Automotive

Automotive, Car Reviews

Motoring: Fiat Tipo Station Wagon

Motoring: Fiat Tipo Station Wagon
Design is becoming more thought provoking.

I notice this as I admire the new Fiat Tipo station wagon, parked on my driveway.

There’s barely a straight panel on it and that’s nothing to do with my driving! This has led me to cast my mind back to vehicles of the past. It seems that curves started to become fashionable in the ‘60s on the likes of the E-type Jaguar but many cars of that period were still boxy and this was the case right through to the ‘80s, even the ‘90s where straight lines still prevailed on the likes of the Vauxhall Cavalier. Of course this is a very general perception and there were exceptions to the rule such as TVR and the more specialist manufacturers. Over the next 20 years those straight lines were gradually rounded off, think of the Ford Granada and Vauxhall Omega. But we now live in a different era, one where manufacturers have gone back to the drawing board and created something that combines both straight lines and curves. The Fiat Tipo is a good example of this. The front wheel arches are a tasteful blend of slightly boxy curvaceousness which joins up with the equally well crafted bonnet. It looks chunkier from the side than head on. And it’s a good effect. This is offset by the two-tone 16-inch alloy wheels.

By Tim Saunders - Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - Full Story

New Honda Accord a major step backwards - and that’s a good thing!

New Honda Accord a major step backwards - and that's a good thing!

By Jim Bray - Monday, December 11, 2017 - Full Story

Mazda CX-3 manual - a low end SUV that’s plenty of fun

Mazda CX-3 manual - a low end SUV that's plenty of fun
The entry level version of Mazda’s smallest SUV is not only a great vehicle that’s a blast to drive, it also shows clearly that there are plenty of common features on today’s vehicles that aren’t really necessary.

I mean, for 20 grand Canadian, you can have a great-looking “crossover” that’s also a great driving one (it feels kind of like a tall Mazda 3). It’s almost enough to make me want to think about owning an SUV, without simultaneously ducking to avoid a lightning strike from Heaven.

Sure, for that $19,995 entry price you don’t get adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring, and that type of thing. But you do get manual cruise control, and vehicle that handles so nicely that you should have no trouble keeping inside your lane (as long as you pay attention - and if you don’t, why are you there?). You also get outside rear view mirrors you can adjust to virtually eliminate blind spots - and plenty more standard features, like airbags, belts and the like. Just like every car today, pretty well.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, December 3, 2017 - Full Story

Mercedes’ golden age of design continues with 2017 C-Class Wagon

Mercedes-Benz' C Class wagon
Mercedes-Benz’ C Class wagon is a lovely and wonderful car that combines the best of a sedan with most of the utility of an SUV/Crossover. I call that a winning combination.

Okay, let’s get the “I’m a wagon guy” out of the way first. I’m a wagon guy. I love ‘em - they’re like a sedan except you can haul a big screen TV in them - depending on the size of the screen.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, November 26, 2017 - Full Story

Car buyers lose big when big government tells them what to buy

Car buyers lose big when big government tells them what to buy
DALLAS — For a century carmakers built the cars and trucks their customers wanted.  That’s changing. Increasingly they’re building cars and trucks the government wants their customers to have—and that means electric vehicles (EVs).

CNN reports that China, France, Great Britain, India, Norway and Germany are considering banning the future production and sale of gasoline and diesel-powered engines.

By Merrill Matthews - Thursday, November 23, 2017 - Full Story

Honda refreshes the Fit for 2018

Honda refreshes the Fit for 2018
Does Honda’s mid-cycle refresh of its little Fit mean the car’s a little Fitter now?

Indeed. The Fit is a good little car - despite the Honda-isms of the company’s current line that continuously drive me crazy - and Honda has indeed made it even better than before. They’ve even returned the volume control knob to the centre stack, proving that they either do listen to their critics or that they’ve actually started driving their own products for a change.

By Jim Bray - Friday, November 17, 2017 - Full Story

Toyota sports coupe a relatively cheap way to have fun behind the wheel

Toyota sports coupe a relatively cheap way to have fun behind the wheel
Toyota, please don’t even think about 86ing this great little smile generator!

A tip of the pun-dit hat to my friend Harry for that one, though the rest of the groaners in this piece are all mine.

