CAR REVIEWS (60)
The 2014 Lexus IS has long been a popular choice in the compact executive sedan market. With its sporty looks and class-leading reliability – it always made for a great buy and delivered good value for money when trading it in.
So why did Lexus change it for 2014? The previous generation IS was getting a bit outdated, having been in the market since 2006. It was time to revamp the design to be more competitive with its European rivals.
See a video of its exterior:
Recently, we had the opportunity to drive the 2014 Lexus IS F-Sport (IS250). While the IS F-Sport isn’t a replacement for the IS-F, it certainly looks like one. The F-Sport package features visual touches and interior enhancements that provide a race-inspired look – from its body kit to its silver F-Sport badging inside and out. The current F-Sport package can be added to both, the IS250 and IS350 models. We are still waiting to hear whether a 2014 Lexus IS-F will be announced later this year.
Muscular design accentuated by a deep grille and flared fenders
The car’s design has gone through a significant number of changes for the 2014 model year. The new IS looks sharp with a deep grille that stretches from the hood to the bumper, making it look more like its newer siblings. The flared fenders accentuate the car’s muscular appearance, giving it a wider stance. A sharp line runs from the car’s front bumper through the side, before moving diagonally across the rear of the car touching the tail lamps – a unique feature that makes the car appear as if it’s in constant motion.
Dual-cluster headlights and stretched taillights
Each headlight cluster features two separate elements – one for the projection beam headlamps and a separate strip of LED lights that line-up along the bottom. The fierce taillights have been stretched past the back of the car and now feature LED elements that follow an “L” shape.
While the outgoing IS was too small to directly rival similar German competitors, the new IS has been made three inches longer than its predecessor, making its dimensions similar to the competition. The rear seat on the IS features 1.6-inches more legroom than its outgoing model.
The 2014 IS delivers an engaging driving experience with sharp steering and accurate throttle. Under any level of acceleration, one is able to experience seamless gear shifting and on-demand power. The suspension has been re-engineered to deliver a dynamic driving experience with very little body tilt. The car features three drive modes – Eco, Normal, and Sport. Eco delivers the car’s best fuel efficiency through controlled RPMs while a green “Eco” light encourages positive driving habits among drivers. Shifting the knob to Sport mode reveals a performance machine that dares to be tested. Gently pushing on the throttle in Sport mode exposes an engine that’s eagerly looking to deliver instant response. Push it hard from a standstill position and the RPMs soar upward as the car shoots forward in an attempt to satisfy the engine’s demands.
Enhanced concept-style interior
The interior has been completely renovated and the driver and front passenger are in for a treat. The angled and elongated dashboard looks like something out of an concept car, providing an almost-flat surface that stretches from the armrest to the dashboard. The downfall to this is there is less space inside the storage compartment. Regardless, this is perhaps the best dashboard I have seen in this segment.
The Volkswagen that was too good to be a Volkswagen
Sometime last decade, Volkswagen decided they were going to stop making premium cars. They realized in order to be the world’s number one car company they would have to make cars that were going to appeal to the mainstream market.
This sounded like great news to North American consumers who were excited to get their hands on a German automobile at an affordable price. The current Jetta and Passat were the first products to fall under this new plan. But where does its most recent product, the CC, fit into all of this?
The 2014 Volkswagen CC is a sign that the brand hasn’t strayed completely away from its premium image. Launched as the Passat CC concept in 2009, this swooping VW was designed to compete with the likes of the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, and Chrysler 300 in the full-size car market. Its design, however, made it look like it was competing with the Mercedes CLS or Audi A7. Having gone through a substantial mid-cycle refresh last year, I was curious whether the car performed as well as it looked.
The model we drove was the base model, priced at $35,125 and came with the following standard features:
•2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine outputting 200-horsepower
•17” alloy wheels
•Bi-xenon headlights with adaptive lighting
•LED daytime running lights and taillights
•Heated front seats (leatherette)
•8-inch multimedia/phone touchscreen
It must also be noted that the tested vehicle had an automatic transmission, for an added premium of $1,400.
