or the max. Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised with the user interface design in the Bolt EV. It’s an easy thing to get very wrong, so it’s nice to see that Chevy apparently hired some thoughtful, competent UI designers for the Bolt EV.

Testing the Bolt EV’s Range

The officially-stated range of the Bolt EV is 238 miles on a full charge of its 60kWh battery, but after a few weeks of driving, my car is estimating that it will get closer to 265 miles of range on a single charge. This past weekend I decided to put the Bolt EV to the test with a 200-mile round trip over the mountains on Highway 2 to Leavenworth for dinner at my favorite German restaurant Andreas Keller.

We started the trip with a full charge and an estimated range of 265 miles showing on the dashboard. I was fairly confident that the Bolt EV would make the trip on a single charge without any trouble, but just in case I scoped out a few EV chargers in Leavenworth on the PlugShare app ahead of time.

Chevrolet Bolt EV at Leavenworth
Chevrolet Bolt EV at Leavenworth

Climbing up to and through Stevens Pass on Highway 2 was a breeze in the Bolt. The estimated range remaining got as low as about 130 miles when we hit the peak elevation of our drive, but by the time we descended into Leavenworth it had increased back up to 152 miles.

A free EV charging station in Leavenworth, WA
A free EV charging station in Leavenworth, WA

At this point I had no concerns at all about making it home without charging up, but I wanted to check out the three EV chargers in town, just to see how accurate PlugShare was. All three chargers I had located in the app before the trip did in fact exist. One was blocked by a pair of gas-powered cars, but the other two were both open, including one Level 2 charger that was totally free to use. If we had charged up there during the hour and a half we spent at dinner, we could have added about another 40 miles of range to our battery.

The Chevrolet Bolt EV still had 25 percent battery remaining at the end of a 203-mile trip to Leavenworth, WA
The Chevrolet Bolt EV still had 25 percent battery remaining at the end of a 203-mile trip to Leavenworth, WA

After dinner we headed home, and when we concluded our 203-mile trip a couple of hours later the battery was still about 25 percent full and the dashboard estimated that we still had around 61 miles of range. Even with all the mountain driving, the Bolt EV’s initial full-charge estimate of 265 miles was holding up very well at the end of our journey.

Charging the Bolt EV

Around 2:00 PM the next day, after another short morning drive that brought the battery down to about ten percent capacity, I hooked up the charger. Eight hours later my Bolt EV was fully charged up and ready to go.

A Level 2 EV home charger setup
A Level 2 EV home charger setup

My home charger is a “JuiceBox 40” Level 2 charger hooked up to a 50-amp, 240-volt circuit, which allows the Bolt EV to fully recharge from empty in about 9.5 hours, according to Chevy’s Bolt EV Charging Guide. The whole Level 2 home charging setup cost me about $600. A complete charge from empty costs me about six dollars at my current electricity rate. The basic charger that is included with the car plugs into a standard 120-volt outlet and would take over 40 hours to recharge the battery from empty. However, if you’re only driving 40-50 miles a day and charging every night, the basic charger is probably all you need to start each day with a full battery.

Bolt EV is the Electric Car to Beat

So far, the Bolt EV has exceeded my expectations. Chevy not only beat everyone else to the market with the first “affordable” all-electric car that can go over 200 miles on a charge, but they put out a car that is going to compete very well once the field starts to fill out more in the next few years with the release of the new long-range Nissan Leaf, a rumored long-range EV from Ford, and the Tesla Model 3.

The Bolt EV has plenty of power, handles well, is thoughtfully designed, and in my experience they are underselling its range.

I do have a few minor quibbles, such as the lack of any self-driving options, no HD radio, and no power seat adjustments, but overall I am impressed at Chevy’s first serious foray into the pure EV market. Chevy has successfully established the Bolt EV as the electric car to beat in this price range and battery capacity. It will be interesting to see how the market plays out in the coming years.

