CAR REVIEWS (32)
Drumheller, AB – When you think trucks and throw Alberta in the mix I wanted to arrive to the Ford F-150 event with a mesh trucker hat and belt buckle for my first ever truck review. But the reality is this trip wasn’t about going cross country in a heavy tractor trailer, but learning and experiencing what the Ford F-150 can do.
The Ford F-150 customer is not that made-up trucker you see in the movies. The F-150 caters to everyone and can be customized to your liking – a big reason why it’s the best-selling truck in Canada for 47 years strong. Ford’s F-Series is their line of full pick-up trucks that sold over 100,000 units in Canada last year and the F-150 is by far their most popular.
The key test for me was to see whether I would enjoy driving the F-150 and whether I can picture myself owning one of these bad boys one day. You have to understand, I’m a type of guy that enjoys a compact car like the Volkswagen Golf much more than a Range Rover SuperCharged. OK maybe it would have to be the GTI version. This truck thing was a new venture, but you can always take some positives out of any new experience.
The people at Ford Canada set us up with a great roster of F-150 vehicles ranging from the XLT to the Platinum version with a top-of-the-line Limited on display. It’s tough to keep track of all the variations, as there are so many – 10 trim levels in total and that doesn’t include all the customizations that can be done. All of the F-150s that we saw were at an FX2 level or higher, so for this review I will only be covering those trucks.
Drumheller, Alberta was a perfect setting for this event as it just represents country life in the heart of the badlands of east-central Alberta just 110 kilometres north of Calgary. It’s also known as Dinosaur Valley from its history of dinosaur fossil findings and home to the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology, a museum that we were lucky enough to visit that holds Canada’s largest collection of dinosaur fossils. There isn’t a major intersection you pass in Drumheller where you don’t see a friendly sculptured dinosaur. The town is a scene right out of a movie between the Red Deer River, mountains, hoodoos and the non-operational and current tourist attraction – the Atlas Coal Mine.
Back to the F-150 we go…
Most of the F-150s have a similar shape except for the SVT Raptor. When it comes to a feeling each F-150 provides – well there’s many to choose from that can range from a western-style King Ranch to a luxurious Limited version for the posh clientele. Yes posh! There’s not many, but apparently some are lurking around.
One thing each F-150 received is a new grille that provides a muscular feel featuring three chrome horizontal slabs with a perforated mesh inside in the Platinum, King Ranch and Limited versions; while the XLT gets a two-bar chrome version without the mesh. The SVT Raptor can easily be identified from its large black block lettering of Ford centered in the middle of the grille instead of the their typical blue oval logo and surrounded by a perforated brick wall emphasizing its toughness.
Starting at the FX2 level and above, the F-150s are given new HID headlight pods that put out two-and-a-half times more light than the standard halogen bulbs. In terms of styling, these headlights stand out with an F-150 badge situated inside of the cluster. A striking finishing touch!
As for that Limited version mentioned above – it’s for those few who are looking for luxury and have the money to pay for it. Just think luxury and it’s in there including sharp red leather interior, 22-inch aluminum wheels and a sportier suspension.
A Look Inside
As you enter the F-150 you’re greeted by a tailgate step that’s very handy for all especially if you’re vertically challenged. Once you’ve taken your step and hopped right in – you definitely don’t feel like you’re in a truck. Wow have we come along way! I was looking for the steel bench.
The bench is a complete exaggeration, but all of the F-150s tested came with leather seat and dash interiors, chrome or wooden accent options and an abundance of technology. Ford has modernized the F-150 at par with many of their touches found in their SUVs like the Edge and Explorer. Each model has their own interior touch and feel with the Lariat having a Steel grey interior and the King Ranch having a black interior, but as in all F-150s you can tailor your interior how you like it as if you were ordering takeout at Harvey’s.
Front and center you will find the MyFord Touch entertainment console with a 4.2-inch LCD productivity screen coming standard on the dash or choose the upgraded 8-inch screen that includes navigation. Don’t worry about those precious knobs and buttons – Ford has made sure to keep them positioned below the MyFord Touch with all of its capabilities.
The system is geared for truck drivers as the touch sensitive buttons can still be used with work gloves on. The technology is so advanced that you can set your trailer tow settings and brake settings with ease through the press of a few buttons found next to the speedometer.
Under the Hood
There are four different engine choices all fitted to a six-speed automatic transmission starting with the 3.7L V-6 that produces 302 hp and 278 lb.-ft. of torque; 5.0L V-8 producing 360 hp and 380 lb.-ft. of torque; a 3.5L 4-valve EcoBoost producing 365 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque; and finally the 6.2L V-8 producing 411 hp and 434 lb.-ft. of torque.
As in the truck style choices, each engine choice can cater to what you’re looking for. If fuel economy is important to you – you might veer to the 3.7L V-6; if you’re in the hunt for truck payload, you would shift towards the 5.0L V-8; and if you do a lot of towing the 6.2L V-8 would be the answer. The variances are not large, so keep in mind your decision shouldn’t be as basic as I just pointed out. According to Darren Halabisky, Marketing Plans Manager for Trucks for Ford Canada, all dealerships are trained to thoroughly explain and customize the perfect F-150 to your needs. Just keep in mind that all engine choices are not offered for every trim level, so the dealership negotiation can be a complicated affair. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it, so I would make sure you do your research beforehand.
On The Road
We had the pleasure to drive these F-150s in a number of scenarios including towing, payload, fuel economy test and off-roading to show off its versatility. It was well planned as on most cases there’s a designated driving loop that we follow, but in the end we just might not experience the vehicles full potential. But I guess we’re talking trucks here, so really figuring out what it can do becomes a necessity.
We will get to all the exciting activities later, but I first wanted to go through some regular driving under normal conditions. As we arrived to the Calgary airport, we we’re greeted by a number of F-150s. We chose the F-150 Platinum version and were ready to roll to Drumheller. The Platinum trim can be found at the top of the food chain, just below the Limited and Raptor versions starting at $51,849. For a truck, I was amazed by the smoothness of the ride. We travelled on the highway and through local traffic with just a little engine noise. The quick and direct steering was effortless and at no time did it feel like driving a truck. That’s what blew my mind the most.