The Toyota 86 - the Scion FR-S before Toyota said sayonara to the Scion era - and its virtual twin from Subaru (named after a Business Revitalization Zone or something) are relative rarities in this era of high tech gadgetry: they’re raw and unsophisticated, but they also hearken back to the days when cars were simpler, more direct and, dare I say, visceral.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, November 12, 2017 - Full Story

Canadian Car of the Year TestFest offers great first driving impressions

Porsche Panamera
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Ontario: Some of the best or most interesting new or substantially-changed vehicles for 2018 turned out at this vintage Ontario racing facility for a two day marathon driving session designed to choose the top candidates for AJAC‘s annual Canadian Car of the Year Awards.

This is the place, as noted in historic pictures around the facility,  where guys like Gilles Villeneuve, Jackie Stewart, Stirling Moss, Mario Andretti and A. J. Foyt plied their trade. The track owners were smart enough not to let us anywhere near that track (damn their wisdom!), but we did get to take some of the coolest sets of wheels onto the Driver Development Track, a fun series of innumerable turns designed more to teach you mettle than test your metal.

By Jim Bray - Friday, November 3, 2017 - Full Story

Lincoln’s biggest car and smallest ute make driving in Southern Ontario nearly tolerable

Lincoln Continental
How do you cope with stupidly low speed limits, endless semi-trailers choking the two right lanes (even if there are only two), and drivers who seem to think that, because they’re from the Centre of the Universe™, they have a right to drive as moronically and/or in others’ faces as they want?

Oh, and how about the endless signs peppered over the roadsides cajoling you how to drive, how to live, how to do everything except drive distracted (because it appears to only be okay when it’s the government doing the distracting)?

Well, you could try driving in a Lincoln. It won’t make the drive better, but it can certainly make it a lot more pleasant.  

By Jim Bray - Friday, November 3, 2017 - Full Story

Motoring: Volvo V60 D4 Cross Country

Motoring: Volvo V60 D4 Cross Country
“I delivered one of these the other day and the chap didn’t want to drive it,” says the delivery driver.

“Oh,” I reply, a little perplexed, admiring the finish of this particular model. “Couldn’t he drive?” I ask.

“He just sat and listened to the stereo.”

“Really? Was he all there?” I question.

By Tim Saunders - Thursday, November 2, 2017 - Full Story

Macan Turbo Exclusive Performance Edition with 440 hp and customized details

Macan Turbo Exclusive Performance Edition
Toronto— With the Porsche Macan Turbo Exclusive Performance Edition, Porsche is introducing a particularly elegant version in the Macan line-up. The Edition model is based on the Macan Turbo with Performance Package, which features a 3.6-litre V6 turbo engine capable of producing 440 hp. Exclusive exterior and interior design features underline the highly sporty character of the most powerful derivative in the model line. The sports car amongst SUVs is carefully finished by hand in the Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur department at the Leipzig production site.

The standard Turbo exterior package is the foundation for the unique appearance of the Macan Turbo Exclusive Performance Edition. This package includes features such as 21-inch 911 Turbo Design wheels with lateral spokes painted in Black (high-gloss), LED headlights, and tinted LED rear lights. Additional design components created specifically for this Edition model underline the exclusive character of the vehicle. Elements on the front spoiler, rear apron and side blades painted in Carmine Red are just one example of such exclusive details. The “Macan turbo” model designation is also painted in Carmine Red underneath the Black (high-gloss) “PORSCHE” logo on the rear end.

By News on the Net - Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - Full Story

Mercedes-Benz E coupe a real ‘Tourer de force’

Or maybe it’s a “coupe de grace!”

However you pun about Mercedes-Benz’ 2018 E 400 coupe, it’s an exquisite and luxurious two door E Class, and that is nothing at which to sneer. Sure, you won’t get much change back from your 90 grand to get one configured as Mercedes-Benz Canada’s quite loaded sample was, but that’s what a car like this costs these days - and for that amount you’re getting an incredible vehicle.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, October 14, 2017 - Full Story

Mandate destroys buyers’ freedom of choice; whacks the economy

FLINT, Michigan  — There is an old saying that those who don’t learn from the mistakes of others are destined to repeat them.

Before Congress finalizes ill-conceived fuel economy standards that would almost double gasoline mileage by 2025, while boosting costs of the average vehicle by some $3,000 and pricing millions of Americans out of the market, it could learn a lesson from a similar misguided experience 40 years ago.