Chevy Bolt EV Gallery

Chevrolet Bolt EV charging at home

Chevrolet Bolt EV charging at home

Chevrolet Bolt EV loaded up with cargo after a trip to Costco

Chevrolet Bolt EV loaded up with cargo after a trip to Costco

Under the hood of the Chevrolet Bolt EV

Under the hood of the Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt EV dashboard at night

The Bolt EV dashboard at night

The Chevrolet Bolt EV fully charged up at the beginning of a 203-mile trip to Leavenworth, WA

The Chevrolet Bolt EV fully charged up at the beginning of a 203-mile trip to Leavenworth, WA

Chevrolet Bolt EV at Leavenworth

Chevrolet Bolt EV at Leavenworth

The Chevrolet Bolt EV battery status at the halfway point of a 203-mile trip to Leavenworth, WA

The Chevrolet Bolt EV battery status at the halfway point of a 203-mile trip to Leavenworth, WA

A free EV charging station in Leavenworth, WA

A free EV charging station in Leavenworth, WA

An EV charging station at a hotel in Leavenworth, WA blocked by two gas-powered cars

An EV charging station at a hotel in Leavenworth, WA blocked by two gas-powered cars

A for-pay EV charging station in Leavenworth, WA

A for-pay EV charging station in Leavenworth, WA

The Chevrolet Bolt EV still had 25 percent battery remaining at the end of a 203-mile trip to Leavenworth, WA

The Chevrolet Bolt EV still had 25 percent battery remaining at the end of a 203-mile trip to Leavenworth, WA

The Chevrolet Bolt EV's Energy Detail screen

The Chevrolet Bolt EV’s “Energy Detail” screen

The Chevrolet Bolt EV's Energy Score screen

The Chevrolet Bolt EV’s “Energy Score” screen

The Chevrolet Bolt EV's Energy History screen

The Chevrolet Bolt EV’s “Energy History” screen

A Level 2 EV home charger setup

A Level 2 EV home charger setup

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PowerSteering: 2017 GMC Canyon Review

Much like owning a pool or a boat, sometimes it’s preferable to be good friends with someone who owns a pickup truck than to own one yourself. You get to enjoy the benefits without the cost or maintenance.

Ownership, however, conveys freedom. With a pool, you can swim any time you want. With a boat, you can fish any time you want. With a truck, you can haul bulky loads or tow heavy trailers any time you want. Trucks also make it possible to throw a paddleboard into the bed for a leisurely morning on the water, or a mountain bike for a thrilling ride on local trails, and at a moment’s notice.

2017 GMC Canyon Denali front quarter right photoIf you want to own a truck, you can choose a big, burly full-size pickup, or a slightly smaller, more nimble midsize model. The latter used to be called compact pickups, but as is true of many people the years have added inches to their dimensions. For 2017, you have five midsize truck choices: the Chevrolet Colorado, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma, and the subject of this review, the GMC Canyon.*

For this review, we evaluated a 2017 Canyon Denali, a luxury-themed trim level that debuted this year. It was equipped with a short cargo box, 4-wheel-drive (4WD), V-6 engine, and Mineral Metallic paint. The price came to $44,360, including the $995 destination charge.

*The GMC Canyon is a mechanical twin of the Chevrolet Colorado.

What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2017 Canyon, it’s helpful to understand who buys this pickup truck and what they like most and least about it.

Until 2017, when Honda reintroduced the Ridgeline, there were four midsize pickup truck models to choose from, and while the Toyota Tacoma dominates the sales chart, it is the Chevrolet Colorado and its corporate twin, the GMC Canyon, that ranked highest in the Midsize Pickup segment of the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM

According to J.D. Power research, midsize truck buyers are overwhelmingly men, and that’s true of the GMC Canyon (88% vs. 87% for the Midsize Pickup segment). Canyon buyers, however, tend to be older and more affluent. The median age of a new Canyon buyer is 61 years (vs. 57) and the median annual household income of a Canyon buyer is $103,385 (vs. $95,245).

Predictably, then, Canyon buyers are less concerned about price and are more likely to be retired. Overwhelmingly, they indicate that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (83% vs. 57%), and fewer Canyon buyers agree that their friends and family members think of them as someone who knows a great deal about vehicles (71% vs. 75%).

Canyon buyers are more likely to agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (83% vs. 77%), and a smaller percentage agree that a vehicle is just a way of getting from place to place (30% vs. 36%).

GMC’s “Professional Grade” advertising appears not to resonate with Canyon buyers or midsize truck buyers in general. According to the 2016 U.S. APEAL Study, just half of Canyon buyers “agree mostly” that their first consideration in choosing a vehicle is quality of workmanship, compared with 59% of midsize truck buyers who, by the sales charts, overwhelmingly select other midsize trucks aside from the Canyon.

