May 2017

New Volkswagen Arteon 2017 review

What makes a car premium? There’s an argument that the badge, the price, the technology, or even the way it looks can define whether a car is ‘premium’ or not. But as a rule of thumb, it’s a mix of all of the above that contributes to a car making the premium grade. 

Volkswagen[1] is serious about upping its premium image to take on BMW[2] and Audi[3], with bosses promising that its cars will begin to look more ’emotional’ – which you can take to mean more interesting. VWs make a lot of sense to a lot of people, but very rarely does someone buy one because it makes them weak at the knees. Sensible has long been the name of the game for Volkswagen. 

Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake estate planned[4]

The all-new Arteon is the brand’s first attempt at cracking the mainstream of the premium market, and it gets off to a good start. It has all the right lines and curves in all the right places; its chiseled jaw and swooping roofline means it looks unlike anything else in the current product range. To say it’s the most handsome model in VW’s line-up wouldn’t be an exaggeration and even up against other stylish four-door coupes like the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe[5] and Audi A5 Sportback[6], the Volkswagen comes out on top. 

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New Volkswagen Arteon - rear

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It’s an indirect replacement for the old CC and is based on the brilliantly engineered, but visually lacking, Passat[7]. At 4,862mm long and 1,871mm wide, the Arteon is bigger than both the 4 Series Gran Coupe and the A5 Sportback, while a 2,841mm wheelbase makes it more spacious for those inside, too. In fact, the Arteon is actually longer and wider than the Passat with which it shares so many parts.

But VW wants you to think of the Arteon as a separate model and not a variant of the Passat – hence the new name, new proportions and more advanced tech. It’s based on the MQB chassis but features several new engines that aren’t available in the standard car. The first is the VW Group’s new 148bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol that debuted in the SEAT Ibiza[8], while the other is a Golf GTI[9] trumping 276bhp 2.0-litre. VW bosses are even discussing introducing a new high-power six-cylinder engine, too. 

Initially, though, VW will only offer buyers the choice between two engines: the 276bhp turbo or a 237bhp 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel as tested here. Both feature a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox and 4MOTION four-wheel drive as standard.

Final specifications and prices will announced closer to the car’s launch in October, but don’t expect any change from £38,000. Depending on spec (only Elegance and R-Line trims will be offered) and with options that figure could breach the £40,000 mark.

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New Volkswagen Arteon - front quarter

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Of the two engines, the bulk of buyers are expected to go for the bi-turbo diesel. Sharing much of its DNA with the Passat, it’s unsurprising to find the Arteon feels and drives very much like the saloon – that’s to say it’s impressively refined, easy to live with, and very functional. 

The quality of the ride, however, does come as quite a surprise. That’s not to say it’s poor, far from it. Despite riding on arch-filling 20-inch wheels wrapped in a slither of rubber, the Arteon rides with real composure and comfort, gliding over smooth surfaces. The result can be attributed to the bespoke damper system developed exclusively for this car. Potholes are its undoing, though – hit one and a noticeable thump makes its way through to the cabin.

VW’s adaptive damper system comes as standard if you go for the 237bhp bi-turbo diesel, with the usual choice of Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. Normal is the Arteon’s preferred setting – reigning in the loose body control of the Comfort mode, while remaining much more forgiving than Sport.  

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New Volkswagen Arteon - front cabin

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Whichever mode you’re in, though, don’t expect 4 Series[10] levels of engagement – the Arteon is designed to be a stylish, long haul cruiser. The steering isn’t brimming with feedback but it’s accurate enough, making the Arteon feel more agile than its size suggests. Unfortunately, however, our test route in and around the Hannover, Germany, didn’t give us a chance to fully assess the Arteon’s dynamic repertoire.   

The 2.0-litre biturbo diesel is an incredibly strong motor, though, hauling the Arteon from 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds. The combination of 500Nm of torque and 4MOTION four-wheel drive makes it doubly effective at dragging you out of slower corners and passing dawdlers on the motorway. But it isn’t the most efficient, returning a claimed 47.8mpg – a six-cylinder BMW 430d xDrive[11] will manage over 51mpg.

On a practical level, the Arteon scores much better. The more shapely body has come at the expense of a slightly reduced boot capacity, but the 563-litre load bay is only 87 litres smaller than you’ll find in a Passat. Both the BMW and Audi can only serve up 480 litres of space. That plunging roofline has only stolen a few millimeters of headroom, too, but those over six foot will be more than comfortable in the rear. There’s also acres of legroom.

While the overall cabin design and feel is on par with the BMW, the Arteon doesn’t quite match the Audi when it comes to perceived quality. The cabin is essentially a carbon copy of that from the Passat (no bad thing) albeit with VW’s latest 9.2-inch infotainment system fitted. 

