Automotive Industry and Car Reviews

Old automotive pages from 2007 and Before

Lexus NX hybrid a winner despite a couple of annoyances

Lexus NX hybrid
The good news is that my favourite Lexus has received some tweaking for 2018, and the Japanese luxury brand has wisely refrained from messing too much with the successful NX SUV/crossover.

The bad news is that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to whine about, which comes in handy for a reviewer who doesn’t want to seem overly hyperbolic about a vehicle. And in this case, one of my complaints is easy enough to correct: buy the turbo gas engine version rather than the hybrid, with its whiny continuously variable transmission.


Reborn VW Jetta is a terrific small sedan

Reborn VW Jetta is a terrific small sedan
It may be German inside and out, but VW’s new small sedan makes me think in French.

French, as in “Je t’adore” because (putting it into pun-dit English) “Jetta adore” is how I came away from my week with the new, 2019 Volkswagen Jetta. This probably surprises no one who reads my columns regularly, because you know that I’m a big fan of VW’s, just about any VW – and that includes Audi and Porsche as well (and would probably include such other VW brands as Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley, if I were ever lucky enough to get seat time in them).


Big Navigator a cushy and plush drive

Big Navigator a cushy and plush drive
This was certainly the nicest bus I’ve ever driven!

Lincoln’s new Navigator, redesigned for the 2018 model year, is a really nice vehicle for those looking for a motorhome-sized SUV that coddles with the best of ‘em.

It isn’t a motorhome, of course, just a reasonably conventional LARGE three row SUV for the luxury-minded buyer.


Ford’s biggest and (until recently) littlest SUV’s offer a lot to like

 Ford Escape
Ford continues to expand and update its line of SUV/Crossovers for 2018, with a minor refresh of the Escape but also with a brand new Expedition.

The two units bookend the Edge and Explorer, ensuring there’s a model for every person’s size preference, from small to absolutely humongous. And they’re pretty nice vehicles as well. There’s one smaller, the just-out Ecosport, but that isn’t covered here..

I spent a week with each of these units, an Escape wearing the Titanium trim level and an Expedition Limited, both of which come with about as much tech and toys as one can want. Of the two, the Escape would be my personal choice because, as a small person, it’s much more a size I’d find useful – but that doesn’t mean that larger folk (or folk who need to carry more folks and/or stuff) won’t find the Expedition worth a look.


Toyota Prius a surprisingly driveable hybrid

Toyota Prius a surprisingly driveable hybrid
Who’d have thought a Toyota Prius could be an engaging vehicle to drive?

I never did, until this current generation came along a year or so ago, and after having a second kick at the car a couple of weeks ago I came away liking the Prius even more. Heck, if it didn’t have a loud and obnoxious continuously variable transmission, and such a strange-looking exterior, I might even think about putting one in my garage.


Motoring: Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback 2.0D SE Premium Lineartronic AWD
“It’s too big, I can’t drive it,” says my wife when she tries to drive the Subaru Outback. True, it is a large vehicle. But if given the chance it exceeds expectations. Because here we have an estate that boasts a massive boot, large enough (once the retractable cover is removed) for all the stuff that the Saunders family regularly travels with: two pushchairs, travel cot, luggage and lots of food. And there’s still room to change my young son’s nappy. But the great thing is that when behind the wheel the driver forgets that it’s an estate car.

By Tim Saunders - Friday, April 6, 2018 - Full Story

Honda brings Clarity to the plug-in hybrid market

Honda brings Clarity to the plug-in hybrid market
It’s loud. It’s whiny. Its interfaces are incoherent. But it’ll help you save the world, and you might be able to make other people help you pay for it!

It’s Honda’s new Clarity, in this case a plug-in hybrid model. Honda calls it the newest member of their “completely redesigned lineup,” even though it sports exactly the same dashboard abomination – as in no knobs for tuning the stereo or tuning the volume up or down - that the company is finally moving away from with its new Accord and other models.

Claritys (Clarities?) start at a Canadian MSRP of $39,900 and if you want to step up to the top line version – the Touring trim level – it’ll cost you and/or your peers $43,900 (your peers, according to Honda, thanks to “up to $13,000 of government incentives”). For that price you’ll get what Honda says is “a big step forward for the company’s electrified fleet, entering the Canadian market with the best overall combined range and interior volume in its class.”


Mustang Bullitt looks like more than just a fun movie tie in

Mustang Bullitt looks like more than just a fun movie tie in
It’s green and powerful, and it isn’t the Incredible Hulk. Instead, it’s the new Bullitt edition of Ford’s legendary pony car, the Mustang. And it looks like it’ll be a heckuva ride!