Being a full-size people mover, we were quite impressed by the performance of the engine. The 2.0-litre turbocharged TSI engine delivered instant performance on demand. Designed to deliver the performance of a V-6, it was quite fuel efficient as well. The DSG transmission (available on the automatic) delivers shifts that are comparable to its manual transmission counterpart. In our tests, we were able to use all 200 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque to our advantage, taking the car from a standstill to 100 km/h in a class-leading 6.2 seconds.
Although the mid-cycle refresh resulted in the headlights looking more like the mid-size Passat model, it’s still an improvement over the outgoing model. For 2013, the Passat comes standard with LED daytime running lights and taillights. In the dark, the Audi-derived LED daytime running lights show a family resemblance, looking more like its GTI and GLI siblings. Upon first impression in the dark, the CC’s taillights instantly remind me of the Fisker Karma. The arched design, all the way from the front grille to the rear bumper is comparable to Audi’s A7, and is a distinct feature that sets it apart from other cars in this class.
Like: Trunk Space
Initially, I thought the sloping rear quarter would end up eating up my trunk space. While the trunk lid isn’t as boxed and space-efficient as most sedans, the long wheelbase offers a deep cargo area, enough to load four small suitcases and a handbag.
Entering the vehicle, one is instantly in soft-touch heaven. The door panels are loaded with two-tone soft-touch material made from leatherette. The CC comes standard with leatherette sport seats that offer good support – especially on long road trips.
Dislike: Extra cost for an automatic
Surprisingly, the CC doesn’t come standard with an automatic transmission. This was quite surprising as buyers in this segment are usually 40-50 year olds who most-likely share a car within their family. Its competitors, the Maxima and Avalon, both offer automatic transmissions as standard equipment; although they’re base models are priced higher. The $1,400 premium for the DSG automatic transmission on the CC might still make sense, as its final price is only slightly higher than the Avalon and almost $1,000 lower than the Maxima.
Muskoka, ON – Earlier this year, Infiniti made a bold move to change their nomenclature from G’s and M’s to a simple letter “Q” that will be the prefix to all of their models. All of Infiniti’s cars will start with Q; while all of its crossovers and SUVs will start with QX. It’s a global strategy that Infiniti hopes to lift the brand into a better position in the luxury/performance division. It also is a trip back to its history, as their first vehicle was the 1989 Q45 luxury sedan.
The first model to be released under the new “Q” branding strategy is their popular entry-level luxury sedan, the Q50, the artist formerly known as the G37. If you can believe it, it’s already in its fifth generation, which Infiniti is hoping will be its best.
The G37 has always been known for its low-to-the-ground sporty look that catches the attention of any driving enthusiast. This Q50 ups its game by adding premium styling and an abundance of driving technology coupled with driver connectivity. Strong V-6 power aside, Infiniti has tried to connect to the young driving enthusiast who has a craving for technology. Oh, and if you haven’t heard, they’ve added a hybrid version as well.
The Q50 is inspired by the Infiniti Essence that debuted back in 2009. At that time, Infiniti showed off a glimpse of the future with the Essence’s high-powered sexy frame and I would say that they’ve stayed true to form with the Infiniti Q50. The Q50 gives out a Lindsey Vonn look, as it’s tight and athletic with some fine curves. Don’t get upset now, I could have said the proverbial Anna Kournikova reference!
The lines throughout the Q50 start from Infiniti’s signature double arch grille and flow through the body straight to the back. It’s truly a piece of art woven by the likes of Vincent Van Gogh setting the mood and energy for a spirited drive. Brought in to refine the ride are distinctive LED headlights and LED rear combination lamps.
You can tell immediately that the Q50 is lower and wider than its predecessor which adds to its sporty touch. However, it’s more subdued overall with a quiet confidence representing a possible change to mesh with an early-thirties kind of customer. It comes standard with 17-inch wheels, but you can upgrade to the sportier 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels that come in the S (sport) models.
