Life with the Vespa – Part 2 – Final Review

Post by Mark

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I’ve had my Vespa for over 6 months now and not only have I not gotten bored of it, but I love it even more than ever. It’s by far my best purchase of 2014. As I mentioned in part 1 of my review, whenever I’m riding my Vespa I feel like I’m on a vacation and 6 months later that feeling hasn’t changed one bit.

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I don’t even know where to begin this post because there are so many great things about living with a Vespa. The obvious one is the fact there is no traffic when you’re on a Vespa. Throughout the past 6 months whenever I had any kind of work in the city or Shuwaikh during the day, the Vespa was my go to ride. You would think any motorbike would fair the same in traffic but that’s not true because scooters are much more agile and nimble. In Shuwaikh where there’s lots of road construction taking place the cars don’t really line up properly because the lanes aren’t properly divided. So you could be making your way between the cars in traffic and then get to a point where the cars are just too close too each other and you’re stuck.. unless you’re on a scooter. Scooters are much more lighter and more compact so it’s so much easier to just weave your way between cars in traffic and the fact the Vespa has an automatic gearbox also means it’s quicker and less of nuisance to stop and start. There hasn’t been a single traffic jam yet in which I wasn’t able to make it to the very front.

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Imagine if the roads were empty all day long… thats life with my Vespa.

I own the Vespa Sprint which has a 125cc engine. It’s not that fast, the maximum speed is around 95km/h and I can sometimes hit just over 100 when going downhill. Although that doesn’t sound fast it’s more than enough when riding on the Gulf Road or even the 4th Ring Road where the maximum speed is 80km/h anyway. Vespa do have have different models with larger engines but the bikes themselves are also slightly larger and heavier. My Sprint is usually the first off the line at a traffic light but after that acceleration is fairly slow. But really you don’t need the bike to be faster since it’s not like you’re going to ride the Vespa down to the chalets on the weekend, it’s for city errands and at that I can’t imagine anything performing better. Even though my Vespa isn’t fast I still ride like a hooligan because the bike gives so much confidence. Probably too much confidence because I slid and fell at a small roundabout near my house a couple of months back scratching up the left side of my bike. Luckily my favorite pair of jeans and sneakers were unharmed.

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The Sprint has a good amount of storage space in case you do some shopping. Under the seat you’ve got a large compartment which I use to store my helmet in and you also have a small glove compartment in the front which I use to store my phone and wallet. In case there isn’t enough space under the seat for your grocery bags, there is a small hook that comes out from the seat in the front which you can hang your bags on. I also love the retro looking analogue speedometer since it adds a lot of character to the bike.

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A lot of people have asked me if you need a license to ride a Vespa and the answer is yes, you need a motorbike license to ride one. That wasn’t an issue for me since I got my license years ago when I got my first motorbike, but it’s still worth noting for anyone considering getting one.

With all the traffic issues in Kuwait I’m surprised not more people have gotten scooters. It’s obviously impossible to ride one in the blazing summer heat but there are at least 6 months a year where the weather is great for them. I really don’t have anything negative to say about my Vespa, maybe if there was a built in USB port to charge my phone that would have been convenient but actually thinking about it now, I probably could get one installed easily. Honestly it’s so much fun riding a Vespa I can’t stop recommending it to people. Get one if you can.


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Review: The 2015 Corvette Stingray

Post by Mark

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I don’t test drive that many American muscle cars, in fact I’ve only reviewed one before and that was the very evil Camaro ZL1 back at the end of 2012. What made that car so much fun back then is it rained when I had it. So you can imagine my bewilderment when it started raining this weekend right after I picked up a brand new arctic white Corvette to review. What are the odds that the second time in two years that I pick up a tail happy monster American car, it freakin rains again! Either someone up there loves me and wants me to have a lot of fun, or hates me and is hoping I’ll end up wiping out. Luckily it turned out to be the former.

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I’ve been a fan of Corvettes ever since I was a little kid and I nearly even purchased one when I moved back to Kuwait after university. So when I was dropping off the review Escalade a few weeks back and heard they might have a Corvette to test drive I jumped at the opportunity. My persistence finally paid off when I was told I’d be able to pick one up this past Thursday to enjoy over the weekend. Strangely though I ended up picking up the Corvette from a rental firm in Salmiya. Alghanim’s test drive vehicle wasn’t going to be available for sometime and since they had just delivered a brand new Corvette to a car rental company on Thursday, they ended up renting it back off them for the weekend to give to me. I was actually the first person to drive the car and so had to remove all the plastic from the dashboard, doors and seats. A brand new Corvette all to myself for the weekend, I thought it couldn’t get better, and then it rained.