Our first task was to take the 3.7L V-6 XLT (starts at $22,449) on a fuel economy test through the badlands. This drive was presented as a challenge between groups featuring a drive through some valley dips, the old Atlas coal mine and back up a steep hill. I took the first leg and reached an amazing 8.9L/100 km, but once we reached the mine and got distracted by the coal miner as well as plenty of photo opportunities – our numbers climbed to 9.8L/ 100 km, eventually ending at 9.6L/100 km. Impressive numbers to say the least for a 4X4 that weighs a smidge under 5,000 lbs.
Off-Road, Towing and Payload Capabilities
Now to the fun stuff – towing, payload and off-roading.
We were back in the 3.7L V-6 XLT for some towing. It provided us with 10,800 lb. of towing capacity, so to test it out we loaded it with a trailer holding a Bobcat. This would be another first for me, but once again the driving route was a breeze. I utilized Ford’s advanced technology by setting the tow/haul transmission settings and was on my way. The weight was felt behind me, but it wasn’t too overwhelming. The XLT climbed those steep hills and directed the trailing Bobcat wherever I was going. The all-new power scope tow mirrors were a necessity in guiding the trailer and I got used to it immediately and more importantly became comfortable in the process.
The next test was payload and our tester was the F-150 King Ranch (starts at $51,249) with its cowboy feel and rattlesnake touches throughout the truck. We hauled 1,000 lb. in the back and cruised throughout the town. It was incredible how easy it was going up these hills which isn’t a small feet for any vehicle that isn’t even carrying anything with them. These challenges showed off the F-150s talents and it showed the security and comfort it provides to truck drivers on a daily basis.
The pièce de résistance was saved for last – the off-road course with the SVT Raptor (starts at $56,599). It wasn’t the most challenging off-road course, but had various climbs, dips and some tricky tight corners. Once again technology was utilized with Ford’s hill descent control system that does most of the work on those wild descents. All of the work is basically done for you by the technology – you’re just a passenger with only maneuvering abilities.
After a few rounds of hill descent control in four-wheel drive amateur hour was over and it was time for some fun. The hill descent control was deactivated and two-wheel drive was employed. The Raptor came to life in dinosaur country and tackled every obstacle in its sight. A big assist when climbing those hills is the new forward-looking camera that allows you to see what’s happening in front – an extremely useful tool as you’re driving blind.
Ford did a nice job in showing off their F-150 lineup and its various capabilities. There were only a few changes made to the exterior and interior, but it was a nice refresher of why the F-150 is the best-selling truck in Canada for the past 47 years. Competition is on the rise from the Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram, Toyota Tundra and GMC Sierra, so Ford has to keep one eye on the prize and the other eye on behind them.
For my first truck test, I was amazed at how many different things a truck can accomplish while keeping great fuel efficiency numbers. If you’re thinking about getting a truck, but can’t see yourself as a truck driver, I would go to your local dealership and try it out. It’s amazing how far the trucking business has come and how much the ride feels like an SUV.
If you make your decision to purchase an F-150 be prepared for which version you want, because that could be another hassle in itself, but I trust the sales people are very knowledgeable in their products. Starting prices vary considerably from the base XL at $17,499 all the way up to the SVT Raptor at $56,599. Keep in mind that the average customer falls in the XLT range that starts at $22,449 and the goodies like MyFord Touch and the HID headlamps among many other additions become standard at the FX2 level that starts at $30,649. The best part is you can customize it any way you like, so if you’re that unique individual that wants to stand out – you can have your F-150 your way!
Back in 2011 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, I amongst many others was witness to the unveiling of Ford’s smaller, but environmentally friendly C-Max to the North American market. Ford presented the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid and the C-Max Hybrid indicating their vision of bringing a little bit of Europe across the pond.
The C-Max might be new to North America, but it’s been selling in Europe since 2003, commonly known as the Ford Focus C-Max. The C-Max is a subcompact hatch that seems to be the fuel efficient norm in Europe unlike the North American SUV craze. However, with no sight of a decline on gas prices, fuel efficiency has become the number one talking point amongst manufacturers. In bringing the C-Max duo to North America, Ford has initiated a plan to become a leader in the hybrid department and a competitor for the Toyota Prius.
The C-Max is offered in two trims, the base SE that starts at $27,199 and the SEL that finds itself a smidge over $30K at $30,199. This review will focus only on the C-Max Hybrid SE, as I took it for a week-long test around the city of Toronto.
When first looking at the C-Max Hybrid, it’s hard to tell whether it’s a hatch or minivan from its unique in-between shape. Its quirkiness grows on you throughout the week and it’s distinguished as a Ford immediately with its Aston Martin-type trapezoid grille found on many of the latest Ford vehicles. The stimulating grille is accompanied by sleek halogen headlamps and for the SEL trim fog lights creating a striking sculpted look.
The C-Max is close to the same size as the Ford Focus that it’s based on, but you will see some differences in height and length. It’s a foot taller than the Focus, which is really noticeable in the headroom you have in the front and rear seats. In its length, it’s slightly smaller than the Focus hatch as it spans 173.6 inches.
A Look Inside
The cabin is exceptional for a green vehicle. The one thing I can’t stand about the Prius is the interior. It’s almost as if Toyota purposely planned their green machine to be dull and boring for their customers to only focus on the mileage and money saved while driving. The C-Max is modern and filled with technology and has reminiscent touches from Ford’s Escape, Fusion and Focus vehicles. The front seats are comfortable as you nestle in for your drive with seat heaters at your disposal, if you so choose. Call me crazy, but one of the best features I enjoyed were the interior chrome door handles. They really allow you to pull and grip, which seem to be lacking in most vehicle. For some reason, the door handles intrigued me – maybe I like to slam doors shut, who knows?
Naturally with all Ford products, the C-Max has the MyFord Touch entertainment screen with two LCD screens on each side of the speedometer to easily adjust whatever you like while driving eliminating any distraction. And for all you people like me who enjoy the feel of knobs and buttons – the C-Max has audio and climate adjustments below the MyFord Touch system. The perfect combination of touchscreens and knobs that will appease most customers.
The C-Max Hybrid might seem small, but if need be, it has 52.6 cu. ft. of cargo space when you fold the rear seats flat. Even with the rear seats up right, you still get 24.5 cu. ft. of room.
Under the Hood
The C-Max Hybrid SE is fitted with a 2-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine paired with an AC-synchronous 88-kW electric traction motor. This combination along with a lithium-ion battery pack produces 188 horsepower and 129 lb.-ft. of gas engine torque. The numbers might seem low, but the C-Max definitely has some pep in its step.