A Look Inside
Infiniti interiors always provide a touch of class and luxury and the Q50 is even a step-up with its added technology and design catered for the driver. Maple wood trim found on the centre console complements the soft black leather that cover the rest of the interior on the dash, doors and seats of every Q50 minus the base model.
However, the most notable addition to the centre stack in the Q50 is the twin high-resolution touch-screen system featuring Infiniti’s new infotainment system, called InTouch. The two-tier screen has an eight-inch upper screen that’s used for navigation and a seven-inch lower screen that services the rest of the vehicles functions including radio, climate control, phone and the rest of your driver and car-assist settings. The lower screens’ buttons seem to be more advanced than many other models and the touch and feel for these buttons are reminiscent to an iPhone or iPad.
The dual system does allow for multi-tasking and being able to switch your radio and navigation at the same time, but the amount of technology can get overwhelming at times. Infiniti wants to be a leader in this department, but is there a point when it gets to be too much?
If you’re not tech savvy or wish to use knobs as opposed to touch screens while in motion, Infiniti kept radio seek and volume function buttons and scrolls below the lower touchscreen. Furthermore, climate control can also be changed from both sides of the centre console for the driver and passenger to make easy adjustments.
Interior room isn’t sacrificed even though its height has been lowered. Believe it or not there’s more headroom and shoulder room, which previous G37 owners will be happy to hear, but simultaneously jealous. There’s plenty of room in the front and the seats were more than comfortable, but for some reason I couldn’t find a perfect sitting position. My knees kept on tapping the side of the door and console, but I guess everything can’t be perfect.
Not to be forgotten, the Q50 can store up to four different driver settings. I know, more technology, but this one’s pretty cool. When I’m talking about driving setting, I’m not just talking seating position – to Infiniti that’s just common courtesy. The Q50 programs different entertainment functions, preferred climate and of course your own driving style. For your radio needs, the Q50 has a 14-speaker BOSE system with five speakers on the dash that can heighten any anthem. The 14-speaker system comes standard on the hybrid and the upgraded regular Q50’s, so keep that in mind when making your decision.
Under the Hood & Technology Galore
The Q50 comes with two engine options - the carryover 3.7-litre V-6 or new hybrid model that are available with your choice of rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The V-6 engine produces 328 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque, which is very impressive for an entry-level performance sedan. Those numbers aren’t surprising as they were the same in the outgoing model, but what will surprise you most is that the hybrid is the more powerful of the two with 360 horsepower. Well that turns out to be the case when you combine both the 3.5-litre aluminum-alloy V-6 found in the hybrid alongside the 50kW electric motor. But it doesn’t matter how you get to the figure, if the hybrid can be stronger in acceleration and save you money in the process – where can you go wrong?
You won’t find a manual transmission in any of the Q50’s offerings, as all are fitted with a new seven-speed automatic transmission that provides a lot of control over the transmission. If you’re in the mood for some shift changes, you will be happy to know that most of the premium models come with magnesium paddle shifters.
There are five drive modes to choose from when you press the Infiniti Drive Mode button – standard, sport, eco, snow and a personal setting where you can choose your own driving style with any combination. The personal settings are all part of the Q50s technological brilliance that adds that personal touch – it’s called the Infiniti InTuition System. You can save your personal preferences from throttle response to adjusting your steering feel and it will be set-up for you every time you take the driver’s seat.
A lot of the excitement of the new Q50 centres on its new technologies. During the initial briefing of the Infiniti Q50, Tim Franklin, senior manager of product planning for Infiniti Canada, spoke about its new Direct Adaptive Steering. “It’s the first of its kind in the world that makes the driver input completely electronic,” explains Franklin.
It’s an all-electric steering system that has no physical connection between your hands on the steering wheel and the front wheels. What happens instead is that a transducer is used to relay your steering input to a pair of electric motors that turn the wheels for you. There’s a lot of trust in the system, but if there were to be a communication breakdown – Infiniti has set-up a mechanical back-up system that changes to manual steering instantaneously.
At this point, you might be asking why is this all-electronic system more exciting? And what are the advantages to it.