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The 2015 Corvette is a beast of a car with a 6.2L V8 engine, 480HP and a 0-100 acceleration speed of 3.8 seconds. Its badass and when I first drove it off the lot I knew it was going to be a fun ride. I ended up spending most of the weekend going sideways while trying to be obnoxiously loud. It was a repeat of my weekend with the ZL1 and my friends calling me هيلق (hooligan) while I’m smoking the rear tires. No sort of civilized driving took place this past weekend. I mean seriously though I drive an FJ Cruiser as my daily driver so there was no way I wasn’t going to end up driving like a moron in a Corvette that wasn’t even mine.

The Corvette has five drive modes to choose from, Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track with each one of these modes calibrating 12 different performance variables like the exhaust mode, steering, traction control and even the cluster display. By default the car starts in Eco mode but in case you want the loud exhaust sound of the track mode you can turn that on permanently from the settings screen. Speaking of the screen, the Corvette has a touch screen media center which like every other American car I’ve been in, looks like it was designed to be used with Windows 95. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for American carmakers to hire decent interface designers, it would make such a big difference in the overall experience of the car. On the other hand there is a super cool hidden compartment behind the touch screen. With a touch of a button the screen slides down revealing a compartment with a USB port (Check out video below). So if you have an iPod you can just plug it in there or you could just use it to store your wallet, glasses, keys, cocaine or other trinkets. In case you’re wondering there are two more USB ports in the center console which are better located to plug your phone in.


[YouTube]

One of my favorite features in the new Corvette is the targa top since it allowed me to remove the roof and drive as a semi convertible when the sun came out. The ability to remove the roof when the weather is great is such an added bonus and it’s so easy to do. I watched one YouTube video and then was able to remove the roof within seconds and store it in the trunk. Putting it back on took a bit longer but it’s still really easy and a one person job.

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One question I always ask myself when driving a sports car is if it can be a practical daily driver. With the Corvette I think the answer would be possibly, but not for me. The car is pretty low and I was scraping the front spoiler on some speed bumps and even while entering my underground parking. But other than that it’s actually a fairly easy car to drive as long as you don’t step on the gas pedal more than half way. In traffic it’s easy to maneuver and when in Eco or Tour mode the exhaust sound is muted and very civil. My biggest gripes with the car are mostly superficial. I didn’t think the interior felt premium, the car I drove had a red and black interior but the red made some of the blemishes in the leather finishing more visible. The whole interior also felt very plasticky which is an issue with most American cars. On the bright side it didn’t have any of the awkward touch controls of the Cadillacs and instead uses real buttons and nobs for the various interior controls. One thing I really found odd is how the door doesn’t have any handles, not on the outside nor the interior. Instead it uses a touch button for the door on the outside which is fairly common, but it also uses a touch button to open the door from the interior. I didn’t know that and when I first tried to open the door to get out I couldn’t because I couldn’t find the door handle. Anyway I finally figured out it was a button I had to press to get out and it made me wonder what would happen in an emergency or if the car battery died while you were in it. For that it turns out there is an emergency door handle on the floor near the seat. I don’t know, it just seems to complicated and over engineered for just a simple door handle.

For those of you wondering when the souped up Z06 arrives to Kuwait… they don’t know. The 2016 Middle East version of the Z06 keeps getting delayed and the dealer doesn’t have an estimated arrival date as of this post.

The 2015 Corvettes start at KD22,795 which is a ridiculous value for the performance you’re getting. Colorwise if I was to get one it would most likely be the shark grey metallic exterior with a full black interior. If you’d like to test drive any of the Alghanim Automotive cars then click [Here]


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Breakfast at Gia

Post by Mark

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Gia, one of my favorite cafes launched a breakfast menu sometime back and I finally had the chance to try it this past weekend.

The Gia breakfast menu is divided into four main parts, “A Healthy Start” which includes granola, fruit and oatmeal bowls, “Eggscuze You” which includes three kinds of egg dishes, “Sandwiches” which also includes three dishes and finally the “What Diet?” section which includes french toast and waffles. I ended up going for the Poached Eggs on Avocados with a side of sausages while my friend went for two eggs any style with a side of bacon.