References

  1. ^ Volkswagen (www.autoexpress.co.uk)
  2. ^ BMW (www.autoexpress.co.uk)
  3. ^ Audi (www.autoexpress.co.uk)
  4. ^ Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake estate planned (www.autoexpress.co.uk)
  5. ^ BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe (www.autoexpress.co.uk)
  6. ^ Audi A5 Sportback (www.autoexpress.co.uk)
  7. ^ Passat (www.autoexpress.co.uk)
  8. ^ SEAT Ibiza (www.autoexpress.co.uk)
  9. ^ Golf GTI (www.autoexpress.co.uk)
  10. ^ 4 Series (www.autoexpress.co.uk)
  11. ^ BMW 430d xDrive (www.autoexpress.co.uk)

Review: iClever BTH20 Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones

Time to take a moment to reflect upon the fact that Bluetooth doesn’t always have to mean expensive. From Beats to Sony and so many more, you might be familiar with in-ear Bluetooth solutions generally falling around the $99-$199 range. These solutions are for those looking for headphones with a wide range, multiple drivers and so forth. However, for those looking for just a basic pair of headphones with wireless capabilities, there are companies like iClever that come to the rescue.

iClever’s BTH20 headphones[1] provide just this. A basic pair of headphones with Bluetooth thrown into the mix, while still including a perfectly functioning in-line remote, comfortable gels and a decent battery life. Looking online, it appears that the initial MSRP was around $45, which would have weighed them down, but currently they are passing for around $31.99, which passes well with us when it comes to features vs budget.

Looking into their design, they offer a very lightweight approach, similar to holding a small necklace in your hand. They fit comfortably with the cable going around the back of your neck and work fine if you prefer it to hang in front.

The in-line remote is located on the right side and is in within comfortable reach. It features the three basic multi-functioning buttons, including two buttons to control track and volume (single press for volume, long press for track control) as well as a single button in the middle that answers calls, can pause/play the music, as well as turn the headphones on and off (and trigger Bluetooth pairing). You hold down the single button until they turn on or off, and while turning it on, if you continue to hold it down, the LED will begin to flash alternate colors, which shows it is in pairing mode. The side of the remote has a small flap that reveals a micro-USB port for charging them with.

They provide multiple gels as well as silicone ear hooks, each can be customized between small, medium and large size options. The customizable silicone pieces are soft and fit well. As usual, you want to pick the size of each that fits as snug as possible, as long as there is no sacrifice in comfort.

Providing you have a nice tight fit, these headphones provide a decent amount of range for their price. Picture a normal pair of $15+ Sony or Panasonic wired earbuds, add in Bluetooth and a remote and you get the BTH20 by iClever. Obviously, they aren’t multi-driver or anything crazy, but you get your highs, mids and lows at a balanced level. You can pair these up with just about anything since they fall into the basic category. They aren’t really lacking much, because you aren’t really expecting much. They aren’t meant to be on the level of audiophile or extraordinary. They are meant to deliver music to your ears wirelessly. The fact that they have a decent amount of bass is an added bonus. So these are perfect for those no looking for reference sound and just need something to get the job done without spending too much.

The plastic casing around the buds feel a little odd in shape, or at least it feels this way when you place them into your ears. Once they are in though, this thought is lost because this feeling fades away as you begin to listen.

Battery life is around 4-6 hours, which isn’t the best, however it should be more than enough for most users to get them through a day of long-term use. This also helps add to the lightweight properties since there is less of a battery, and the battery is generally one of the largest contributors to such (that and driver(s)).

Another added bonus is the fact that they are water resistant, allowing you to run in the rain or sweat it out without worrying about ruining them. You don’t want to submerge them in water, but they should be able to take a beating when it comes to drops and splashes.

As mentioned, there is a small micro-USB port for charging the headphones. The cable is provided in the box which can plug into a laptop or wall charger to get the job done. There are also instructions, which don’t include much since it’s a no brainer if you have ever used wireless headphones before.

Our Conclusion

As long as you aren’t walking into it with the mindset of expecting the best of the best and simply want something affordable instead (and, oh wait, they also sound pretty decent), these are pretty nice. If they stay within the $25-$35 range, they should sell strong at the stores and keep a great score with us. Not everyone floods the stores looking for the big name options with all the bells and whistles. Some people just need something that works. When that happens, these have a pretty nice spot light on them.

Buy from Amazon[2]

Our Rating

8 / 10 stars           


Average Price*

$31.99

*Average price is based on the time this article was published

Video:

(coming soon)

Additional Images:


Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us[3] and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.