The Atkinson technology used by the C-Max allows it to run on pure battery for a longer time similar to the Prius. You really don’t notice much of a change at all as it transitions from pure EV mode to gas. The smooth transitions seem to really highlight the C-Max’s capabilities.
On the Road
When you start up the C-Max it feels like you’re saving money and the environment instantly with no engine sound whatsoever. It’s a nice little package to drive as well, as I flung it around throughout the week. The C-Max isn’t the vehicle you go full throttle with, but if you want to get adventurous it corners quite well. The steering feel is perfect and has a nice fat part at the nine and three points of the steering wheel to help you direct the C-Max all over the place. It just turns on a dime with no oversteer or understeer at all, as well as very little body roll. I didn’t expect this much responsiveness with the C-Max heading into this test, so I was very impressed with the way it moved and cornered.
If you want to drive normally, as the C-Max was intended, it drives effortlessly as you cruise the city or go run some errands while saving you money at the pump. And if you’re a driver, with parallel parking issues – the C-Max can fit easily into many spaces. If you’re still nervous about parking, the upper-tier SEL trim offers Ford’s Active Park Assist at an additional $2,500 charge.
Now to the most important feature of the C-Max – the fuel economy numbers. There has been many reports that Ford’s numbers of 4.0L/100 km in the city and 4.1L/100 km on the highway are out of whack with reality. I can tell you that out of whack is a stretch, but the numbers are indeed higher. In the week of mostly city driving, I combined to reach 6.0L/100 km – a solid number, but not at the level of the Toyota Prius v (their hatch version).
It’s nice to see that Ford is tackling the environment effort between their C-Max duo, as well as the Ford Fusion Hybrid and EcoBoost engines throughout their lineup. There’s definitely a place for the C-Max Hybrid in Canada and it’s a nice rival for the Toyota Prius v. The Prius does do a better a job in the fuel economy department, but the C-Max makes up for it in both interior and exterior style, space, power and most importantly to some, price. It looks like Ford might have to adjust their fuel economy numbers, but to me 6.0L/100 km is still respectable and will most likely improve next year. Keep an eye out for the C-Max Hybrid, because it’s a nice alternative to the banal-looking Prius.
Looking back at the history and tradition of the North American automotive industry, the Chevrolet Impala has definitely left its mark since its inception in 1958. In 1965, its longer, lower and wider shape along with its three taillight trademark catapulted the Impala to an all-time annual sales record of more than one million units in the United States – a record that still stands today.
Over the past decade, the Impala has taken on a non-enthusiastic large sedan persona focused more towards its fleet business. Similar to the Ford Taurus, many Impalas are seen out on their day jobs as taxi cabs or police vehicles, but the new editions will no longer have that on their resume. General Motors wanted to change that culture and mindset and bring the passion back that existed in its heyday in the late 1950s and 60s.
Currently 70 percent of vehicles in the large sedan car market are fleet vehicles compared to 30 percent going to retail. General Motors feel confident that their new 2014 Impala will reverse that trend with 70 percent of Impalas sold going to retail buyers.
You might skeptically ask how’s that possible?
Having no taxi or police packages are a start, but a complete overhaul from the outgoing model is hoping to do the trick.
After a brief presentation it was time to venture out and test out the tenth generation 2014 Chevrolet Impala. Let’s start to breakdown the 2014 Impala with its new styling – seems like a good starting point.
There were LTs and LTZs (base level is the LS) available for this first drive and of course I had to have the top-of-the-line LTZ. The only external difference between the two is in the grille where you will find a solid black bowtie surrounding the customary bowtie centered on the grille. Surprisingly that extra bowtie is actually for the adaptive cruise control function, an option on the LTZ version, so you will find some LTZ’s without this sharp-looking addition.
The exterior grabs your attention and makes you question whether this 2014 model is really an Impala. The new sculpted body lines stand out the most and smacks of speed and aggression emulating the smooth but quick running and leaping ability of the Antelope where its name derived. If the body lines set the tone for the Impala – the low profile projector-beam HID headlights and LED daytime lights standard on LTZ models set the mood.
Just when you think the overhaul is done the LTZ is fitted with 19-inch wheels (18-inch wheels are standard an upgrade from the 16-inch wheels in the outgoing model) that seem to fit the re-incarnation just well. To cap it off, Chevy added a little historical touch by crafting arched rear fenders resembling the old Impalas we used to love.
The exterior warms you up for the interior design and comfort as you take your seat. You’re greeted with comfortable soft-leather seats along with space, space, and more space. Well I guess that’s how it should be in a full-size sedan. Spaciousness has increased all-around with 45.8-inches of front legroom (an increase of 3.5-inches) and 39.8-inches of rear legroom (an increase of 2.2-inches). If you have a taller frame you might find headroom in the back seat to be slightly challenging, otherwise, just sit back, spread your legs out and enjoy the smooth ride.
Not that it needed any more trunk space, but the Impala has increased its truck space from 18.6 cu-ft. to 18.8 cu.-ft. to edge a bit closer to its main rival, the Ford Taurus, the only competitor with more junk in its trunk.
Another thing that Chevrolet was excited to talk about was its MyLink interface that’s set to make its debut in the new Impala. This latest version of MyLink is an eight-inch upgraded touchscreen version of the Cadillac Cue that includes mainstream features such as navigation, Bluetooth, SIRIUS satellite radio, and a rear-view camera. What makes it more interesting is that it also provides you natural voice recognition, 3-D mapping, gesture recognition where you can swipe, click and drag the touchscreen similar to an iPad, and a valet mode to secure your contacts and information.
MyLink is a nice addition that modernizes the Impala and adds some much needed connectivity and excitement. I did find it to be a bit slow in comparison to other interfaces, especially with its navigation, but at least it’s easy to understand. The knobs and buttons below the touchscreen help to simplify and quicken any request from audio to climate control.
Just like in any James Bond car there’s a secret storage compartment behind the MyLink touchscreen. All you have to do is press a button and the touchscreen lifts for you to store any precious items. It even has an additional USB port if needed. A little strange to find that in an Impala, but if you can add it – why not?
The Impala comes with three engine choices (2.5L 4-cylinder engine with intake valve lift control, a 2.4L 4-cylinder eAssist and a 3.6L V-6 with direct injection) and in three trim levels (LS, LT and LTZ). The 3.6L engine was the only one off the production line so I can only comment on that one. The 2.5L engine will be the only option for the base LS, but you will have a choice in both the other trim levels.