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My Poached Eggs on Avocados turned out to be pretty good, the eggs were perfectly cooked and were really runny just like I had asked for. Flavor wise it might have lacked a bit but healthy food generally does. My friends eggs were fine as well since you can’t really go wrong with scrambled eggs plus I think he ordered the most boring dish on the menu.

Now the sides on the other hand were both so not worth it. The bacon was just 4 small strips, not crispy and weren’t even warm. The sausages were also 4 small pieces and weren’t that great either. Each of those sides cost KD1 which I think is overpriced considering my favorite breakfast place Cocoa Room gives you so much more for the same price and also taste so much better. I’d definitely not order any sides the next time I’m there.

Ignoring the underwhelming sides, breakfast was enjoyable and Gia is now going to be one of my weekend breakfast destinations. If you’re interested their instagram account is @giakwt and they serve breakfast from 9AM to 11AM. Here is a link to their [Menu]


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Riad Mena & Beyond – Marrakesh

Post by Mark

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Last week I ended up going to Marrakesh for the weekend on a ski trip. Originally me and my friends were supposed to go snowboarding in France but on the days we wanted to go there was school break so we figured the slopes would be packed. So we decided to fly out from Paris to Marrakesh and go snowboarding there instead. That turned out to be the best idea ever and one of the reasons the trip turned out so great was because of where we stayed in Marrakesh, Riad Mena & Beyond.

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The old medina of Marrakesh is packed with houses all stuck together and many have been turned into guest houses which they call riads. The guest houses are usually very similar in structure, a large courtyard in the middle and rooms located around it. I’m not sure how I found out about Riad Mena & Beyond but I do remember that when I first saw the pictures I knew it was where I wanted to stay.

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Riad Mena & Beyond is located very close to the main medina square where everything takes place in. It’s around a 10 minute walk from the chaos of the square but the area the actual riad is in is very quiet and calm. Then once you’re inside the riad you can’t hear anything taking place outside and so you’re in a completely different world. The riads architecture is very traditional but the owner has managed to tastefully combine contemporary furniture with it and she even managed to fit a Pod chair into the environment and still make it work.

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I was upgraded to The Grand room which is a suite and the largest room in the riad. I had seen pictures of the room but only once I walked in did I realize how big it truly was. I couldn’t even snapchat the room all in one snap since walking from one side to the other needed more than 10 seconds. It was such a beautiful room and super cozy, I loved coming back at the end of the day and just chilling in the room which even has its own fireplace.

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The riad itself is a great place to just hang around and chill in as well. There are lots of spaces you can just lay around and lounge in even on the roof if you want to tan or just enjoy the beautiful weather. That means even if there are other people staying at the riad you could still have your private space for you and your friends.

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I only had two issues with the Mena & Beyond and both were fairly minor (as in they’re easy to fix). The first was with the riads wifi. At night it would sometimes work or sometimes not work in my room, it was very random but not a deal breaker for me since I was trying to stay away from the web as much as I could anyway. The other issue I had was with the breakfast which mostly consisted of various traditional bread with jams and butter. Exciting the first day but couldn’t stand it anymore by the third day.

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Riad Mena & Beyond is a very new guesthouse that just opened up this past September. I really loved the space and I would not only recommend it to friends (which I’ve already done) but it’s where I’m staying the next time I’m back in Marrakesh again. Prices start at 140euro a night all the way up to 350euro for The Grand room which I stayed in. Here is a link to their website with a ton of great photos of the place [Link]


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My love and hate relationship with the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A2

Post by Mark

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When the BeoPlay A2 was first announced back in October, the first thing I did was head over to the local Bang & Olufsen dealer to find out when they were going to get it. I own two other B&O products which I love; the B&O A7 and the BeoLit 12 and since I had been looking to get a travel speaker for sometime now, I knew I also wanted the A2.

Two things sold me on the A2, the first is the way it looks (I fell in love with the green model right away) and the second was the 24 hour battery life.

The A2 ended up arriving to Kuwait just a few days before my trip to Cape Town which was perfect timing since I was hoping to take the speaker with me on that trip. They had received only one green speaker and I made sure I would be the first one to get it. The price was KD150, around KD30 more expensive than Amazon but since I had a good relationship with the local dealer and since I wanted it right away I didn’t mind paying the extra KD30.

