Welcome to Motoring Monday for December 15, 2014. If you missed us the last two weeks I sincerely apologize. I had a pretty graphic head injury a few weeks ago that took a little time to heal before I could be on camera here with you all. I missed you.

So, today we have some hot car news from Mini, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz. Better yet, MyFord Touch might just be gone for good. All this and our test drives, it’s coming right up

MINI John Cooper Works Hard Top

While making its official debut at the North American International Auto Show next month, MINI gives us a sneak peek of the hottest version yet of their all new Hard Top, the John Cooper Works.

Known for performance and sport character well above the Mini Cooper S, the John Cooper Works for 2015 wont disappoint, sporting a much more powerful engine and all the performance goods buyers expect.

Under the hood is the largest engine yet in a MINI, a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder with some 228 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. MINI says it will blast the Hard Top from 0 to 60 mph in fast as 5.9 seconds.

A six-speed manual transmission with computer aided rev-matching as well as a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission will be available with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. MINI says the automatic is actually the quicker of the two.

Bringing all that power to terms are larger brakes from Brembo with signature red calipers. These are wrapped with standard 17” John Cooper Works Track alloy wheels or larger optional 18” John Cooper Works Cup two-tones.

Suspension of course gets a full makeover with lighter components for better steering and power delivery. Stiffer dampers and springs go without saying, all giving the car a harder edge on the track. You can option for a standard suspension however as a no cost option.

You also get a full exterior aerodynamic package and visuals to make the car look meaner as well as treat the air as such when you blast down the straight at high speeds. Inside, unique sport seats, trims and accoutrements complete the theme.

The MINI John Cooper Works Hard Top will arrive to market later next year with a price tag, you guessed it, a step or three higher than the MINI Cooper S.

Cadillac ATS V Sedan

Cadillac is pushing the high-performance button with their ATS-V, the latest in a line of V models. But this one has something a bit different under the hood.

For the first time, Cadillac brings us a full tilt V without the V8. The new ATS-V sedan taps the power of the 3.6 liter twin-turbo V6 and for the first time offers it with a manual transmission.
Making even more power than in the CTS V-Sport, the ATS-V gets a hotter version of the twin-turbo V6 churning out a whopping 455 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque.

That extra power comes from turbochargers with low-inertia titanium-aluminide turbines and vacuum-actuated wastegates. Additionally, lightweight titanium connecting rods reduce inertia of the rotating assembly, enabling faster revs.

The Cadillac ATS-V is available with the aforementioned six-speed manual transmission which has computer aided rev-matching. You can also option an eight-speed automatic box with paddle shifters if you wish not to deal with that pesky lever.

How fast is it? Cadillac says it will roll from 0-60 in as little 3.9 seconds with a top speed of more than 185 mph. Umm yeah, that’s fast.

Handling all that power was taken seriously with a number of structural enhancements to the body, stiffening it by some 25% with additional bracing added at the front and rear suspension mounts, shock towers and bulkheads.

Substantial aerodynamic add-ons not only bring additional visual appeal to the car but significantly add downforce at speed for those who actually take it to the track. And for them, an optional track aerodynamics package can be had.

Like you I can’t wait to drive one, and that opportunity will be coming later next year. We’ll bring you a full review when that happens.

Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe

Just when you thought Mercedes-Benz had enough crossover sport utility models in their lineup, this week they unveil the new GLE Coupe.

What is it? First lets get our naming structure right. The GLE Coupe is based on the GLE crossover SUV which is formerly known as the M-Class. So so think M-Class with a coupe roofline, but four doors.

Thus this is a mid to large-sizer, which is best said to compete with the BMW X6 which also considers itself a coupe in the crossover segment. Confused yet?

To the point, the Mercedes-Benz GLE will come to North America as the full tilt 450 AMG 4MATIC with a 3.0 liter twin-turbo V6 producing 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Being a coupe, it will come fully loaded with a dynamic handling control system, the Sports Direct-Steer system and a full docket of driver assistance systems to go along with its standard all-wheel drive.

A newly designed Airmatic air suspension will be available with a continuously variable damping system as will be an Active Curve System with active roll stabilization. Multiple drive modes will allow you to tailor the behind the wheel feel.