The 3.6L V-6 LTZ tester provides you all the power you need with 305 hp and 264 lb.-ft. of torque. Power is not a typical standout feature in a full-size sedan, but it’s nice to see that Chevy gave its top trim a boost surpassing the numbers of both the Ford Taurus (290 hp and 255 lb.-ft. of torque) and the Dodge Charger (292 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque). The Impala only comes in front-wheel drive and has a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting modes.
The Impala has a smooth confidence to it while driving on regular suburban roads all the way to the country roads of Haliburton, Ontario. The engine is so quiet I could hardly tell how fast I was going and that’s a tribute to not only the quietest Impala ever, but the quietest Chevrolet ever assembled. Statements like that are hard to measure, but along the drive route there were several railroad tracks crossed and I can tell you first hand that noise and vibration were at a minimum. Acceleration was quick and seamless and the steering was precise – a true joy to drive.
Fuel efficiency numbers have slightly improved from the outgoing model. The Impala was rated at 11.1 L/100 km in the city and 6.9L/100 km on the highway for a combined 9.2L/100 km. My country road drive surprisingly came in at 8.1L/100km – not bad and in line with the Ford Taurus, but inferior to the Toyota Avalon.
The 2014 Impala are scheduled to go on sale very shortly starting at a price of $28,445 for the LS (cheapest in its segment) all the way up to the 3.6L LTZ I tested at $39,645. Just be wary of other options such as navigation and adaptive cruise control. They might be a tempting addition, but that will get you quickly up there in price and you don’t want to be spending $45,000 on an Impala.
The middle LT model with the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine looks to be the go-to choice by many starting at a reasonable price of $31,445 and comes standard with 18-inch aluminum wheels, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, as well as the MyLink infotainment system.
After plenty of city, highway and country road driving – it’s pretty clear that General Motors has accomplished their goals with the tenth generation 2014 Chevrolet Impala. It’s transformation from a lacklustre fleet vehicle to a stimulatingly sculpted vehicle rekindled memories of days gone by. Chevrolet has done a remarkable job in providing the perfect balance of power, driving smoothness and comfort. Add in the modernization of the interior and the Impala is re-born. It will take some time for some consumers to change their pre-existing notions, but a complete overhaul was the proper start.
When you go to the Land Rover webpage you come across a slogan for the company: “Why get a car when you can own a Land Rover?” It’s an alluring slogan and depending on the consumer’s needs and desires – it could really hit its target.
Land Rover has always been about off-roading, but over the past decade they’ve been successful in attracting a wealthy urban population that love the luxury and sophistication that comes with owning one. All Land Rover and upper-tier Range Rover models still come equipped with their four modes ready to tackle any terrain through water, sand, mountain or valley. Unfortunately, many of their new clientele never attempt to see what these off-roading boxes can do, but does it matter to them? Not at all – they’re driving a Landy and really that’s all that matters.
For this review we look at the 2013 Land Rover LR2. The LR2 made its first appearance on the market in 1997 labelled the Freelander, which it still is called today in Europe. It’s still in its second-generation that began in 2006, but Land Rover felt it was in need of a refresh.
In late 2011, Land Rover launched the Range Rover Evoque that adopted a modern and sleek style coupled with a cheaper price tag that could bring in more consumers at that entry-level. The question was going to be what would become of the LR2 – Land Rover’s entry-level vehicle?
The LR2 was given the Evoque’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine from Ford that cranks 240 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque. The decision to go with the 2.0-litre engine was easy as it gained 10 more horsepower and 16 more lb.-ft. of torque from the outgoing 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine. The LR2 is fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission and comes in all-wheel drive allowing for driving flexibility depending on the terrain.
I decided to test the refreshed LR2 HSE out similar to the typical Land Rover driver. It went through the streets of Toronto and on some minor excursions to Oakville and Burlington – as I wanted it to feel at home. I chose to start in the optional Sport Mode and the LR2 really showed some pep in its step as it jetted off quickly utilizing its turbo engine. After an initial boost you settle into a quiet and smooth comfortable ride with only a little body roll which is expected.
The LR2’s steering was impressive. Just grab on to its thick black steering wheel and the LR2 will precisely place you in the direction you wish. The steering feel and weight seemed perfect which allowed for total handling control around tight corners without any oversteer or understeer.
The LR2 and the Range Rover Evoque might share the same engine and chassis (the EUCD chassis produced by Volvo and Ford), but they absolutely differ in appearance. As the Evoque has a sleek and curvaceous look, the LR2 stays traditional with its tall, boxy and rugged appearance. While sitting in the LR2, the elevation of your seat allows for great visibility, but still the comforting driving feel of a typical SUV. A two-piece panoramic moonroof invites in some sunlight and satisfyingly boosts the driving experience.
A lot of the more noticeable refreshed tweaks can be found in the exterior. Similar to most luxury manufacturers, Land Rover has added LEDs to their headlights and taillights. The headlights have been improved with the latest Xenon headlamps and LED technology; while the taillights are very striking as dual lights take the very cool shape of the number eight. These enhancements work well with the famous grille that’s always the showpiece for Land Rover and Range Rover models.
More improvements can be seen in the interior starting with a modernized push start/stop button, an electronic parking brake and a Meridian Sound System that features a 380-watt amplifier with 11 loudspeakers. One of the nicer additions is a standard 7-inch colour touchscreen for all of your radio, phone, and navigational needs (navigation is optional). It also doubles as a rear-view camera, which can be found in most luxury vehicles nowadays – another option, but I had it in this HSE model. An interesting addition to the backup camera called “Hitch Assist” might confuse you off the bat. As the LR2 reverses you see an imaginary hitch in the middle of the vehicle that assists in the process of guiding the vehicle to the trailer tow hitch. If you’re interested in towing, the LR2 can tow up to 3,500 pounds – no change from the outgoing model.
Even with all the updates made to the interior – the LR2 still had the feel of an entry-level vehicle. I understand that the feeling is accurate, but it shouldn’t convey that. The simple knobs and buttons below the touchscreen made it easy to manage, but simultaneously provided a non-luxury feel. All-in-all the interior lacked interesting technology for the non-towing Land Rover drivers that could be found in its BMW and Audi competitors.
The LR2’s biggest change is clearly in the new engine, but another attention grabber is the new price. You can now purchase a LR2 for the paltry starting price of $41,885 compared to the $46,220 price tag in 2012. The HSE version with its bells and whistles comes in at $48.885. If you always wanted a Land Rover, but couldn’t justify the price – now might be the time to jump on board.