Buyers say their favorite things about the Canyon are (in descending order) the exterior styling, interior design, driving dynamics, visibility and safety, and infotainment system. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the Canyon are (in descending order) the climate control system, seats, engine/transmission, storage and space, and fuel economy.

What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own assessment of how the 2017 Canyon performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2016 U.S. APEAL Study.

Little wonder that Canyon buyers dig the looks of their trucks so much. It’s handsome and possesses the presence of a much larger vehicle, bearing no resemblance to the older, dingy compact pickups driven by your local pool dude or mow-‘n-blow crew.

With its prominent logo placed on its oversized Denali grille and T-square-inspired styling, this GMC’s rough-and-tumble demeanor attracts attention. My test vehicle’s short cargo bed seemed a little out of proportion, but there’s no denying that this is a good-looking truck, from its flared wheel arches to its unique 20-in., machine-finished aluminum wheels.

GMC wants Canyon buyers to know that the top-of-the-line Denali trim level sets itself apart from the workhorses. Step inside to find seats swathed in perforated premium leather with contrast stitching, real brushed aluminum cabin trim, upgraded Bose stereo system, and soft-touch dashboard materials. Furthermore, the Canyon’s cabin is quieter than you’d expect, at least in terms of road noise.

2017 GMC Canyon Denali interior photoWhile the Denali does represent a step up from the basic environs of most pickup trucks, the interior retains plenty of hard plastic, and it scratches easily. So while this version of the Canyon mimics the look of luxury, its utilitarian roots are all too visible to the eye.

As is true of every truck, it’s a bit of a climb to get into the Canyon. My short legs found the Denali’s fixed step rails useful, but my long-limbed partner thought they got in the way. As a passenger, I always appreciate having a grab handle above the passenger’s side window, but the sole handle in the Canyon is instead located on the windshield pillar.

Comfortable and flat, the Canyon’s front seats provide little in the way of bolstering. An odd inclusion for this “luxury” Denali pickup is manually reclining front seats, an unwelcome throwback to decades past. Heated and ventilated front seats are always welcome, however, as is the heated steering wheel.

The rear seats are pretty basic, but there’s enough room to seat 3 people abreast as well as reasonable legroom. The power-sliding back window always comes in handy, as do the 2 USB power outlets. Rear air vents would be nice, though.

Climate Control System
Evidently, GMC operates on the principle that big knobs and buttons that can be operated while wearing gloves are a good thing. I concur. Thus, the climate control system is as simple as can be, with two big knobs complemented by easily deciphered buttons.

Furthermore, General Motors knows how to engineer an effective heating and cooling system, and the Canyon Denali’s cabin got chilly in a hurry, despite a springtime heat wave.

Infotainment System
GMC equips the Canyon Denali with a robust version of its IntelliLink infotainment system. This setup features an 8-in. touch-screen display, and I find it to be among the easier infotainment systems to use. It’s no wonder that this oft-maligned technology makes it into the “likes” column among Canyon buyers.

Keeping up with the times, GMC gives you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection, as well as Siri Eyes Free compatibility. These features are designed to mimic the function and feel of your phone so that it’s less distracting to use the infotainment system.

Of course, technology being what it is, there is no such thing as technology that works perfectly, and there were glitches with the system the few times I used it. Still, I suspect that once you’re over the learning curve, these items should come in handy.

Additionally, IntelliLink provides separate radio controls for power, volume, and tuning, which mean that you need not use the screen to make adjustments. Plenty of people also find the subscription-based 4G Wi-Fi internet hotspot a compelling feature, while audiophiles can appreciate the upgraded Bose stereo on the Denali trim level.

Storage and Space
My test vehicle came with a cube-shaped short cargo bed, which might limit utility. During a run for gardening supplies I wished for the optional long bed to make it easier to transport long trellises, but I made do with some bungee cords and crossed fingers.

Not to overstate the obvious, but a pickup truck’s cargo bed is open to the elements and unwanted attention. That means that whatever you carry—sporting equipment, suitcases, pricey furniture, or even multiple bags of chicken manure—must be secured, weatherproofed, and monitored, which makes it difficult to make an argument in favor of a truck for a sole family vehicle, especially when taking a family road trip.

Around the Canyon’s cabin, storage space amounts to average. The center console is medium-sized, and GMC provides a small bin in front of the shifter that can hold a phone, keys, and other small items. Otherwise, this truck provides storage in the door panels, a single rear seatback pocket, and, like all vehicles, a glove box.

