Automotive Industry and Car Reviews

Old automotive pages from 2007 and Before

Mazda’s new CX-9 downsizes the engine but keeps the ‘Zoom-Zoom’ intact

The bad news is that you can no longer get a V6 engine in Mazda’s biggest SUV. The good news is that you may not care.

I must admit that I was worried when I heard that Mazda was dumping the V6. I liked the old CX-9 a lot - I have yet to drive a Mazda I didn’t like - and I was concerned that trimming it down to a turbocharged four cylinder engine would lead to a vehicle that wouldn’t be as much fun to drive. But I needed have worried! After spending a week in the new CX-9, I commend Mazda for their choice because the new CX-9 loses nothing important in the way of performance, yet it shed weight and undoubtedly upped its fuel mileage in the process.

Therefore, we have a new turbo four, the first turbocharged SKYACTIV engine from Mazda, and while its horsepower rating of 227 may not set the world on fire considering the size of the CX-9, its 310 lb.-ft. of torque,  available at a nice and low 2,000 rpm, makes up for it very nicely.

By Jim Bray - Thursday, September 8, 2016 - Full Story

Ford’s Flex is a capable true crossover

In the tradition of the little engine that could, Ford really could call its Flex crossover the minivan that isn’t.

That’s because it isn’t a minivan, but it might as well be. Even better, it isn’t an SUV either, as compared with most "other" SUV’s on the market. And it’s a station wagon, too! Really, the Flex is one of the few true "crossovers"  I can think of, a vehicle that transcends the niches between the various and supposedly "soccer mom movers" that make up a so much of the marketplace.

Ford could be accused of trying to maximize sales by straddling the line between two or three, niches, but that would only be fair if the company had come out with some mishmash that didn’t do any job adequately. Fortunately, the Flex is, if not formidable, at least very good - and surprisingly driveable as long as you keep its turning circle in mind when you’re angle parking.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, August 27, 2016 - Full Story

Nissan adds a famed diesel name to its Titan line

It’s big, it’s brawny - and, for those who want maximum hauling performance, now you can get it with a torquey and businesslike Cummins diesel engine

It’s the Nissan Titan, and I just spent a week in Nissan Canada’s sample 2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel Crew Cab 4x4 (one of five versions offered), tooling around the city and environs, cutting a swath through lesser vehicular traffic - which is most vehicular traffic!

If you’re a regular reader of my stuff - and thanks,  by the way! - you’ll know I’m not really a truck guy, so to ensure as much fairness and accuracy as possible I enlisted the help of a couple of friends,  one of whom owns a first generation Titan and one of whom owns two big Ram trucks, including a diesel. I defer to their knowledge and experience, though of course I also have my own opinons for whatever they’re worth.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, August 20, 2016 - Full Story

Ford ups the content ante on 2016 Mustang

It wasn’t exactly a mid-life crisis, but it sure may have looked like it to people not inside the car.

I’m referring to my recent week in the 2016 Ford Mustang GT convertible, which just happened to coincide with my 64th birthday and came at a time when the weather cried out for a ragtop.

Mustang has always been my favourite muscle car, sometimes called Pony car - but only because the Mustang is the original pony car,  appearing first in 1964 and changing the fun car market ever since then. Well,  mostly. There were some Mustangs during the 1970’s that weren’t fit to carry the horse logo and, I have to admit, none of the Mustangs really turned my crank between 1970 and the car’s reboot in the early 2000’s.

By Jim Bray - Thursday, August 11, 2016 - Full Story

Shomi streaming tries to cut into Netflix’ business

Netflix may be the several hundred pound gorilla in the world of TV content streaming - and with good reason - but competitor shomi has a lot going for it as well. I don’t think it has the depth and breadth of what Netflix offers, but there’s still plenty of programming to peruse.

The folks behind the service offered me a free month to sample its wares,  so I took them up on it; unfortunately, due to a brain issue (I forgot!) I signed up just as I was leaving for vacation, so I didn’t have as much time to poke around as I’d have liked before my trial period ended. But I got a decent first impression.

By Jim Bray - Thursday, August 11, 2016 - Full Story

Mercedes-Benz C Class coupe a real coup

Mercedes-Benz certainly seems to be on a roll these days.  The German luxury car manufacturer is currently making some of the most attractive vehicles in its history, beauty being in the eye of the beholder of course, and they’re integrating the latest technology into their models without making most of it unnecessarily annoying and/or obtrusive.