At first glance the A2 ended up exceeding my expectations. Not only did the speaker look better in person than in pictures but the sound that it produced was so much bigger and better than you’d expect from such a small portable speaker. I was mind blown. In my room in Cape Town the speaker was able to fill the room easily at lower volumes and produce enough bass to impress me. When I took it to the beach I was even more impressed, at near full volume the speaker sounded fantastic outdoors even with the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach. I even snapchatted how this was simply the best portable Bluetooth speaker ever and I even whatsapped the dealer the shot below of the speaker on the beach. But then just like that, my experience went downhill nearly instantly.

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Up until the moment I took the speaker to the beach I had been using it plugged in to the power. But around two hours into my first outing with the BeoPlay A2 I noticed the volume suddenly dropped considerably. At first I thought the speaker overheated because I was out in the sun but even after shutting it off for 15 minutes and turning it back on the speakers volume was still very low. It was barely audible but I kept playing the music until the speaker went dead. Once I got back to my room I checked the manual and turns out once the battery level reaches 10% the volume level drops to around half way.

It didn’t make sense how I hit 10% battery life after barely 2 hours of use, that’s 22 hours less than the claimed 24 hour battery life. I thought I must not have charged it fully so I charged the A2 again and tried it the next day. Again I got barely 2 hours of use. I was pissed off because I was all the way in Cape Town with a defective device. So I whatsapped the Kuwait dealer to let them know about my issue and once I got back to Kuwait I passed by them and dropped off my speaker. They didn’t have any green speakers in stock so I had to wait around a month until they got their second shipment in stock so I could pick up my replacement. Once I got the replacement speaker I went back home, fully charged the device and then played some music at full blast while timing it with a stop watch. At exactly 58 minutes and 26 seconds, the speaker completely shutdown. I was mortified since I ended swapping my speaker for one that was even worse! I charged it again and the next day played the exact same playlist at full volume. This time the speaker lasted 1 hour and 11 seconds before completely shutting down. I couldn’t understand what was happening, there is a HUGE difference between a claimed 24 hour battery life and my 1 hour experience. Obviously I wasn’t expecting my device to last 24 hours at full volume but I was expecting it to last around 10 or at least maybe 6. But just 1 hour? Convinced I had picked up a second defective unit I headed back to B&O to let them know. I explained to them the problem and how my second unit was performing even worse than my first one. They agreed to take the device and run some tests before getting back to me. A couple of weeks later I get a phone call with an explanation. According to the B&O head quarters, battery life can last only an hour depending on the kind of music and the volume its being played at. My units were not defective, they were perfectly fine but because B&O state an up to 24 hour battery life in their marketing material, my expectations were just too high. In any case the Kuwait B&O dealer gave me three options, the first is I could give them back the A2 and once the shipment of the new BeoLit 15 arrives I could pay the difference and get that. The second option was to swap the A2 for a third new A2 or finally I could just get a cash refund. Since I already had the BeoLit 12 I wasn’t really interested in the newer version. I also wasn’t interested in a cash refund since I actually wanted a travel speaker and when connected to power the BeoPlay A2 sounded incredible. So I opted to swap it with another unit in hopes the newer unit would have a better battery life than mine. Sadly that didn’t turn out to be the case and my current unit lasts as long as my previous ones.

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So here is my dilemma. I don’t know if I can recommend this speaker even though I love it so much because I also hate it so much. I never expected Bang & Olufsen to be so misleading with their marketing since I always saw them as very Apple like. But I’ve now realized Apple is far more trustworthier than Bang & Olufsen. When Apple claims a Macbook Air lasts for 9 hours in normal use most of the time it ends up lasting 10 in real world use. Apple doesn’t lower the brightness to the lowest setting, turn off wifi and Bluetooth and let the Macbook sit there idly and then say the battery life is 24 hours. They could if they wanted to but then no one would trust them. On the other hand B&O are being extremely misleading with their battery life claims. When they say 24 hours, as a user I expect that number to be an achievable claim under normal use. From what I’ve been reading online people have no idea how they can get 24 hours out of the A2 unless its at the lowest volume level and that’s not normal use. So this is what I will say about the A2. If you’re looking for a small speaker with incredible sound then I definitely recommend the BeoPlay A2. But if you’re looking for a portable speaker, one you could take to the beach, camping or anywhere requiring the use of the speakers battery, then I would definitely NOT recommend the BeoPlay A2. Not unless you’re fine with an hour or two of battery life that is.