The LR2’s fuel economy is rated at 12.0 L/100 km in the city and 8.4 L/100 km on the highway compared to 14.1 L/100 km and 9.1 L/100 km respective ratings from the previous year’s model. Now these numbers you always have to take with a grain of salt as they’re tested under controlled conditions in a laboratory simulating the driving environment. I was able to achieve a combined 15.0L/100 km mostly through city driving. Perhaps if I drove the 2012 model it would have been closer to 17.0? Who knows?
The combination of a better price and better fuel economy for a refreshed model is always a good start for any new vehicle buyer. Land Rover has addressed many shortcomings in the LR2 and enhanced its look inside and out. The question is whether that’s enough for buyers to choose it over the Mercedes-Benz GLK, the BMW X3, the Volvo XC60, or the Audi Q5? Yes the LR2 has off-road capabilities and if you’re into that – the LR2 is the best in its class. Between the towing capability, terrain choices and 8.3 inches of ground clearance you would get the full Range Rover experience in the LR2 for a much cheaper price.
However, if you’re choosing based on style and fuel economy – it might be hard to push the LR2. With plenty of emphasis on fuel economy nowadays almost all of the LR2’s competitors except the Volvo XC60 rate better in fuel economy. Furthermore, all of them have seven or eight-speed transmissions, as well as possessing more power with the exception of the Q5. What it comes down to, which it usually does is personal preference. Find out what characteristics you like best and if elevation, prestige and off-road capabilities are important to you than that would be enough to sway some to the Land Rover side.
Recently, colleagues were invited to the Lone Star State of Texas to experience the all new 2014 Mazda6. Here drivers would experience first hand the tautness of the vehicle and how it handles twisting roads and sun-drenched straightaways, but also the get-up-and-go of the all new SKYACTIV powerful, high compression 2.5L four-cylinder engine.
A couple of weeks back I had the GT version of this vehicle for a week, not just a few hours – seven, fun-filled days and nights on all manner of blacktop from highways to rural side roads – some with snow and ice – or frozen and dry in central Ontario.
In other words, a worthy test of a car that is, as a good friend described it, a more than willing runner.
I’m not going to get into the technical side of Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology – I’m certainly not qualified. But I am here to tell you that this vehicle is a marvel of modern engineering and in a reasonably affordable package.
The model I had was the GT with a 6-speed Sport mode automatic transmission and many of the toys now deemed desirable by consumers, including Smart City Brake Support – not sure I experienced this; Radar Cruise Control; Forward Obstruction Warning and High Beam Control system – again, I rarely use any vehicle’s high-beams so I cannot comment. As tested, including the Technology package, the MSRP for this model is $34,495.
Transport Canada specs state that fuel economy ratings (L/100km) are 7.6 city and 5.1 highway. I’m here to tell you that my overall fuel economy in around 600 kilometres of spirited driving with lovely biting Blizzak rubber on the aluminum alloys yielded 6.5. Not too bad at all for a winter drive. I would expect the vehicle will show further improvement in the fuel economy department once a few more clicks are on the odometer; I suspect I was, perhaps the second or third driver this red beauty had welcomed.
The SKYACTIV 2.5L inline 4cylinder engine has an output of 184hp – but it never felt lacking, in spite of this seemingly low number. Merging onto highways from on ramps was done without fear or trepidation that the engine would plonk out at precisely the wrong time and passing was done with ease. This car felt like it had a heart that would run until exhausted.
I mentioned the engineering on this car earlier. Yes, it has SKYACTIV technology – which is way more than just the engine – but the car is now more than 400lbs lighter than the 2013 model – thus yielding better performance and better fuel economy.
It seems as if the Mazda6 has been around forever – in car terms, at least as long as category leaders, the Honda Accord, Toyota. Camry and the up-and-coming Hyundai Sonata.
Truth is, MY14 is the third generation Mazda6 since its introduction to these shores in 2002. Its pedigree is based upon the Mazda 626 which started selling in Canada in 1979, and there were a total of 5 generations of the 626.
Unlike its competition, neither the 626 or Mazda6 has ever set the world on fire with sales. The best sales year ever for the 626 was in 1985 when it sold 12,459 units in Canada. The Mazda6 has never managed to beat that number. It came the closest in 2005 when it sold 11,738 cars.
And since the ‘economic depression’ of 2008, numbers are slowly climbing out of the doldrums; in 2011, 3,676 units were sold in Canada and 5,128 in 2012.
And for 2013? Well, time will tell but with great fuel economy, sporty response and a surprising high-quality interior, Mazda Canada should have a winner on their hands.
But wait, there’s more. Later this summer, a Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D powered by a diesel engine is expected. This even more clean-burning fuel-efficient vehicle is currently available in Europe and promises to challenge German manufacturers with another option. Of course, it will continue to be front wheel drive and will have more torque than the gas-fuelled Mazda 6. With its two-stage turbocharger and no need for fuel additives, it will also burn much cleaner than gasoline-powered internal combustion engines.
Expect this Japanese version to challenge the VW Passat as it offers a choice to diesel-minded consumers. This version is a vehicle I look forward to a lengthy road test; by all accounts, it may well be a category changer.
Further, in a couple of weeks I’ll be taking out the popular CX-5 – Mazda’s number 2 seller, behind the Mazda3.
Having driven a CX-5 late last year, I was disappointed with the power and overall responsiveness of this crossover. However, I am told that this is no longer an issue with the 2014 model – with the same SKYACTIV package as the Mazda6.
Bring it on. Mazda may be ready to assert itself within automotive culture generally, Canada specifically.
And that, in today’s automotive environment, is a very good thing.
Every year many adjustments, tweaks, refreshes (whatever you want to call it) are made to certain vehicles to boost its awareness. In most occasions the news circulates around, but not much else happens.
This scenario doesn’t hold true for the Lexus RX 350 F Sport. Lexus has successfully integrated its sexy L-finesse design taken from their showpiece the LF-LC concept into five of their model lines including the popular RX 350 and called that version the F Sport. The F Sport might seem like it comes with more power, but it’s powered by the same 3.5L V-6 that’s found in the base RX 350 model. that has 270 horsepower and 248 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s important to note that the F Sport only comes in all-wheel drive as opposed to the option in the base model of front or all-wheel drive.
