RSS

Category Archives: Straight Eight

Straight Eight: 2014 Mini Cooper

IMG_2464

1. New look
What you see here is the third generation of the “new” Mini Cooper. Base price is $20,900; options in my tester ran that up to $24,470. Its larger, bulky-looking exterior is polarizing; personally, I prefer the looks of the previous car.

2. Big comfort
I day-tripped this one from Ottawa to a friend’s house on the east side of Toronto, and after the eight-hour round-trip, I was less tired than I have been after long drives in more luxurious cars.

IMG_2472

3. Great soundtrack
Entry-level models use a new turbocharged three-cylinder engine that’s more powerful than the four-cylinder in last year’s base car, and it produces an adorable, hilarious symphony of turbo-related whooshes, whistles and sighs as you accelerate and brake your way around city streets.

4. Thrifty shifting
That extra power is tempered by “taller” gearing that keeps engine speeds low, and bumps fuel economy up: my test car averaged 8.0 L/100 km in the city, and 5.0 L/100 km in highway driving at an average speed of just under 100 km/h.

IMG_2465

5. All grown up, sadly
There was an urgency to the previous Cooper’s driving feel. Where’d it go? The new one is still fun to drive, with a nice balance in turns and sharp steering, but on the whole it feels softer and more relaxed.

IMG_2468

6. Rev me up
The manual transmission has a rev-match downshift function that makes you feel like a superstar driver every time you downshift for a corner, and generates more of the engine’s fun noises. However, I prefer doing this myself when I drive a stickshift, and I couldn’t find any way to disable it.

7. The fun switch
Toggle the car into sport mode: throttle sensitivity goes way up, and you discover that this is the best way to experience this car. Sport mode also firms up the optional adjustable suspension ($500!), but this makes the car uncomfortable on rough roads. Thankfully, you can set it to leave the suspension alone.

IMG_2474

8. Dude, where’s my speedo?
You’ll notice some changes inside. I like that there’s a bit more space, and that the electric window controls now live on the doors. I never thought I’d say it, but I miss the massive speedo in the middle of the dash that was legible from three cars back and two lanes over.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Mini, Straight Eight

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Straight Eight: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel

IMG_2401

1. A nice price – to start
The Grand Cherokee has been Jeep’s flagship model since1993. A starting price of about $40,000 makes it affordable for a comfortable, capable SUV, but that number reaches well north of $60,000 in Summit trim, and that doesn’t count the hip-hop video-worthy high-performance SRT-8 model.

IMG_2400

2. Diesel powered
With its optional 3.0-litre diesel V6, the Grand Cherokee is the only American-branded SUV offered with a diesel engine. That puts it in the same league as some pretty fancy competition, like the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Volkswagen Touareg, and Porsche Cayenne.

IMG_2399

3. Fuel economy
My test vehicle averaged 10.5 L/100 km in city driving, a solid 25 to 30 per cent better than you could expect from the Grand Cherokee’s base gasoline V6, and about equal to a six-cylinder family sedan.

IMG_2404

4. Refinement
Modern diesels are known for their quiet, smooth performance. Jeep’s is quiet on the outside, but from the driver’s seat, it feels a little rougher and more truck-ish than most.

IMG_2406

5. Interior space
There’s less space inside the Grand Cherokee than its commanding exterior presence suggests. Hyundai’s Santa Fe is smaller on the outside but, subjectively, is about as roomy inside as the Jeep.

IMG_2412

6. Off-road capability
Pair the Quadra-Drive II 4WD system (the most capable of the three on offer) with the optional height-adjustable air suspension (my test vehicle had that, too), and you’ve got a luxurious truck that could go just about anywhere, if not for the tires obviously biased toward mall parking lots.

IMG_2402

7. Cool tech
Jeep uses a thin-film transistor (TFT) instrument panel in the Grand Cherokee, a technology that’s becoming common in upscale vehicles. It allows a customizable gauge display, and in this case can be toggled between a digital speedometer and a representation of an analog gauge.

8. Jeep vs. Porsche
The Grand Cherokee you see here costs nearly $70,000. So does the diesel version of Porsche’s Cayenne SUV. That’s a lot of money no matter what, but the phrase “$70,000 Porsche” has a much different ring to it than “$70,000 Jeep,” don’t you think?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Diesel, Jeep, Straight Eight

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,