And that’s on top of their long-held reputation as the maker of some of the finest cars on the market - an impression they continue to foster via their slogan "The best, or nothing."

Ford’s 2017 Fusion offers something for nearly everyone

Ford’s top selling Fusion has a new look and new capabilities for 2017, and if my all-too-brief experience with the car on its introduction in British Columbia last week is any indication, it should continue to be a popular choice with consumers.

Ford of Canada invited me, and a gaggle of other car writers, to sample the 2017 Fusion, which isn’t a complete redesign but is still a major rethink of what was a pretty decent car already. Ford has made a number of tweaks they think - and they’re probably right - will help keep the car competitive in this bread-and-butter market niche that also features such great vehicles as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Mazda6, VW Passat, Kia Optima,  Hyundai Sonata etc. etc. etc.

By Jim Bray - Thursday, July 28, 2016 - Full Story

Mercedes Benz Driving Academy helps you learn the physics of driving

Mercedes-Benz just taught me how to drive like Jackie Stewart!

Okay, maybe not - few people can drive like the legendary "wee Scot" who won the Formula 1 championship three times in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. But thanks to Mercedes-Benz’s Driving Academy and their recent "Mastering Performance" course at Castrol Raceway near Edmonton, I learned some great techniques aimed at making me a better driver - and one of those techniques was pioneered by Sir Jackie himself.

It’s called "trail braking," and if you can drive a manual transmission you’ll find it quite similar to using the clutch. But more about that later.

By Jim Bray - Thursday, July 14, 2016 - Full Story

Range Rover a classy suit of diesel-powered clothes

Range Rover has a solution for buyers of big,  luxury sports utes who don’t want to pay through the nose at the gas pump to get their big and heavy luxury vehicles around: get a diesel!

It’s too bad diesels have received so much bad publicity over the last year or so, because they really are remarkable power plants. Where else can you get gobs of oomph and still achieve great "gas" mileage other than electric cars, most of which still don’t have the range and take too long to charge?

By Jim Bray - Thursday, June 30, 2016 - Full Story

13 Hours and Anomalisa - two very different tales of humanity

One is a big and brash look at some American heroes left out to dry by their government and the other is an animated take on one man’s bittersweet attempt to feel like he belongs. And though they don’t have a lot in common, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi and Anomalisa kind of bookend the movie business: a larger than life action movie and a smaller than life artsy fartsy "think piece."

Of the two, I preferred 13 Hours, not so much because it’s a better movie or a better story, but because it’s a more important film, a whistleblowing on a corrupt political regime for whom the military are pawns to be used and abused. I had hoped for more from Anomalisa, being a sucker for stop motion animation, but came away wondering why they bothered making it that way; about the only thing that made stop motion necessary was an explicit sex scene the filmmakers probably couldn’t have gotten away with and maintained their 14A rating using real actors.

By Jim Bray - Thursday, June 30, 2016 - Full Story

Toyota Sienna a very nice family hauler

Once the mainstay of so-called soccer moms, the minivan seems to have fallen somewhat out of favour in recent years, judging by the few models still on the market. Yet a few soldier on, primed to pick up people and their possessions and take them to whatever venue their busy lives require.

This fall in minivans’ fortunes is due undoubtedly, at least in part, to the rise of the SUV/Crossover. The average SUV offers a more car-like drive, all things being equal, and most also have a higher driver’s eye view than the typical minivan, which can be nice in traffic.

By Jim Bray - Thursday, June 23, 2016 - Full Story

Going topless in 2016 without getting arrested

Top down motoring continues to be a popular pastime for Canadians and others, especially at this time of year. It’s a niche that was nearly dead some 20 years ago, yet now it flourishes. And that’s great! It’s always nice to have choices.

I’m not really a convertible guy, though I’ve owned a few - decades ago - and do enjoy driving the occasional drop top during my car reviewing duties. I’m more of a sunroof guy, though (or moon roof, though I’ve never managed to get my moon up through one); as I age I don’t enjoy the sun beating down on me like I did when I was a kid - possibly a tribute to thinning hair. Heck, I even keep the sunroof closed, mostly, during the heat of the day; I’m more likely to open it once the sun has set, or during warm winter days such as those provided by Chinooks here in Alberta than during the hot scorchers of summer.