So why the sport tag?
Let’s start with its unique suspension tuning. Lexus has been bold and equipped this version with firmer springs and a new lateral performance damper system that connects the left and right front suspension towers and a rear damper connecting the left and right sides of the rear lower back panel. This system allows the F Sport to absorb any body vibrations and noise. The results are clearly evident in the smoothness of the ride, steering response and ride comfort. I can honestly tell you that it was one of the more comfortable and smooth driving weeks I’ve had in a while – so kudos to Lexus.
The F Sport is fitted with an advanced eight-speed automatic transmission (six-speed found in the regular version) with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. I have to admit that the new tranny doesn’t do much to the overall experience and the paddle shifters are more of a novelty, but the eight-speed helps out when it comes to fuel efficiency. I drove mostly around the city with a little bit of highway action and got 13.3 L/ 100 km combined. This is not a great number and would sit in the middle of its competitors, so it’s something worth improving on in the future.
Believe it or not, the F Sport version shines and becomes a star when it comes to the look. What a difference it makes compared to the regular 350 version! The most noticeable feature of the L-finesse design is the spindle-shaped grille that oozes sportiness. The excitement doesn’t stop there with arrowhead LED running lamps and tail lights, redesigned fog lamps, black leather trimmed seats, aluminum sport pedals, a more confident front bumper and 19” wheels. If anyone’s still questioning the sporty look – the F Sport badging on the sides of the car and on the steering wheel seals the deal.
The exterior and interior both stand out and complement each other very well. Walking towards the vehicle – the sleek and curvy lines give this crossover a lot of emotional appeal. It’s aggressive and modern styling is symbolized by the hourglass shaped spindle grille mentioned above. As crazy as it sounds the spindles really talk to you, giving subtle hints to strap in and test what it can do.
As you enter you’re greeted by soft black leather-trimmed seats with white piping accents and white perforation holes. Comfort is maximized with heated and ventilated seats along with 10-way power front seats and three seat memory settings. The soft black leather is further found on the door handles allowing for a comfy arm rest. The luxury continues as you find an Ebony Bird’s-eye Maple Wood trim on the door handles, arm rest and surrounding the cup holders adding a nice touch. More standard options that come with the F Sport are the engine start/stop push button, a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel and an integrated backup camera. The front interior combines comfort, luxury and sportiness which is what the RX 350 F Sport is all about.
The biggest negative I find with the interior is their toggle infotainment system that’s called the Remote Touch Interface (RTI). It’s situated close to the gear shift and cup holders and works like a joystick with an arm rest allowing you to operate the audio, climate, phone, navigation system, etc. I understand the concept and location as it allows the driver to focus on the road (which I might add is safer than constantly leaning in on a touch screen), but the joystick is much too sensitive. It takes a lot of time to get used to and I can only imagine the older-generation trying to use this device. I at least grew up with some video games, so I can somewhat manoeuvre around, but after working with this RTI system – I feel like an old man. Lexus is on the right path, it just needs to be less sensitive and fine-tuned to meet their range of customers. Right now it might work for the 17-25 demographic, but that surely isn’t Lexus customer base.
It might be a five-seat crossover, but when you drive it surely doesn’t feel like one. As mentioned previously its lateral performance damper system makes the drive a smooth sail. Power delivery is instant, so it takes a little while to get used to it. Just beware of the quick acceleration, as you have to be cautious between all the tentative drivers out there as well as those pesky coppers.
The steering and handling of the F Sport can be described in one word – incredible. Hands-down one of the best handling Crossover/SUVs out there and I can’t stress that enough. Cornering is tight and it centers itself perfectly on every turn. You really notice the control the driver has when sweeping around sharp and curvy roads – it’s worth the test.
The RX 350 is not too shabby when it comes to roominess. There’s an ample amount of leg and head room in both the front and back seats, as well as in the trunk. When you fold down the rear seats you get 2,273 litres or 80.3 cubic feet of space. Half that amount and that’s your trunk space.
Additionally, Lexus seemed to place a lot of attention and effort into convenience. I’ve never seen so many cup holders – it almost seemed that anything I touched revealed one. What I really liked beside the two front seats were expandable folder-size door pockets to store anything you need and yes it also has a cupholder. Another standout item is the middle-seat flap in the rear. When pushed down, it’s nice and heavy with two cup holders and a nice storage section. It’s strange to even look at the flap, but it really stood out and probably a very useful tool for the kids or other passengers traveling in the back seat, especially for a long road trip.
The Lexus RX 350 has always done well in the sales category and is Lexus’ best-selling model, so why all the changes? Well it’s safe to say that Lexus are still not content and want to improve. After listening to the many complaints about the RX 350’s blandness they sure are aiming to silence their critics by creating an option for everyone. If you want that added sportiness appeal and still possess the ride comfort and luxury – you can’t complain any more. The price of the F Sport could be challenging at $57,900 considering the base RX starts at $44,950, but for what the F Sport provides it might be worth the extra price. If you’re looking for something that excites you in a crossover and you have a little extra cash to spare, the F Sport will fulfill all your desires.
Elegance. Size. Sophistication. Luxury.
If you like any of those above adjectives you will be impressed by the new BMW 740Li xDrive.
The 7 Series is BMW’s flagship car that undeniably grabs a lot of attention as you cruise through your neighbourhood. It can be a status symbol and some might spend its six-figure price tag for that very reason.
Let’s break down the vehicle starting with the Li attached to its name. The Li denotes that it’s the long-wheel base version of the 740 allowing for more legroom in the rear seating area. The car is stretched out between the door pillars and the trunk creating a limousine-type look without exactly looking like one. I must admit that it’s one of the only vehicles that I’ve wanted at times to sit more in the back seat than the front. As a regular road tester that’s hard to say, but it’s so comfortable and you are provided with your own climate control and foot rests, yes foot rests! All I needed was a television and some snacks and I was ready to go for a long and relaxing road trip.
Don’t get me wrong there’s plenty of room in the front seat, but the 740Li isn’t something you buy to commute and drive solo in. It’s meant as a passenger vehicle built for transport whether it’s from a business or personal end.
As for the front seats – there’s also ample amount of headroom and legroom and the dashboard complements the roominess as it’s shaped like an airplane cockpit. You’re greeted with a beige leather interior throughout with hints of brown wood that accent the door handles and surround the gear shift. On both doors you can set yourself up with your ideal sitting position utilizing its 16-way power seat and power tilt/telescoping steering wheel adjustments. The front seats are bigger than any in the BMW line-up complemented by heaters and ventilation. Comfort achieves off-the-chart high marks regardless if you’re in the front or back seats of the 740Li and is a massive factor in choosing this vehicle.