Visibility and Safety
Thanks to a high seating position from which it is easy for a driver to place the front corners of the truck, the Canyon’s driver’s seat offers good outward visibility.

Curiously, however, a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert is not available for this truck. Automatic emergency braking is also missing. These are notable omissions that must be considered by every potential Canyon buyer. GMC does offer a forward-collision warning system and a lane-departure warning system, but in my opinion they’re not as effective at preventing accidents.

2017 GMC Canyon Denali rear quarter left photoThe Rear Seat Reminder feature is great if you have kids or pets that travel with you, chiming to remind you to check the back seat after you’ve stopped the truck and turned it off. This helps to avoid the types of tragedies that occur when absentminded caregivers forget their charge in the car. Also, GMC provides a Teen Driver feature that lets parents program specific vehicle traits to help new drivers form good habits, and which provides a driving report after your precious offspring has borrowed the keys.

Testing from the folks at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concludes that the 2017 Canyon deserves a 4-star (out of a possible 5) overall safety rating, pulled down by its 3-star ability to resist rolling over. As this truck was reviewed, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had yet to test the Canyon.

Owners who weren’t happy with the Canyon’s powertrain in 2016 will wish that they had waited a year. For 2017, GMC offers a new 3.6-liter V-6 matched with a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

The V-6 generates 308 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque. It may not be the most refined power plant in the world (it has a loud, high-pitched, raspy exhaust note), but acceleration impresses with vigorous pull across the rev range. Furthermore, the 8-speed automatic is well matched with the engine, almost always seeming to find the right gear at the right time.

Tow capacity for my test truck topped out at 7,000 lbs. when properly equipped, short of the 7,700-lb. maximum for the optional 2.8-liter, 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine. My Denali could also tackle up to 1,550 lbs. of payload—a little less than a Canyon’s maximum of 1,605 lbs.

Any way you slice it, these numbers are stouter than any other midsize pickup truck.

Fuel Economy
One of the top reasons for getting a smaller pickup over a full-size one is the savings in fuel economy, and the GMC Canyon delivers. The EPA says a Canyon Denali 4WD with a V-6 engine will average 19 mpg in mixed driving. Impressively, I got 21.1 mpg on my test loop, but a heavy dose of suburban shuttle duty dropped that figure over the course of a week.

Credit for the impressive result on the loop goes to an alphabet soup’s worth of engine technologies, such as direct fuel injection, cylinder-deactivation, and variable valve timing. I was happy with the fuel economy, unlike Canyon buyers surveyed by J.D. Power. However, I spent little time driving it with a heavy load, so expect your results to vary.

Driving Dynamics
Modern-day pickups such as the Ford F-150 feel utterly planted and rock solid, driving similar to car-based crossovers, so it’s easy to forget what an old-school pickup feels like from behind the wheel. The GMC Canyon is much sharper than the dastardly Toyota Tacoma I sampled the week after, but it still feels very much like the pickup trucks from two decades ago.

Both the steering and the brakes are heavy and slow, and it takes some getting used to in order to navigate smoothly and stop without a big last-minute lurch. I also experienced an unexpected amount of brake fade when driving on curvy mountain roads, enough to erode confidence in a vehicle designed to tackle significant weight.

With just two people on board, the suspension hops and skips over bumps, but with the bed loaded with the fruitful spoils of an expensive trip to the garden store, the ride felt much smoother and more compliant.

Final Impressions
For people seeking a capable truck with more petite proportions, the GMC Canyon stands out for its brawny towing capacity and its rugged good looks. For people willing to spend upwards of $40,000 on such a vehicle, the Denali trim level offers a premium look and feel unmatched by almost everything else in the segment.

Best of all, no matter which version of the Canyon you may choose, it delivers the kind of lifestyle freedom that just can’t be matched by a car, crossover, SUV, or van.

General Motors supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 GMC Canyon review.

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Review: Cars and Culture Clashes in ‘Lowriders’

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2017 BMW M760: Our View

BMW went a little mental with the 2017 7 Series. The new M760i xDrive is a 7 Series with serious guts under the hood, growing four additional cylinders and 156 more horsepower over the BMW 750 (see our review of the 2016). Powering the M760 is a 601-hp, twin-turbocharged V-12 that in our acceleration testing propelled the M760 to sports-car-like speeds.