Jaguar’s XF S sports sedan goes to the Indy 500

History, tradition, innovation. Three words that apply not only to the Indianapolis 500, the greatest spectacle in racing, but also to the British brand Jaguar, whose history includes plenty of racing as well as such fantastic designs as the historic E Type sports car that was arguably the most beautiful vehicle ever made till then - and long after then.

And though it appears Jaguar never actually competed in the iconic Indy 500, Jaguar Racing did contest the Indy road course from 2000 - 2004. That was during its Formula 1 days, when the company was owned by Ford (who bought the team from another legend: Sir Jackie Stewart, who has competed in the 500) and before it evolved into team Red Bull. But for a few years, it was Jaguar. That’s my hook and I’m sticking with it!

Canadians rate automakers’ websites and find many lacking: J.D. Power

Carmakers who want to convince consumers their creations are the champs need a compelling website with which to do it, according to the 2016 Canadian Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study released last week by J. D. Power.

Their websites need to actually facilitate consumers finding the info presented on the site, too, and that’s something that doesn’t necessarily happen. Unfortunately, carmakers’ site are by no means unique in this criticism, which is mine and not J. D. Power’s. After all, what’s the point in spending money on a website if your visitors leave in frustration?

Lexus RX 350 ups its popular ante, but is it better to drive?

Lexus’ top selling model has a new set of clothes for 2016, as well as some new toys and capabilities. But has the redesign done anything to make the SUV/crossover a more interesting and/or fun vehicle to drive than before?

Not really, alas, though it’s still a very fine vehicle and will undoubtedly please its owners over the short and long terms. But I remember when the RX was a tad more fun, when I drove the customer shuttle for the local Lexus dealer some 10 or so years ago. I’d do one day a week, to get me out of the home office and get some real human contact, and the shuttle then was an RX 330 Sport model, which even had a decent manual shifting mode. On the other hand, Lexus dealers have a better vehicle to use as a shuttle now - the new RX is roomier and, thanks to its lack of driver involvement, it can undoubtedly be a little more relaxing for the passengers being shuttled by lead-footed drivers.

Honda Civic Coupe nearly a really great ride

“Half the doors. Twice the fun.” That’s how Honda Canada’s website describes the new Civic Coupe and it’s a pretty decent description of the newest version of the award-winning Civic.

It’s still over styled and has annoying interfaces, but I agree with Honda that the coupe provides a lovely helping of the fun to drive factor that can make small cars such a blast - and which the new sedan version lacks. It’s a Honda that feels more like Hondas of old, and that’s great.

Mercedes-Benz Metris van brings driving pleasure to utility

If your company is looking for a utility van that rewards the person behind the wheel, look no farther than Mercedes-Benz new Metris.

It’s a work van that takes a lot of the work out of driving, offering a more compelling experience behind the steering wheel than I expected out of a utility vehicle. And it starts at a reasonable $33,900 CAD ($37,900 when you configure it as a passenger van).

WeKast sends your presentations to TV’s wirelessly

Think of it more like a strongest link, rather than the “wekast” one.  WeKast is a new hardware and software solution for people who make presentations on the go, whether in corporate boardrooms or wherever. It’s a way to leave the cables at home and just carry along with you your smart device and the little WeKast dongle.

Motoring: Mazda 2

The art of deception is a difficult thing to master.

The Victorians were particularly adept at this when building their terrace houses that appear small from the outside and are often far larger than expected on the inside. I know because I live in one. But the modern houses of today are very small in comparison.  Some car manufacturers are able to replicate this with their vehicles. I am particularly thinking of the Kia Venga, which is certainly spacious. I am not expecting anything great though from the Mazda 2 because after all it is a supermini and they are small aren’t they?

By Tim Saunders - Monday, May 9, 2016 - Full Story

Honda Civic Coupe nearly a really great ride

“Half the doors. Twice the fun.” That’s how Honda Canada’s website describes the new Civic Coupe and it’s a pretty decent description of the newest version of the award-winning Civic.

It’s still over styled and has annoying interfaces, but I agree with Honda that the coupe provides a lovely helping of the fun to drive factor that can make small cars such a blast - and which the new sedan version lacks. It’s a Honda that feels more like Hondas of old, and that’s great.