The entertainment push buttons below the control panel are a touch basic and in need of some refinement to go more with the modern styling of the rest of the vehicle. However, the electronic system controls placed near the gear shift makes it easy for the driver to navigate while still staying focused on the road. Those controls are for the redesigned LCD panel known as iDrive that’s situated on the dashboard. It takes a little time to get used to, but once you get the hang of it – it becomes a nice addition to the driving experience.
Getting away from its luxury and comfort that sure seemed to maintain my focus – the BMW 740Li is powered by a twin turbocharged, 3.0L inline six-cylinder engine. It’s not the most powerful engine that BMW has to offer producing 315 horsepower and 332 lb.-ft. of torque, but it suits this luxury sedan. The 3.0L engine works well with the eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission that it comes fitted with as the only option. Keep in mind that the 740 is a luxury car meant for a smooth ride without much noise which it effortlessly achieved. Its quiet-running drivetrain allows for a rare calm ride which is needed from time to time and exactly what your passengers are looking for. And if you’re in the mood to showcase its speed and power you will be instantly gratified as BMW boasts that it goes from 0-100 km’s in 5.9 seconds – so you get the best of both worlds.
Not only is the 740 smooth and powerful – there’s been significant upgrades made in fuel consumption and emissions. With assistance from the auto start-stop system and brake energy regeneration, I averaged 13.1 L/100 km in my week of testing that combined city and highway driving. This may not seem like a great number, but compared to other long-wheelbase vehicles – it’s not too shabby.
Handling isn’t the 740’s strong-suit and shouldn’t be compared to your typical four-door sedans. For the 1,973 kilograms that it carries it surprisingly handles well. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system steps in and manages the drive well by splitting the power evenly to all four-wheels creating mostly fluid steering. Steering can be a little slow, but precise. The all-wheel drive system can also be very useful when it comes to the Canadian snowfall – a nice added bonus.
The 740 also has five different driving modes for whatever driving style you feel like. You can choose from Eco Pro, Comfort, Comfort-plus, Sport and Sport-plus. After testing out all-five you can really tell the differences instantly. While cruising in comfort mode go into Sport mode and see an instant jolt of speed that wakes you up and jerks you back with its power boost. If you’re more environmentally conscious – Eco Pro would be the drive mode of choice and works well with the 740Li as it cruises comfortably to your next destination in style. In Eco Pro mode fuel consumption can be reduced by 20 percent, so why not have it save you more money at the pump?
That’s about the only savings you will get as the base 740Li starts at $106,600 and that doesn’t even include the executive package, technology package and the vision package that my tester had bringing the final price to $121,850. I was surprised that the executive package wasn’t standard as most manufacturers at this level would have a rear view camera, automatic trunk, sunshades, seat ventilation and SIRIUS satellite radio included. I would think an inclusion would only be fair.
The technology package adds active blind spot detection, driving assistant plus and head-up display. While the vision package provides you with active LED headlights and fog lights, high-beam assistance, surround view and night vision with pedestrian detection. Some of these should fall as options, but it’s almost assumed by BMW that whoever is buying a 7 Series won’t have a problem throwing in a few more shekels for these features.
The BMW 740Li xDrive has the look and feel of a limousine, but what makes it special is that it drives like a lighter luxury sedan. This Li version is geared more for transportation, so if you’re thinking about a luxurious vehicle to own for an everyday commute – the 740Li isn’t for you. Now if you transport people, conduct business or you like to be driven around I suggest you give it a test as I don’t think you can go wrong. The price tag can get up there especially when you start to add up those options which you know you will want, so be cautious of that. If comfortable luxury is what you desire – the 740Li has that covered and then some and the different drive modes can create a different experience each time. When grouping together luxury, comfort and BMW’s safe and smooth xDrive system what’s not to enjoy? The 740Li makes you want to set off and leave your worries behind – I call back seat!
Mecaglisse, QC – When it becomes freezing cold outside, we tend to stay indoors as much as possible. Who wants to deal with the wind, snow, and icy roads? At times it doesn’t seem worth it, but when Subaru called to test out their Subaru Legacy in -30C weather, I got excited to attack these conditions head-on.
There are a couple of reasons for my excitement. First of all, I love the opportunity to do a winter test drive on a race track. Believe it or not, it’s something that I’ve rarely done. Secondly, the test was with Subaru, a company built-on safety winning the Top Safety Pick award for its Legacy and all of its other vehicles from the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety). While the safety features are impressive, Subaru’s other main attraction is their symmetrical all-wheel drive system (AWD) that makes the Legacy a perfectly fun and safe winter driving specimen.
For those who might not know about Subaru’s AWD system – get ready to be excited about the next large snowfall. Its symmetrical all-wheel drive systemprovides optimum traction, balance and control by sending power simultaneously to all the wheels. It instantly gives the driver the most traction available allowing your drive to be as smooth as possible along your desired path. A dream to some who struggle on their commutes in a snowstorm is an actual reality for Subaru owners.
As for the Subaru Legacy itself, it is fitted with a 2.5L 4-cylinder DOHC engine that cranks out 173 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque. It also possesses an all-new second-generation continuously variable transmission (CVT) that produces a respectable 8.4 L/100 km in the city and 6.0 L/100 km on the highway.
At the beautiful Mecaglisse ice track found 50 minutes from Mont-Tremblant, the Legacy was pitted against their biggest rivals the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord – two front-wheel drive cars (FWD). This test would be on equal grounds as all the vehicles were fitted with Bridgestone Blizzak tires. Going into this test – it was apparent that the Legacy would handle much better given their all-wheel drive system, but what would be interesting to see was how much better?
The first test was a snow slalom around some pylons with an emergency lane change at the end. All three vehicles seemed to handle the course well, but the Legacy responded to my steering direction throughout the slalom at a touch quicker pace. After a few runs, I felt more confident to increase my speed in the Legacy, while the Camry and Accord made it without incident at a slower, more comfortable pace. The pylon drill would turn out to be just a little appetizer for things to come.
The next test was a circular skid pad with a mix of ice and snow to test out the Legacy versus the Accord. The object of the test was to drive around the circle and keep going counter-clockwise. Safe to say – not an easy task especially with the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Stability turned off!