For all its horsepower, however, don’t call the M760 an M7. Think of the M760 in the same way you would a BMW M235i, which is performance-oriented but not as track-focused as the BMW M2. The M760 isn’t an M7, and I think that makes it better suited to be a 7 Series.

Zero-to-60 in 3.5 Seconds

The 601-hp, twin-turbocharged 6.6-liter V-12 moves the 5,128-pound behemoth at a speed that would make Newton himself rethink his silly laws. This is the first V-12 used in the redesigned 7 Series. Though its turbochargers are mono-scroll — versus the twin-scroll used in smaller-displacement BMW engines — boost response is finger-snapping quick. The M760 is deceivingly fast thanks to a whisper-quiet engine that pours on power without a lick of strain.

The secret to putting 601 hp to the ground without massive wheelspin is the M760i’s standard all-wheel drive (denoted by xDrive in the luxury sedan’s name), which has a default rear bias to drive more like a rear-wheel-drive car. All-wheel drive, paired with launch control, helped the M760i reach 60 mph in 3.5 seconds in our testing and complete the quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds at 122.7 mph. Watch a video of the testing here.

Launch control with the eight-speed automatic transmission is the key. To engage it you, first switch off traction control, then it’s as simple as flipping the M760i into its Sport driving mode, holding the brake, mashing the accelerator pedal until the engine revs to around 3,000 rpm, and letting off the brake while remaining full-bore on the accelerator. The M760i squeals its tires just a tad leaving the line, then rockets to 60 mph, continuing full steam through the quarter-mile at 120-plus mph.

The M760 is deceivingly fast thanks to a whisper-quiet engine that pours on power without a lick of strain.

Fast four-doors are not uncommon in the realm of $130,000-plus super sedans like the M760i; it starts at $156,495 including destination charge and a $1,700 gas-guzzler tax. The Mercedes-Benz AMG S 63, Porsche Panamera Turbo and Tesla Model S P100D could all either give the M760i a run for its money or blow its doors off (in the case of the 2.5-seconds-to-60-mph P100D). Compare the M760′s specifications with its competitors’ here. There’s a new, faster AMG S63 for 2018, which you can read more about here.

The speeds recorded in the M760i are in a league with cars we’ve drag-strip-tested, including the 707-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and 2017 Nissan GT-R. The 2017 Nissan GT-R hit 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and ran through the quarter-mile in 11.3 seconds at 121.7 mph, while the Challenger Hellcat was about 3.5 seconds to 60 mph and 11.3 seconds in the quarter-mile at 125.6 mph. Among four-doors, we ran as quickly as 11.0 seconds in the quarter-mile with the Charger SRT Hellcat.

Luxury First, Performance Second

It’s an unnatural feeling to be going that fast in a car like the M760, partly because it remains a 7 Series first and a performance car second despite its rocket-ship acceleration. Like other 7 Series models, the M760 has the opulence of a bespoke luxury sedan, with rear lounging seats and some of the comfiest sofa-like front seats in its class. It also features signature 7 Series technology, including a removable rear tablet and a multimedia system with gesture control.

BMW hasn’t uncorked the V-12′s exhaust very much, so the M760i remains stately. There isn’t a defining noise from the tailpipes; it’s more of a whirl of mechanical noises than a distinctive or pleasurable engine song. The engine is quiet — almost too quiet for a performance car, though it’s great for a luxury car.

All M760s come with four-wheel steering and an air suspension. The suspension is retuned for dynamic duty in the M760, and sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires roll on M760-unique 20-inch wheels. The suspension tuning and tire choice are barely noticeable changes. Trust me, the M760 goes around bends quicker than it needs to, but it’s mechanical grip over which you don’t necessarily feel in control. That’s due to light steering and body motion that rolls over at first turn-in, unlike the tuned, precise experience from an Audi RS 7 or Porsche Panamera. The M760′s cushy ride is the one I’d take on a grand tour, however.

Who Really Needs One of These?

While testing the M760, I routinely fielded the question, “Who would ever buy one of these?” I admit that halfway through defending our $179,595-as-tested luxury sedan I might have sounded like a lunatic. But I hold my ground. The answer is no one “needs” a 601-hp 7 Series, but the 7 Series has been a favorite of ours since its 2016 redesign, and the M760 is my favorite variant of the already stellar sedan. The M760 is fast, but the core 7 Series experience hasn’t been twisted into a spine-shattering performance sedan. If you want to buy one, though, it might be a special-order item, as’s national inventory doesn’t currently show any available.

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