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Review: Cadillac Escalade 2015

Post by Mark

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After spending a weekend with the Mercedes S-Class I was telling a friend about my experience and how it made me want to listen to hip hip the whole time. Before realizing it we were discussing other cars that suited hip hop when the Escalade came up. My friend asked me why I don’t review the new Escalade as well so right away I got in touch with Cadillac. The next day picked up the Escalade for the weekend.

The car is HUGE! I was expecting it to be big obviously since I’ve driven the older Escalade before but it had been a long time since I had been any car that was this big. The model I picked up looked very pimp with a black exterior and a brown leather interior. First thing I did after adjusting the seating position was to connect my iPhone and start blasting hip hop. While looking for a USB port to plugin my phone I actually ended up finding five, so you could basically charge the whole families phones while driving. The car I drove could fit six adults very comfortably since it had two pilot seats in the second row instead of the usual bench seat.

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Because I had the Cadillac for the weekend I decided to pick up a few friends and head into the desert for a fun outing. It was a Saturday and Qout Market was on so we decided to all meet up there first. Once we were done with the market all five of us got into the Escalade and took off towards the desert. The Escalade performs at its best when the car is packed with friends or kids. Since the car comfortably fits six and we were just five everyone was pretty relaxed on the long drive. One cool feature I enjoyed in the car on the long drive is the heads up display. Instead of having to look down at the speedometer all the time to see how fast I was going I could instead have my speed displayed on the windshield in front of me. But sadly that still wasn’t enough to stop me from getting a speeding ticket. The car is enormous so you expect it to drive like a tank but it doesn’t and I ended up getting caught doing 145 in a 120 zone. Once we got to desert, I shifted the car into four wheel drive and drove off road looking for camels.

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For a car this huge though you’d expect a lot of room in the trunk but thats sadly lacking when the third row seats are up. It’s one of the few negatives I have about the car. With both rear seats down you get a ton of luggage space but the car then can only hold four passengers. On the positive side you could lower half the third row seats creating more luggage space while still leaving room for a fifth passenger. The second thing I disliked about the car is the touch interface. Cadillacs don’t use standard push buttons to control things like climate control or the volume but instead use a combination of touch buttons with physical feedback. It’s hard to explain but it’s basically a flat surface which you touch and the surface vibrates a little bit to let you know the button has been pressed. I found this interface very frustrating to use especially the volume control. You can’t increase or decrease the volume easily, if the music is too loud I need to tap the volume button over an over to get it to decrease but you can’t do it too quickly or else it won’t register your touch. I also thought the main interface screen was awkwardly positioned facing upwards towards the ceiling instead of pointing eye level or at least towards me the driver. Finally the media system interface looks like something from 2008. I didn’t think it matched the luxury feel of the Escalade and I’m surprised the background color of the interface was a vibrant blue which not only doesn’t match the fancy interior of the Escalade but doesn’t even blend with the digital speedometer display which has a black background.

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I had a blast with the Escalade over the weekend. It’s such a ginormous car but it isn’t difficult to drive at all. Cadillac have really tried their best to make this car accessible to everyone especially mums. The gas and brake pedals are adjustable so if you’re short you can move them up closer to you, the seat obviously is very adjustable but other features like lane change warnings and surround vision all try to make this huge car feel unintimidating. Also for people who like to whatsapp and snapchat while driving, the lane change warning is something you’re going to appreciate. While driving if the car starts drifting towards the other lanes, the car warns you by vibrating your chair. That way you can look back up at the road and adjust your driving.

The Escalade starts at KD27,000 for the premium model which is the one I tested in this review. If you’d also like to test drive any of the Alghanim Automotive cars click [Here]


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Review: The Mercedes S-Class

Post by Mark

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Around a couple of weeks back I was listening to the Joe Rogan podcast where he had my favorite car journalist Chris Harris on. They were both talking about cars and Chris Harris started talking about how comfortable the new S-Class was and how much he loved it. The past few cars I’ve reviewed have all been pretty much sport cars like the Jaguar F-Type Coupe and the Ferrari 458 Spider. So I figured you know what? I wanted to try something different. So I whatsapped my contact at Mercedes and asked him if the S-Class was available to take over the weekend and it was.