The tie-in comes as the iconic Steve McQueen cop film Bullitt celebrates its 50th anniversary, assuming a movie can celebrate its own birthday, so what better time than now to exploit, er, honour, a dead actor and what’s undoubtedly his most famous movie vehicle other than his LeMans Porsche and the motorcycle with which he leapt tall barriers with a single bound in The Great Escape.

By Jim Bray - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - Full Story

Electric Vehicles Beware: Customers Prefer SUVs and Pick-Ups

Electric Vehicles Beware: Customers Prefer SUVs and Pick-Ups
SUVs and crossovers made up more than one in three cars sold globally last year—almost tripling their share from just a decade ago. The world increasingly wants these larger vehicles that originated in America. Spurred by rising incomes and lower gas prices, drivers in China, Australia, and other countries are showing a preference for SUVs over smaller sedans. Compared to smaller cars, SUVs are about 30 percent less efficient and they are less likely to have electric versions because there are technological and cost hurdles to powering a larger car with batteries. Further, many automakers believe that drivers of SUVs value power and performance and do not want to be constrained by battery-powered cars with far less range.

By Institute for Energy Research - Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - Full Story

Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – a bargain hot hatch?

Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – a bargain hot hatch?
South Korean carmakers have come a long way in a relatively short time. And they’ve earned their current success by offering cars that are built well, competitive in price and even more competitive in features.

Hyundai, the subject of this particular rant, has developed from the old and unloved Pony and Stellar of the 1980’s, and their later and rather bizarre “relax, you’ll get there someday” jingle I took to mean that, undoubtedly unconsciously, Hyundai was admitting their cars were lacking in oomph. Yes, Hyundai used to be a joke, automotively speaking.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, March 17, 2018 - Full Story

‘Electric-ish’ BMW X5 is a fine ride that could save you some premium fuel

'Electric-ish' BMW X5 is a fine ride that could save you some premium fuel
BMW’s first SUV - though they refer to it as an SAV - has been given the plug-in hybrid treatment and the result is a large utility (er, Activity, in BMW-speak) vehicle that might even save you some gas money.

The X5 xDrive40e is the first plug-in hybrid production model from BMW’s core lineup. Starting at an estimated MSRP of $74,950 CAD, before options, it’s a darn fine vehicle and equipped well even at that trim level (it’s a premium vehicle, after all). And BMW seems to be listening to some of the folks who’ve whined about its interfaces in recent years. That would include me, who has muttered maledictions about the iDrive system, the complexity of merely storing a radio station preset and the annoying folly of having to pull door handles twice to get out of the vehicle and the start/stop button twice to get the thing to actually shut down.

By Jim Bray - Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - Full Story

The 2018 Canadian Car of the Year is a Honda - and the Best Utility Vehicle is a minivan

Honda's all-new Accord sedan
Looks like Honda might be wise to buy a bigger display case to hold all the international awards its new Accord is receiving.

That’s because, after being named 2018 North American Car of the Year at the car show in Detroit, as well as scoring its way onto the Car & Driver 10 Best Cars list yet again (for about the 1,000th time) Honda’s all-new Accord sedan has won the 2018 Canadian Car of the Year award, presented under the auspices of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

By Jim Bray - Sunday, February 18, 2018 - Full Story

Canadian Car of the Year gets down to the best of the best

Mazda CX-9
The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s Best Car award is now down to three finalists.

Well, six, technically - but that’s a pretty steep winnowing from the 182 vehicles that were eligible for this year’s Canadian Car of the Year Awards. And it means there are now only three contenders (or a contender and two pretenders?) for the titles of Canadian Car of the Year and the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

Mazda leads the way with three vehicles that are still in the running - and as a Mazda fan I’d be happy with any of them taking their categories. Alas, the prevailing “wisdom” seems to be aimed elsewhere, at least in the “car” of the year category.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, February 11, 2018 - Full Story

What can you get in a great sports car for under $35,000?  Quite a lot!

What can you get in a great sports car for under $35,000?  Quite a lot!
What would you do if you found yourself with an extra $35,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Would you give it to charity, buy stocks or other investments, or maybe just blow it on a four wheeled toy?

A good friend of mine, Blair, posed that query to me a couple of days ago and it got me thinking about what I’d do in such a situation if I didn’t have to consult with anyone about how (or if…) it should be spent.

I don’t know if Blair has an extra 35 grand burning a hole in his pocket or if he was merely "goal setting," but his challenge was: "you have $35K and want to buy a sports car for occasional use. What would you choose?" He also mentioned I didn’t have to use the full 35 grand of "play money" but I imagine that by the time all is said and done I’d have spent that amount and maybe a little more.