My first stab at it was in the Accord with another driver taking the Legacy out starting at the opposite end of the circle. The Accord was smooth at the start, but when some light acceleration was applied going around the icy bend it lost all traction and my foot had to be lifted to prevent a 360 degree spin. You really had to lay off the throttle and only use a little acceleration to avoid understeering and an eventual spin.
On the other hand, the Legacy performed more admirably around the circle. It found at least some traction on the icy surface, albeit not much, and with just a little reverse steering I was in complete control and eyeing the Accord directly ahead of me. A little secret also with the Legacy is that the VDC and Stability doesn’t fully turn off, but still assists you slightly when in need. It’s nice to know that technology can kick in when it feels that the driver is in need of more assistance.
At the end of the second round, the Legacy showed itself as a champion of the skid pad tackling the icy and snow conditions and never once dealing with severe oversteer or understeer – showing off the Legacy’s AWD balancing act. I was even able to drift with the Legacy while maintaining control throughout – fun on a closed race track, but not to be tried on the open roads.
The final test of the day involved a short race track that would test an incline start, tight cornering and emergency braking – an all-around true test that can all occur on everyday roads. All three cars were involved in this test and I started out in the Camry.
I was ready to go, but unfortunately the Camry wasn’t as it tried to make its way up a small incline. After some initial front wheel spinning and backwards sliding it eventually moved forward to the first right corner. The Camry had a little oversteer on the next two rights, but made those turns without any trouble leading into the emergency braking test at 50 km/h where it stopped within reason.
Next up was the Accord, which had the same initial lack of forward motion on the inclined hill. The Accord seemed a touch more balanced around the turns and broke in the same vicinity as the Camry. Not much difference between the two.
Finally the Legacy was off and running after only a momentary spin of its tires, it found some traction and gingerly glided up the hill – AWD at its best! The Legacy maintained great balance throughout the turns without any concern in sight and ended with a similar emergency brake distance as the Camry and Accord.
Going into this test, it was pretty evident that an all-wheel drive car could handle snow and ice much better than the two front-wheel drive cars. In the end to no one’s surprise, the Legacy was a master at tackling these winter conditions. When losing traction, the Legacy regained it the fastest and put me at ease, which is what every driver wants. Even though we might know which vehicle will perform better in certain conditions before they begin, we must understand how important these tests are as not all drivers understand the difference between AWD and FWD. At every stage of this test, both FWD vehicles didn’t offer as much control and safety as the AWD equipped Legacy. Many choose their vehicles out of popularity and price, but as we brace ourselves for another winter snowfall – it’s always good to know that the Legacy is a nice alternative to the more popular Camrys and Accords for just about the same price (actually the Subaru Legacy’s starting price is the cheapest at $23,495).
Vancouver, BC – When you think about the Nissan Sentra – the words affordable and reliable come to mind. The Sentra is definitely not an emotional purchase, but Nissan feels this seventh-generation version will change people’s perceptions and expand its appeal to younger business professionals.
The Sentra can no longer be labelled boring with its upgrade in style, sophistication and refinement which resembles more of its elder siblings, the Altima and Maxima. This is a big move for a car that seems to have been built in the past for someone who’s not a driving enthusiast, but in the highly competitive compact sedan segment – it’s essential.
Given all the misgivings about the 2012 Honda Civic, there was quite a backlog of requests from auto writers wanting to take a 2013 model for a longer stretch than the 20-minute drive experienced a couple of weeks back.
Somehow, the planets aligned and instead of getting a car in mid-spring for a longer period of time, I was in the right place at the right time, asked the right question of the right individual and a Civic Touring Sedan with a 5-speed automatic transmission was mine.
This vehicle will have a net price of $24,840 plus, plus. This was the same model I had driven before so there was a little familiarity – no surprises.
Cutting right to the chase, Honda will, I predict add further accolades, awards and most important of all, sales numbers for 2013 – the Civic will be Canada’s top selling vehicle – again – barring natural disasters that might lead to supply chain issues.
This is a car that may not turn heads with sexy, curved lines but it will impress the driver and any passenger – including from the back seat. Comfort and sightlines are improved and while this car may not amaze – it will not disappoint. The Honda design and engineering teams have made extensive yet not radical changes inside and out with content upgrades in the cabin and frame safety features that when taken into account puts the Civic in the front row of compact car contenders – in pole position.
Last time I spoke of my uncertainty with the vehicle’s EPS – electronic power steering but over the course of the week, it bothered me less each drive.
Frankly the Civic began to feel like a favourite, comfortable sweater – something you look forward to driving knowing that you are in a safe, secure vehicle that exceeds category expectations. The Civic is expected to earn an impressive score from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the new small overlap frontal crash test; especially with the addition of the all new Advanced Compatibility Engineering II (ACE II) body structure and SmartVent front seat side airbag technology, a feature that debuted in the recent MY2013 9th generation Accord.
People commented in parking lots – favourably, I might add and a couple of line workers from Alliston at shift-end asked for an opinion. That question is as bad as friends or acquaintances asking what car they should buy. However I did provide a response, saying that overall, Honda seemed to be “getting it” and that complacency did not appear to be on their immediate horizon.
In fact, from a value-added standpoint, we’re now seeing more standard features in Hondas generally thanks to the aggressive feature-laden cars coming from other parts of Asia: Bluetooth; rear-view camera; USB/iPod interface, colour i-MID display and on this model, the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System – with voice recognition.
Honda obviously paid attention and got things right. The number one requested feature from customers and dealers in Canada? Heated front seats. Of course, Honda obliged.
As mentioned earlier, the ride and handling was comfortable – not astounding, but after all, we’re talking about the category leader so no unpleasant surprises. The car handled well on roads under all conditions – dry pavement, rain, ice and even snow – central Ontario in December! The Civic acquitted itself well and came through with flying colours. Entering a highway from a ramp was no challenge – while no neck-snapping force was employed, you always knew that merging onto the highway would occur in a smooth, efficient and expedient manner.
Now if all that sounds a little business like, well, perhaps that’s the point. This is a family-oriented means of transport. Want a little more excitement? Consider the Si sedan or coupe with 201-hp and 170 lb-ft of torque from an i-VTEC 2.4 litre DOHC 16-valve engine paired to a 6-speed manual transmission. But that’s another story – for another day.
And did I mention the 17” alloys wheels on this model? Very nice!