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I have a bit of history with the S-Class since over the years my dad has owned the previous four generations and I’m old enough to have driven three of them. My favorite of the three and the one I have the most amount of passion towards was the shaba7 (“ghost” model year 91-98). I remember when the car first came out me and my best friend spotted one in Salmiya while we were walking towards Kids ‘R’ Us (this was probably around 1992). We started discussing how the car came standard with bullet proof windows and how it was so quiet once you sat inside that Mercedes installed a little red light that would notify you if a car around you beeped because you wouldn’t hear it otherwise. Of course all this wasn’t true but the shaba7 was so different from anything else at that time it created all these rumors. Then when I finally became old enough to drive the car I just felt so on top of the world when I was in it. I used to beg my dad to let me take the car out when I had a date because it was so much more impressive than pulling up in the other family car, a 1993 hunter green Dodge Minivan. The S-Class has changed considerably over the years but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the respect you get when you’re in one.

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When I first sat in the new S-Class I was taken aback by how beautiful the interior was. I’ve been in quite a few cars now that have replaced the analogue dashboard dials with digital screens but none have managed to make it look as good as they do in the S-Class. The center console screen is also the largest screen I’ve ever seen in a car, its around six iPhone 6’s wide just to give you an idea about how huge it is. All these screen with cheap looking graphics would have been a disaster but Mercedes have put together a very tasteful and premium looking user interface with fancy graphics and lots of animations. At night you can also choose if you want interior mood lighting and the color of the light. I chose pink just because it made the interior look like a fancy strip club but the car interior looked great in all the colors and surprisingly not that tacky. The S-Class was very comfortable to sit in and the seats had the softest head rest in any car I’ve ever sat in. It’s literally pillow like and in fact it might have originally started off as a pillow and then shaped into a head rest. No matter who sat in the car the first thing they would notice were the fluffy soft headrests. As a whole the car was extremely comfortable, so comfortable in fact I drove it all the way to the Boubyan Island bridge and back without feeling any sort of fatigue or exhaustion. It’s fast, smooth and super comfy. I also think the new S-Class is the best looking S-Class since the shaba7. I love the exterior lines and especially the rear of the car which I’ve disliked in the last two generations of S-Class.

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For some reason this car just made me want to blast hiphop the whole time and I don’t even listen to hiphop. It’s such a pimp ass car I loved it. I drove up to a gate outside these water towers that were being painted and when I parked the car I noticed the caretaker of the place started unlocking the gate to let me in. The car screams I am important especially now with not so many of them around. I honestly really can’t think of anything negative to say about the car. If I wanted to nitpick I could say I found the screen animations a bit slow and I hated how I actually had to go into the menu to turn the AC off instead of using a physical button. I could also complain about the sound system which I didn’t think was that great but really this would be me just nitpicking because there wasn’t anything I really disliked about the car. The new S-Class starts at KD33,000 but the model I drove was a bit spec’d out and sells for around KD35,000.

For more information on the S-Class, check out this [Link]


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The Jaguar F-Type Coupe

Post by Mark

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I love this car, I’ve loved it ever since I first laid my eyes on it. Last year I took the F-Type roadster out for a day and my biggest issue with it other than the super tiny trunk was the fact it was a soft top convertible. I’m not a fan of soft tops so when Jaguar revealed the F-Type Coupe I knew this is the car I wanted to get.

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The Jaguar F-Type Coupe is one of the best looking cars on the roads right now and in my opinion, it also has one of the hottest looking rear ends. The model Jaguar lent me was the V6 340hp although they had a 380hp version available to test drive as well (maybe I could take that for a spin next time Jaguar?). When I first picked up the car I wasn’t too sure about the color, but by the end of the day it had grown on me. It’s such a beautiful car that even the white looks great on it, actually white might be my favorite color on the Coupe.

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The F-Type Coupe isn’t a big car, it doesn’t have any rear seats nor any kind of room behind the seats. It’s compact but never feels claustrophobic. I picked up the car in the morning and went about my day. I had a bunch of errands to run followed by lunch with a friend and like the F-Type roadster, this is a great everyday car. It’s easy to drive in traffic and the suspension is soft enough to handle bumpy old roads. The trunk in the Coupe is fairly large as well so if you want to drop a friend off at the airport you can, that was something I wasn’t able to do with the roadster due to the fact that trunk couldn’t fit a medium sized bag.