What it does allow for are quicker responses and a better steering feel. It has sensors that read angle changes and calculates the required movement needed at a faster rate than any other system. The system is a look into the future and has four different steering combinations to adapt to what you like. This is a perfect for the type of person that has a few different driving styles depending on the day. So, whether you’re in the mood for a quiet Sunday drive or if you’re feeling a bit friskier and want to go on an exhilarating ride – the system can adapt.
Two other brand-new systems that you will find in the Infiniti Q50 are Active Lane Control and Predictive Forward Collision Warning. The Active Lane Control was something that we had a little fun with. Through the vehicle’s sensors it steers the car for you making minor adjustments as the road changes in front of you. This is not to be used for a full autonomous drive, but more to assist you when you’re feeling fatigue or just need to stretch your arms.
What you need to do is turn on the “Green Shield,” yes, it sounds like a super-hero cape that covers the car and it also looks that way as a green force shows up on the Q50’s control panel surrounding a picture of the vehicle. The Active Lane Control was fun to use, but can’t fully correct itself on certain corners. It was an impressive tool and bettered the system on the Acura MDX and RLX, but I would still place a “Use with Caution” sticker on it.
The Predictive Forward Collision Warning system has been a big feature on the Q50’s commercials. It warns the driver of risks beyond their field of view. So not only will it detect what’s happening in front of you, it can provide you with a warning of what’s happening two cars ahead. In my opinion, any added safety works for me, so kudos to Infiniti for creating this impressive system. I was unable to test out this new system, so I can’t exactly tell you if it works, but that will have to wait for another test drive.
On the Road
When you’re not driving with the Active Lane Control on, the steering does react quickly and takes you instantly where you want to go. Remember, you can program you’re steering feel to your liking. I prefer a heavy feel typically found in any Volkswagen model for better control, so it was refreshing to drive the Q50 that way. I was finally allowed to have my cake and eat it too!
We first took out the 3.7 V-6 AWD from the Toronto (Etobicoke) airport into the cottage county of Muskoka. The drive route went through local streets, on the highway and onto country roads to experience everything the Q50 had to offer. The Q50 is not going to blast off with much shriek as would a Ford Mustang, but it has enough of a giddyup to work its way up from 0-100 km/h in 5.5 seconds.
On the other hand, the hybrid version had more power, but it seemed to take longer to get up to speed. It’s actually quicker from 0-100 km/h than the gas model, just not between 0-30 km/h. I didn’t expect that lag, because of the talk of it being more powerful, but once it gets going – the hybrid can pedal.
Like any hybrid, the Q50 uses regenerative braking to re-capture its lost energy during periods of braking. It will take time to adjust and get used to the regenerative braking as well as the initial acceleration lag, but will become second nature soon enough. Outside of those two noticeable annoyances, the hybrid was one of the smoothest rides I’ve driven during the year. Road vibrations are almost non-existent, allowing you to enjoy a smooth and calm luxurious drive.
Infiniti estimates the 3.7-litre’s fuel economy at 6.7L/100 km on the highway, 10.6L/100 km in the city and a combined 8.8L/100 km. While, the hybrid is rated at 5.6L/100 km; 7.0L/100 km; and 6.4L/100 km. For my two drives, I will provide some real-life numbers as I averaged 9.8L/100 km in the 3.7-litre AWD and 6.6L/100 km in the hybrid.
Infiniti has worked long and hard to re-brand itself as a premier automotive competitor. The Q50 is the first of many new launches that represent the new exciting look and feel of Infiniti under the Q-based nomenclature. They’ve gone so far as to say that the Q50 is “without question, the best sedan we’ve ever built.”
Through two days of driving, I can tell you that the mix of styling, technology and ride quality in the Q50 does surpass any vehicle they’ve made and places it as a strong contender in its class. It compares well to the Cadillac ATS, Acura TL, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the BMW 3-series. Its base price starts at $37,500, which is lower than all of those rivals listed except for the ATS, but sports a hybrid option (starting at $47,000) that only BMW can be on par with, but not in terms of price where the 3-Series jumps above $60,000. And for a further bonus, many of the premium options in the 3.7-litre comes standard in the hybrid.