By Jim Bray - Thursday, February 1, 2018 - Full Story

Americans’ most reliable cars are mostly Japanese - and Canada’s best new car gets a step closer

Americans' most reliable cars are mostly Japanese - and Canada's  best new car gets a step closer
What do Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and Volkswagen all have in common? They were named to the list of the 15 cars that American consumers keep the longest before putting them out to pasture.

The news comes courtesy of iseecars.com,  which bills itself as "an automotive data and research company that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and guidance."  I’d never heard of them before learning about this study, but after checking out their site they seem to be kind of like AutoTrader in their focus.

By Jim Bray - Monday, January 29, 2018 - Full Story

Hot on the heels of new Star Wars comes the return of the Jetta

Hot on the heels of new Star Wars comes the return of the Jetta
One of my favourite sedans is about to be reborn and if initial pictures are any indication it will be an interesting step forward.

That car is the Volkswagen Jetta, which until this new generation basically resembled a Golf with a trunk (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The new generation is not only redesigned, but VW says it also features a transferrable six year, 72,000 mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty.

Alas, that new warranty is only from VW USA; VW Canada will continue with its four year, 80,000 km warranty, but this probably isn’t a big deal in this day and age of vehicle dependability.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, January 21, 2018 - Full Story

Gorilla Glass debuts in car windshields

Gorilla Glass debuts in car windshields
Chemically toughened glass already keeps cell phone screens (mostly) crack-free, and now this type of glass is starting to make its mark in the auto industry in car windshields. According to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, Gorilla Glass and similar strong, transparent materials could soon make an appearance in even more consumer products.

By American Chemical Society - Friday, January 19, 2018 - Full Story

Looking for a good minivan? You Odyssey Honda’s entry

Looking for a good minivan? You Odyssey Honda's entry
It may be a bad pun, but the headline above is a good piece of advice if you’re one of the people thinking about making the move to a new minivan.

I’m not a minivan guy at all - my wife wanted one when our kids were sized and had lifestyles that were "minivan friendly" but I always managed to stave it off, until now they’re long-married and on their own and a minivan is even less of a necessity for empty nesters. But I understand and laud the minivan as perhaps the ultimate in family-and-their-stuff hauling (at least until the three row SUV came along) and I’ve driven enough of them over the years to appreciate their utility, if not their fun.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, January 13, 2018 - Full Story

Motoring: Peugeot 3008

Motoring: Peugeot 3008
When I take delivery of the Peugeot 3008 SUV (sports utility vehicle) I have a schedule planned. It is going to Chichester, only 30 minutes from home, down the M27 and after that a more gruelling trip to Cornwall, some 240 miles away. This should give me a good idea of what this vehicle is about. Throw into the mix a trio of trouble: Harriett (6), Heidi (4) and Henry (1).

My little rascals get really excited when a vehicle is delivered and when they see the 3008 their eyes light up. The burgundy finish gets a thumbs up and we all like the black roof and smattering of chrome. Looking closer the rear section reminds me of the Range Rover Evoque but there’s also a hint of the ‘70s about it with the way the panel under the glass swooshes up in a sort of curve. The chunky chrome exhausts at the rear and the black privacy glass, the large chrome grille at the front and the sizeable bonnet all help to give this mid range SUV character. And even some drivers of more expensive Land Rovers and Range Rovers double take, I notice. Inside it is dark due to the black roof fabric and dark interior trim. This is only really emphasised if, like me, you have been driving cars with large glass roofs. There’s a comfortable driving position and, as my son Henry makes me realise when he stands in front of it, it sits quite high up. Therefore, the driver enjoys a good view of the road ahead. All controls are close to hand and the finish of the 3008 is good although the bonnet feels a little tinny to me.

By Tim Saunders - Saturday, January 13, 2018 - Full Story

GM thanks taxpayers for bailout by introducing car with no steering wheel so they can die in it

GM thanks taxpayers for bailout by introducing car with no steering wheel so they can die in it
Trends come and trends go. People jump on completely insane ideas because everyone else is jumping on them. I get it. It’s been that way since the dawn of time. Pet rocks. Lava lamps. Halter tops. Pink Floyd. All kinds of things become things because - for whatever reason - a few people decide to ride them and everyone else follows, until it’s time to jump off and jump on something else.

(And sometimes we jump off things we should stay on forever, like Sonny Crockett’s wardrobe, but I digress.)

For the most part I attribute it to a uniquely human aversion to engage in critical thinking. “This is idiotic but everyone else is an idiot too so who cares?” It’s easier than thinking, and it earns you less resistance, so what the hell?

By Dan Calabrese - Friday, January 12, 2018 - Full Story