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After lunch I drove up north to my favorite isolated road to take my photos. It’s a 50 minute drive each way so it gives me a lot of good quality time with the car. One thing this model I drove missed over the previous roadster I had taken out was the optional sport exhaust system. Although the car had an aggressive growl and popped a lot, I did miss having the optional exhaust switch which would kick the sound up a notch. Speaking of sounds, the sound system in the review car was also the standard 6-speaker one and not the 12-speaker Meridian system I had previously tried out in the roadster. It still sounded impressive, but just not as good as the Meridian.

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One thing I really appreciated on the car this time around were the brakes. Based on the spec sheet I received, the Coupe I drove was fitted with the standard brakes but they were extremely responsive and very powerful. I’m by nature a late-braker but with the F-Type I became a very-late-braker because I had so much confidence in the brakes. Makes me wonder how much better the optional super performance braking system would be.

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Like the F-Type roadster, one of the best things about the Coupe is the starting price. The Jaguar F-Type Coupe starts at just KD19,500 and the one I was driving with all the options sells for around KD24,000. If I didn’t know how much the F-Types cost I would have easily guessed over KD30,000 just by the looks alone. Is there anything I didn’t like in the car? Not really, I mean this is the car I was actually considering getting a few months ago when I was car shopping. It’s got great looks, incredible performance and just feels fantastic on the road.

If you’re interested in test driving the car yourself you can pass by the Jaguar dealer in Al-Rai (Al-Zayani) and check it out there.


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Review: Alpine iLX-007 and Apple CarPlay

Post by Mark

carplay1

Apple’s CarPlay is an operating system for cars that allows you to connect your iPhone and control it from within your car display. Ever since Apple revealed it I had been eagerly waiting for a third party to launch a unit that I could buy and plug into my car. The first company to announce a unit was Pioneer and then at the end of October Alpine released their own CarPlay unit, the iLX-007. Right as soon as it became available I ordered it and I’ve now had it for around a month so I’ve decided to go ahead and review it.

This is my fourth Alpine unit with iPhone/iPod compatibility but the first to use Apple’s new CarPlay OS. There isn’t much to review in the Alpine unit itself since its basically useless without CarPlay. If you don’t have an iPhone the Alpine unit is just a $500 FM/AM receiver. It doesn’t have a CD player or even Bluetooth but it does have an Aux input. The only other thing worth mentioning is the fact I can change and fine tune the sound/speaker settings all from my iPhone using the Alpine Tune App which is a pretty cool feature. So anyway for the rest of the review I’ll be focusing on CarPlay itself.

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After using CarPlay for over a month now I’ve developed a love and hate relationship with it. On one hand I love how seamlessly the iPhone integrates with my car but I also hate how the software feels unpolished as well. First lets talk about the good stuff.


[YouTube]

I recorded a video which you can watch above showing how easy and simple it is to interact and use CarPlay. My biggest reason for wanting CarPlay was the fact that Spotify is a supported app. Even though I could previously use Spotify with all my older Alpine units, this is the first time I can actually browse through my playlists, music and other Spotify specific areas all through my cars interface. I also like how well Siri works in my car now and how I could have her make calls for me or read or send messages which I dicate to her. And thats about it when it comes to the good stuff.

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Now here is whats wrong with CarPlay… it’s still very new. It reminds me of the iPhone when it first came out and so I’m expecting a lot of things to get fixed pretty soon but for now here are my biggest issues:

– Maps. For some reason I had the impression Google Maps came built into CarPlay but when I got it I realized it’s actually Apple Maps which sucks big time in Kuwait. It shows you all the roads on the screen but it won’t give you directions and you can’t search for anything. It’s pretty much useless and I’m hoping Google Maps will work with CarPlay pretty soon.

– When your phone is connected to CarPlay, ALL notifications on your phone get turned off. Meaning if your phone screen is off and someone sends you a message on Whatsapp you won’t be able to tell since the notification screen doesn’t come on to let you know nor will you get a sound notification. You don’t even get a popup on the CarPlay screen informing you of a notification like you do if you get an iMessage or SMS. Same with email or any other notification, they all stop showing on your phones lock screen and you don’t get notified in CarPlay. This means I now drive around with my phone screen on and my notification screen pulled down so I can glance at my phone every now and then while driving to check and see if I got any notifications.