When you break down the Q50, what stands out the most is its breakthrough advanced technology that clearly separates itself from its competitors. The technology triple threat of Direct Adaptive Steering, Active Lane Control and Predictive Forward Collision Warning is unique to Infiniti and many steps up from what they were producing. Throw in the mind-blowing fact that its hybrid is quicker than the gas version and saves you more money at the pump – it’s clear that Infiniti is heading in the right direction. Premium quality and technology at a reasonable price is always hard to pass up and well suited for the young professional looking for a fun ride. If you’re looking for an entry-level performance sedan, it won’t hurt for you to give the Infiniti Q50 the time and respect it deserves. And by the way, it's available right now!
When one visualizes Volkswagen’s history, images of their semi-circle shaped Beetle or the curvaceous Microbus often come up. While both possess a significant amount of style, the concept of “Leistung” (German for performance) only entered VW’s dictionary until the launch of its Golf’s athletic twin.
Recently, we got to take the Volkswagen GTI for a spin, and here’s a list of what we liked and didn’t like about it. Let’s start off with the specs.
• 3-door, 5-seater
• 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged TSI engine
• 200 horsepower
• Manual transmission with available DSG automatic transmission
• Bi-xenon headlights with adaptive lighting system
• LED daytime running lights
• Dual-zone climate control
• 6 airbags
• 17” alloy wheels
• Priced at $29,375
The vehicle we drove was the Wolfsburg Edition, and comes with some tasteful upgrades.
• 5-door, 5-seater
• 18” Watkins Glen alloy wheels
• Premium audio system
• Keyless access
• Priced at $32,775
When one spends a lot of money getting the performance version of a stock car, they most-likely would like to be recognized for having done so. In many cases, automotive manufacturers make dramatic visual upgrades to the vehicle’s interior and exterior so the car looks fast even at a standstill. The GTI achieves just that. Although the GTI’s design shares similarities with the regular Golf, it looks like a completely different car altogether. The GTI resembles a crossbreed between the Golf and the Scirocco, a popular VW hatchback sold outside North America.
Like: DSG Transmission
One thing that determines a car’s speed off the line is its ability to rapidly shift gears. In fact, this is exactly why people consider manual transmissions to be faster than their automatic counterparts. Our GTI featured a Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG), which is commonplace at Volkswagen.
DSG gearboxes have two separate manual gearboxes and clutches that shift electronically, working in harmony to deliver fast shift times. In many cases, because it’s electronically controlled, the shifting can be better than a standard manual transmission. DSG systems are normally found on high-end and performance cars, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to find it in the GTI.
The navigation system on the GTI, although dependable, is not the most user-friendly. First, it is possibly one of the slowest systems we have used in 2013. Also, for some reason, it gives you the option to pick between three different routes, even though in some cases the routes are exactly the same. Oh, and it doesn’t care to speak street names. On the plus side, the system has one of the best natural voices we have heard on a GPS system. If you turn to your GPS to get you from point-to-point, I would recommend using a TomTom or Garmin device.
Okay…so you spend $10,000 extra to get the GTI landing you one of the fastest hatchbacks in the world. As you zip past others, shouldn’t they know they’re getting passed by a GTI?
Unless they spot the small GTI letters or chrome exhaust tips, they are likely to mistake your car for a regular Golf. VW should have done something to add more drama to the taillights – maybe gone with an LED array? Unfortunately, the GTI shares the same taillights as the Golf, and the back of the car in general doesn’t have too many distinct features to distinguish it from just a regular Golf.
Ottawa, ON - The “One Ford” concept of operating as one unit around the world has reinvigorated the Ford brand. One of those cars that have found their way back into the North American market was the Fiesta. It’s been gone for three decades, but it has made major strides in the subcompact segment since its re-emergence in 2010.
Now in the five-door hatch’s sixth-generation, Ford is launching the sporty ST version. This Fiesta that dawns the Sport Technologies badge will be available in the fall at dealerships throughout Canada.