References

  1. ^ iClever’s BTH20 headphones (www.amazon.com)
  2. ^ Buy from Amazon (www.amazon.com)
  3. ^ Contact us (pocinc.net)

Experts Predict When Artificial Intelligence Will Exceed Human Performance

Artificial intelligence is changing the world and doing it at breakneck speed. The promise is that intelligent machines will be able to do every task better and more cheaply than humans. Rightly or wrongly, one industry after another is falling under its spell, even though few have benefited significantly so far.

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And that raises an interesting question: when will artificial intelligence exceed human performance? More specifically, when will a machine do your job better than you?

Today, we have an answer of sorts thanks to the work of Katja Grace at the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford and a few pals. To find out, these guys asked the experts. They surveyed the world’s leading researchers in artificial intelligence by asking them when they think intelligent machines will better humans in a wide range of tasks. And many of the answers are something of a surprise.

The experts that Grace and co coopted were academics and industry experts who gave papers at the International Conference on Machine Learning in July 2015 and the Neural Information Processing Systems conference in December 2015. These are two of the most important events for experts in artificial intelligence, so it’s a good bet that many of the world’s experts were on this list.

Grace and co asked them all—1,634 of them—to fill in a survey about when artificial intelligence would be better and cheaper than humans at a variety of tasks. Of these experts, 352 responded. Grave and co then calculated their median responses

The experts predict that AI will outperform humans in the next 10 years in tasks such as translating languages (by 2024), writing high school essays (by 2026), and driving trucks (by 2027).

But many other tasks will take much longer for machines to master. AI won’t be better than humans at working in retail until 2031, able to write a bestselling book until 2049, or capable of working as a surgeon until 2053.

The experts are far from infallible. They predicted that AI would be better than humans at Go by about 2027. (This was in 2015, remember.) In fact, Google’s DeepMind subsidiary has already developed an artificial intelligence capable of beating the best humans. That took two years rather than 12. It’s easy to think that this gives the lie to these predictions.

The experts go on to predict a 50 percent chance that AI will be better than humans at more or less everything in about 45 years.

That’s the kind of prediction that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. The 40-year prediction horizon should always raise alarm bells. According to some energy experts, cost-effective fusion energy is about 40 years away—but it always has been. It was 40 years away when researchers first explored fusion more than 50 years ago. But it has stayed a distant dream because the challenges have turned out to be more significant than anyone imagined.

Forty years is an important number when humans make predictions because it is the length of most people’s working lives. So any predicted change that is further away than that means the change will happen beyond the working lifetime of everyone who is working today. In other words, it cannot happen with any technology that today’s experts have any practical experience with. That suggests it is a number to be treated with caution.

But teasing apart the numbers shows something interesting. This 45-year prediction is the median figure from all the experts. Perhaps some subset of this group is more expert than the others?

To find out if different groups made different predictions, Grace and co looked at how the predictions changed with the age of the researchers, the number of their citations (i.e., their expertise), and their region of origin.

It turns out that age and expertise make no difference to the prediction, but origin does. While North American researchers expect AI to outperform humans at everything in 74 years, researchers from Asia expect it in just 30 years.

That’s a big difference that is hard to explain. And it raises an interesting question: what do Asian researchers know that North Americans don’t (or vice versa)?

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1705.08807[1] : When Will AI Exceed Human Performance? Evidence from AI Experts

References

  1. ^ arxiv.org/abs/1705.08807 (arxiv.org)

Clinton says the Russians had to be “guided by Americans” in how they weaponized information

Hillary Clinton, in an interview at Recode’s Code Conference earlier today, said she believes that Russia was “guided by Americans” in the way that it weaponized information during the final days of her presidential campaign against Donald Trump.

“Seventeen agencies, all in agreement, concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign to influence voters in the election,” Clinton said. She went on to say that, in her opinion and based on intelligence, Russia could not have known how to weaponize that information “unless they had been guided by Americans.”

Clinton said that within one hour of the leak of the infamous Access Hollywood tapes — in which now-president Donald Trump spoke crudely about his nonconsensual sexual assault against women — “the Russians or say Wikileaks — same thing — dumped the John Podesta emails.”

Russia’s potential meddling in the November 2016 US presidential election is still being investigated by government agencies, with attention focused most recently on Jared Kushner[1], Donald Trump’s son-in-law who reportedly suggested opening a communications channel with Russian officials last year. It’s been reported that other advisors and members of Trump’s campaign staff may have had indirect ties to Russian officials, as well[2].

Clinton, who lost the electoral vote to Trump, has been reemerging to make more public appearances in recent weeks, giving a commencement speech at Wellesley College and granting access to New York Magazine for a candid profile. She has mentioned a variety of factors that may have contributed to her loss, including Russia’s involvement, “weaponized” technology, persistent sexism, and a lack of inherited data from the Democratic National Committee, which has led some critics to say that Clinton has not expressed enough-self blame for the loss.