– If you get or make a phone call you can’t talk to the person from your phone. You can either talk to them hands-free on the cars speakers or using your phones speakerphone. There is no option to talk to them privately using your phone so if there are people in your car the only way you can answer a phone privately is to disconnect the phone from CarPlay and then mute the car sound system (since it automatically switches to FM when you remove the phone) and then answer the phone. Super unpractical and I mean come on Apple WTF?

– Not many apps support CarPlay yet. As of now there are a handful of apps that work but the two I use are Spotify and Sticher for podcasts. I’d like to see Google Maps, Soundcloud, Whatsapp, HypeMachine and YouTube integrated into CarPlay. Just to be clear right now you can use music apps like Soundcloud with CarPlay but in basic form. For example if you play a track in Soundcloud on your phone you can view the track name and album art on the CarPlay screen and forward, pause and reverse from the screen as well but that’s it.

So as I mentioned already, CarPlay is still in its infancy. I’m expecting a lot of bugs and things to get fixed with upcoming updates and I’m also expecting a lot more app support as CarPlay becomes more and more popular. For now though if you’re considering getting CarPlay just be aware of it’s limitations. I don’t have any regrets getting it and Spotify alone is worth it for me. My Alpine iLX-007 unit cost me $499 and I picked it up from Pacific Stereo since they were one of the first to carry it.


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Review: Garmin Dash Cam 10

Post by Mark

dashcam

Dashboard cameras are cameras you mount in your car and record everything that takes place in front of you while you’re driving. I’ve been wanting to get a dash cam for sometime now but majority of the dash cams I had seen online were cheap looking no name ones. Although they were all very affordable and some had even gotten some great reviews, I was holding out for something better. If I was going to mount the camera on my windshield and have it in my face all day, I wanted something that at least looked decent and well made. Then out of the blue Garmin announced they were releasing a dash cam one day and I knew that was the one I was getting.

I’ve had the Garmin Dash Cam 10 for a few weeks now so I feel ready to give it a proper review.


[YouTube]

As expected, like all their products the Garmin Dash Cam is very well built. The unit feels very solid and looks great… until you mount it up on your windshield that is. I had a Garmin Navigator previously mounted in my car and it looked really sleek. I had the USB power cable come up from behind the dash board and plug in to the rear of the unit and because the suction cup is behind the unit the navigator looked like it was floating in front of the windshield. In my head I imagined the same would apply to the dash cam but I couldn’t have been so wrong. Even though the Garmin Dash Cam is pretty compact, once you connect the large suction cup to it and mount it into place it instantly doubles in height and becomes quite bulky. Then to make matters worse is the location of the USB plug, it plugs into the bottom right hand side of the device. That means I have ugly wire clutter around the unit adding to the overall visual pollution I now have on my windshield. I don’t understand why Garmin couldn’t have found a better solution, it’s like the designer who worked on the unit didn’t take anything into consideration. I mean they should have know people would most likely mount the dash cam on the left side of the windshield near the driver like everyone does with their navigators or that they will be mounted in the center of the windshield. So why would you have the power plug on the right? Wouldn’t it make sense to have it either on the left, the back side (like with my Garmin Navigator) or on the top left side of the device?

With those negatives out of the way it’s time to talk about some of the positives. The device works great. I have my unit set up to turn on and start recording automatically when I start the car and then to shutoff and stop recording when I turn off the car. I also have it set up so that once the memory card runs out of space to start recording over older videos. That means the dash cam operates continuously without any sort of action from me which is very convenient.


[YouTube]

The video quality isn’t anything close to say GoPro quality but then again these videos serve a different purpose. The camera can record up to 1080p and as you can see in the sample videos the license plates are easy to read both during the day and night. Obviously having a clean and crack free windshield improves the quality and in my videos you can see one of my window cracks on the right side of the footage which is a bit annoying but there isn’t anything I can do about it.

The Garmin Dash Cam 10 costs $200 which is really expensive compared to other more popular no brand dash cams. I originally didn’t mind paying this much because I expected a product that would be visually pleasing when mounted but now I know the Garmin is overpriced. The quality of the footage isn’t so different from the no name dash cams neither is the operating method so the Garmin really doesn’t have a major advantage to cost this much. But, since I already bought mine its too late for me but for anybody else I’d recommend they look at the alternatives carefully before deciding on the garmin.

For those interested, here is the dash cam on [Amazon]
They have the Dash Cam 20 as well which comes with GPS and records other data like your speed. I would recommend not going with that option if you tend to speed a lot.


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