Ford wanted to separate the Fiesta ST from the regular Fiesta and they started with the grille. The regular Fiesta has a wide-mouthed grille made up of horizontal bars, but the ST gets a nice honeycomb treatment as seen on its big brother, the Focus ST, that betters its appearance.
The Fiesta also receives a lower front spoiler, a larger rear spoiler with a dual exhaust system, and 17-inch alloy wheels that are paired with Bridgestone Potenza tires.
To see what colour options are available all you need to do is think of a rainbow with the addition of the optional Molten Orange paint. The colours might make you ready for a Fiesta, but the ST version also gets you pumped to hit the open roads.
A Look Inside
OK so the Fiesta is not from Switzerland and doesn’t sell cough drops, but the two-tone leather Recaro front seats come standard in Canada and get you instantly excited. You know you’re in a sporty car when you see those seats and the ST badge near the head rest.
They might not be the most comfortable seats, but they strap you in for what hopefully is an exciting ride. Ford set-up a handling course for us to test the Fiesta ST, so I witnessed the benefits of the Recaro seats, as my body didn’t shift throughout my sharp cornering runs.
Outside of the Recaro seats and ST badging found on the seats and steering wheel, there’s not much else that separates the ST from its regular model. The pedals are made of alloy creating a shiny touch, but the rest of the dash and entertainment console is underwhelming.
A 6.5-inch touchscreen is given to the ST with the latest version of MyFord Touch coming standard. MyFord Touch has been improved with simplified voice commands, upgraded voice recognition and a redesigned navigation screen.
Under the Hood
The Fiesta ST is powered by a 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine that provides a power boost of 198 hp and 201 lb.-ft. of torque. When compared to its competitors the MINI Cooper S (181 hp & 178 lb.-ft. of torque), the Sonic RS (138 & 148) and the Fiat 500 Abarth (160 & 170), the Fiesta ST stands well-above in both horsepower and torque production.
The ST is a front-wheel drive vehicle that’s mated to a six-speed manual transmission. It’s a fun little motor that get you from 0-100 km/h in close to 6.9 seconds and has a new torque vectoring system to control wheel spin.
It might appear small, but it packs a lot of punch in its small frame. And if you’re thinking of testing it out on track or just having some fun, the ST has three stability control modes to fit your driving style: full-on, partial-on, or full-off.
On the Road
If you’re thinking about buying the Fiesta ST (available in the fall) – the look and feel is nice to hear about, but the true measure of this rally car is how it drives on the road and especially on the track.
The Fiesta ST naturally receives an upgraded suspension that has stiffer springs compared to its regular version. The stiffer suspension along with the torque vectoring system and stability control system mentioned earlier, are all set-up for less body roll and cornering action.
What surprised me the most on the handling course was its steering. The steering was instant and directed the Fiesta exactly where I wanted it to go avoiding all of the pylons in the process. The curves were no challenge at all and it stayed flat and on course without any bumps along the way. Even though, the Fiesta is a front-wheel drive car, understeer is not something you have to worry about in this ride. The ST was light and nimble, but felt controlled throughout leading to a thrilling ride.
Little small hatches that can really motor are some of my favourite types of cars. The added grunts you get from the sound symposer make you feel like you’re driving something three times its price and two-times its engine. Accelerate down and you will hear the crackling engine noise that the symposer sends into the cabin.
Just a quick note of what you should already know – similar to the Focus ST, the Fiesta ST only comes with the six-speed manual transmission. Ford has placed a gearbox that’s easy to manoeuvre and can accommodate those novice gear shifters who want the ST, but are worried about buying a car with a manual transmission.
I didn’t take it off the handling course, but Ford boasts that the Fiesta ST delivers 5.6L/100 km on the highway and 7.8L/100 km in the city. Fuel economy won’t be a reason for purchase, but it sure helps to know that it’s not bad on gas. Just remember these numbers are tested during sensible drives, not ones that have you driving at 5,000 rpms.