In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter, citing a need to reduce U.S. dependence on OPEC oil, mandated a 53 percent increase in fuel economy over seven years.

By Mark J. Perry - Sunday, October 8, 2017 - Full Story

Auto supplier Denso to invest $1B in Tennessee plant, create 1,000 jobs

Japanese auto supplier Denso announced a new $1 billion investment in its Tennessee plant on Friday, a move that will create 1,000 new U.S. jobs.

The investment is aimed at making the Maryville plant the Japanese company’s primary manufacturer in North American for electrification and safety systems, the company said.—More…

By News on the Net - Friday, October 6, 2017 - Full Story

A vehicle for America

That is my opinion of the fourth generation Lexus RX450h Sport. Why? It’s the type of SUV (sports utility vehicle) the Americans like, ultra luxurious inside, large and its hybrid credentials help the driver feel that they are no depleting the earth’s resources, too much anyway. Its predecessors have been extremely popular in the States, which means that this one will go down extremely well, too. It is easy to imagine it cruising the large roads over there and being very much at home. The poor British motorist can but dream of large traffic free roads or embark on their journeys during incredibly anti-social hours.

By Tim Saunders - Monday, October 2, 2017 - Full Story

Acura adds A-Spec goodies to 2018 TLX

Honda’s luxury division may have sparked the Japanese invasion of the luxury and high end sports car markets - and led the way for several years after that - but you might wonder what the company has done lately.

Well, besides the new NSX supercar, the company has continued to release well built, luxurious vehicles that are stuffed with technology. The problem is, everyone else is doing the same thing, only some have now passed Acura’s lead enough that the folks at Honda’s top niche may find themselves a tad lost in the customer shuffle. And that’s a shame.

By Jim Bray - Friday, September 29, 2017 - Full Story

Fuel-cell cars cruise onto the market

Fuel-cell powered cars that emit only water vapor when driven have been in the works for decades, but progress seemed to keep stalling. Now, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the wait is over. Motorists can finally lease or buy hydrogen-powered, fuel-cell cars, but the road ahead for these vehicles still faces some bumps.

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, September 28, 2017 - Full Story

Volkswagen stretching things with new generation Tiguan

The VW Tiguan has always been a great compact SUV, and for 2018 the German carmaker has redesigned the vehicle completely, crafting a new generation Tiguan that seems fully capable of slugging it out in this niche of the market.

As a VW fan, I’m always nervous when they release a new model because I’m afraid they’ll screw it up. It’s like your favourite sports team coming off a championship-winning season, and you just know the team will be different next year thanks to retirements, free agency, etc., and you dearly hope the new team will be everything the old one was. They aren’t usually, unfortunately - dynasties being the exception rather than the rule - but at least in Volkswagen’s case their history is generally one of steady development and refinement rather than the company rushing to throw the new baby out with the ancient bath water.

By Jim Bray - Monday, September 25, 2017 - Full Story

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid hits the right notes except for some weird sounds

Minivans. These people haulers have been around for years and for a while were some of the most popular vehicles on North American roads. Then came the “crossover,” a combination of car and SUV, and the minivan segment in which an abundant number of automakers had participated started dwindling down until today there’s only a handful of models available.

One of the more interesting is from Chrysler, via its Pacifica - a name that once applied to one of the early crossovers, a seven seat people hauler that was more a long and a tad taller car than a minivan. I reviewed the first Pacifica back in 2007 and thought it was pretty neat - a decent carrier of people and not necessarily their stuff. But that Pacifica is long dead and the new one comes down firmly into the minivan segment - and it also offers what the company says is the first hybrid minivan on the market.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, September 9, 2017 - Full Story

Motoring: Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo

The city of Monte Carlo has had a long association with motorsport, ever since the Monaco Grand Prix was founded in 1929 using the city streets as part of the challenging circuit. A circuit that has seen some of Britain’s finest racing drivers clinching victory such as Graham Hill and more recently Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

Why am I talking about this famous French Formula One race? Because I happen to be behind the wheel of a Skoda Fabia… Monte Carlo. It’s a racy little number that reminds me of a plush bachelor pad, as I cast my eyes over the striped seats. There’s definitely a hint of sportiness about this five-door family hatchback. There’s a liberal smattering of leather on the gearstick, handbrake and steering wheel. But somehow it’s more staid than a typical hot hatch.

By Tim Saunders - Monday, September 4, 2017 - Full Story