As this is an upper end Mercedes-Benz model, you can expect a top-notch interior with plenty of color and finish options. A basic black cabin can be had or two-tones with ginger beige, crystal grey, saddle brown or porcelain.

You can also opt for an exclusive Nappa leather treatment with diamond-pattern stitching, leather instrument and door panel trim and a black sueded headliner. Nice.

It has a great deal too much to list here today, but suffice it to say, if you were looking for a way to spend more money for less headroom in your crossover, you have a new choice coming next year.

Test Drives

In our test drives this week we did sample some German crossover goodness with the 2015 Audi Q3. And we did it up right, taking it on a road trip to Sedona, Arizona.

Audi’s Q3 is the entry point for the brand’s sport utility lineup starting in the low $30,000’s. Sharing its architecture with the well sorted Volkswagen Tiguan, it’s about the same size and shares its 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

It stands apart however with the total Audi quality experience from the inside out with a top notch interior and exterior style that befits its extra pricing. Handling and driving poise were the takeaway from our stints on the highway.

And it was off-road where the Audi Q3 continued to impress as we trekked the back-roads of Sedona into the red mountains. The high clearance enabled the kind of exploration you buy this vehicle for without beating you to death with a harsh ride.

We also drove this week the Chevrolet Colorado Z71, an all-new entry in the mid-size pickup market, an arena Toyota and Nissan have had to themselves for the past few years. With an all new design, modern engines, and more technology it promises to challenge them well.

The Colorado impressed with a spacious and modern interior which offers plenty of comfort as well as infotainment technologies. Chevrolet’s MyLink system is top notch and easy to use, with lots of connectivity options.

On the highway and off-road the Colorado proved to be much more easier to live with in terms of maneuverability and handling than a full sized truck. Build quality is still American in scope, but proved solid as a rock on the washboard back-roads.

I liked both vehicles enough that they made our I’d Buy It list for 2014. You can see our full reviews of these and many more on TestDriven.TV or our YouTube Channel.

Reality Check: SYNC 3 replaces MyFord Touch

If you’ve watched my reviews of Ford vehicles you know I always take a few moments to beat down their frustrating and distracting MyFord Touch infotainment and driver interface system. Well you’ll suffer this no more.

This week Ford announced an all-new HMI or human machine interface called SYNC 3 which will in the next year begin replacing the optional MyFord Touch system which has earned the ire of car owners and journalists alike.

With SYNC 3 it gets a new name because the MyFord Touch branding now has about as much positive equity as the Ford Pinto, Pontiac Aztek or Mazda’s rotary engine. You say MyFord Touch and buyers run from the lots.

The system itself is all new with a QNX based software language, losing the Microsoft Auto operating system. Backing it up is new and more robust hardware for graphics from Texas Instruments.

Menus and graphics are light and bright with a new layout that brings most common uses to the top level, those being audio, navigation, and communications. No more are critical functions buried several levels down.

Ford says the new system is faster responding to the touch and much less distracting behind the wheel than MyFord Touch. Voice commands are also said to be more intuitive requiring less structured verbal ovations.

It uses keywords more strongly than exact terms. You can say for instance Detroit Airport for nav search instead of its full proper name Detroit Metropolitan Airport. It will spend a moment to figure you out.

If it’s what they say it is, this may very well be the best thing Ford has done in a while, listen to us. We’re the customers, we know what’s good. We’ll bring you a real world review as soon as we get our hands on one.

Money Shot

Now its time for our Money Shot where we pick the week’s hottest photo from the stack of press releases and show it to ya.

Infiniti teases us with an image of the Q60 Concept, which will make its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month. The coupe promises to arrive in production form at some point, likely to challenge the new Lexus RC Coupe for lustful style and exhilarating performance.

Well folks that’s it for Motoring Monday, but before you go I want to let you know we have an exciting announcement to make in just two weeks right here on our show, so make sure you’re back here on Monday December 29th.

Click on the link right here to subscribe to our YouTube Channel where I’ll keep you updated on that as well as all of our automotive news and test drives.

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I’m Sam Haymart for TestDrivenTV, I hope you enjoyed the ride.