I’m glad to see that Ford is bringing these small hatches to Canada, so we don’t have to be jealous any more of our European friends. For as small as the Fiesta is – it’s an adrenaline rush waiting to happen. It seems to suffer from a short man’s syndrome, where it feels the need to show off in an attempt to gain recognition and that’s a good thing when it comes to cars.
The Fiesta ST will be available this fall and will start at $24,999. It might seem like a big jump considering the base Fiesta S starts at $14,999, but you’re getting a totally different car with the ST. When you look deeper into price, you will notice that the Fiat 500 Abarth and Chevy Sonic RS are roughly the same price at $23,495 and $23,560, respectively. While, the MINI Cooper S starts at a much higher price of $31,150. When you consider the horsepower, torque and of course those Recaro Seats – the Fiesta St looks like a better deal than the other options out there.
If you’re a fan of speedy hatches – you need to test out the Fiesta ST before any decision. It has a superb combination of good looks, speed and handles like a pro.
Forget everything you know about the modern SUV. Now try to remember what an SUV used to stand for – rugged reliability across any series of terrains.
These days, car companies will pass any tall-standing station wagon as an SUV – adding an all-wheel-drive option just to make you believe so. Heck, even the brand I write this very story about is guilty of it.
In many countries outside North America, ask anyone what the word “SUV” stands for – they will have no idea. Point at one and they will tell you that’s a “Jeep”. That’s because the word “Jeep” is almost synonymous with any rugged vehicle with off-roading capability – even if the Jeep brand isn’t actually sold there.
Enough rambling, let’s get to it.
We recently tested the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Although the Grand Cherokee was just redesigned less than 3 years ago, this has to be one of the quickest mid-cycle refreshes we have seen for an American brand.
First, let’s go over the specs of the base model:
-3.6-litre V-6 VVT engine outputting 290 horsepower
-260 lb.-ft. of torque
-8-speed automatic transmission
-4-wheel drive system (QuadraTrac)
-Hill Start Assist
-5-inch Uconnect touch screen
-5 passenger seating
-Premium cloth seats
-Dual-zone climate control
-Base model starting price: $39,995
The vehicle we tested was the Summit edition and adds the following:
-Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Forward Collision Warning
-8.4” Uconnect touch screen
-Lots of chrome
-Quadra-Lift Air Suspension System
-Select-Terrain with Snow, Sand, Mud, and Rock mode
-Harman/Kardon 19-speaker audio system
-Front and rear parking sensors
-Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
-Ventilated front seats
-546-watt Premium Audio System with 12 speakers
-Summit edition starting price: $59,995
Like: Headlight & Taillight Design
As I mentioned, this vehicle has gone through a mid-cycle refresh for 2014 – and without a doubt, this has to be one of the most significant mid-cycle refreshes so far this decade. The Grand Cherokee encompasses everything that was hailed about the outgoing model and adds a few refreshing new touches increasing its visual appeal. These changes are more apparent in the upper trim levels – with LED headlamps and chrome body inserts. Upon closer examination, the redesigned headlamps are reminiscent of the Chrysler 300. With flowing LEDs surrounding every edge of the headlight cluster, this vehicle is not going unnoticed and in low daylight is where the Grand Cherokee truly shines.
Like: Uconnect system
While most in-car multimedia and navigation systems continue to be terrible, the Uconnect system – also found in Dodge and Chrysler vehicles – adds simplicity and ease-of-use. The system’s interface allows you to perform and control various multimedia, navigation, temperature, and phone functions, and thankfully also provides enough buttons and knobs to allow you to control the climate and audio with an old-fashioned twist or push. What’s also neat is the ability to have a picture-in-picture view of the navigation and audio functions on one screen.
Like: Eight-speed transmission
For 2014, the Grand Cherokee gets a ZF-engineered eight-speed automatic. Paddle shifters are now standard equipment adding another dimension of fun, both on and off-road. A new Eco button has been added, and after testing it, the vehicle becomes two litres more efficient over the 12.4 litre EnerGuide rating. Throughout our city driving with Eco mode on, we were able to achieve an average fuel economy of 14.4L/100kms.
I have had the opportunity to drive a number of luxury vehicles recently, and many luxury brands are trying to reinvent the gear shifter. A Jaguar XF I drove earlier this year offers a pop-up rotary dial pulled straight out of a high-end washing machine, while a Lincoln I drove recently offers a push-button gear shifter. The Grand Cherokee’s rendition is unique as well – offering a shorter lever for seamless shifting. Personally, I found it slightly confusing, causing me to put it in neutral a few times while intending to put it in reverse. On the plus side, it’s something that one can get accustomed to over a short period of time.
Dislike: Storage console
Do you listen to music using CDs? If you had to choose between a CD player and a decently-sized center storage console, what would you choose? If you’re a CD person, then you wouldn’t mind that the car’s compact disc player takes up half the space in the center storage console. But if you’re like me however, I would trade that space for an adequately sized storage compartment. After all, who uses a CD anymore?
I must disclose that the vehicle we tested had the bigger Uconnect system, possibly requiring the CD player to be relocated to the center console. That being said, there are a few other storage spaces in the car, so finding storage space wasn’t a big issue.
When Tesla was first developing their vehicles in Silicon Valley, California – there were many doubters that an electric supercar was possible. After years of development behind the leadership of Elon Musk, the co-founder, CEO and Product Architect, the Tesla Model S is by far the most advanced electric luxury sport car.
The Model S has received many great reviews including being named the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year and after being in its Performance model for a few days it definitely deserves that praise. From the outside in – the Model S blows my mind. There’s no vehicle that exemplifies the future of the automotive industry more than this electric creation and you can buy one today.
As many onlookers throughout my time with the Tesla Model S – I was initially a gawker as well. It’s assertively sculpted lines and black reflective oval grille give the Model S a look unlike any other vehicle. For some that have never heard of Tesla – their gawking probably mostly consists of figuring out, “What the hell just drove by them?”
The theme of the exterior is chrome. At the top-center of the grille is the sharp “T” Tesla logo in chrome that resembles the symbol of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. The chrome continues on the side mirrors, door handles, outside layer of the windows, bottom panel on the doors and a solid bar with the Tesla name in the rear. It certainly made it tough to take pictures without a reflection or myself getting in the shot.
I feel that there’s more that can be done with the grille. I like the simplicity of it, but it actually gives off a basic electric look, which the Model S is anything but. It does get saved by its Falcon-eye LED running lights giving it some character and it’s finished off by LED taillights in the back.
A Look Inside
If you can’t figure out how to get into the Model S – don’t fret! The door handles shoot out when you touch the handle as long as you’re holding the key. It will sense the key after the touch and allow you entry. Is there another word to describe this, but cool? I don’t think so.
The inside deserves an article of its own, but in this case I can summarize it by saying – the Tesla Model S has the most exciting interior of any vehicle I’ve been in. Soon enough this review will turn into a script for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure as the Model S makes you dumbfounded…sorry Keanu.
The interior is organized, clean and easy to figure out as long as you know how to use a computer. Situated smack in the middle is a 17-inch full-colour touchscreen panel that resembles a massive iPad. You can open and expand screens as well as zoom in by using your own fingers. The amount of controls at your fingertips is unprecedented and almost everything can be activated by voice controls. From car dynamics to climate to internet-based radio to managing the massive all-glass sunroof – it’s all there. The best part of the sunroof is you can control it by percentages. You want it open only 46% - you got it!
Space in the front and rear are a non-issue as the interior spaciousness comes close to a BMW 7-Series. Three passengers (and I’m sure there will be a lot of them who will beg for a ride) can comfortably sit back in the rear and enjoy the quiet ride, while the driver and co-pilot in the front are treated to comfortable front leather seats with a touch of felt surround. If you need to fit more than five in the car, the trunk can transform with a few flips and folds to a new seating area for two small children. They can enjoy the ride while facing the traffic behind you. I’m sure they will think that’s so cool…there goes those words again!
Outside of the big touchscreen and seating, there’s not much else going on. It’s a minimalist upscale design that seems to work for the Model S. Everything you need is in that entertainment panel making the Model S an open concept without much fussiness.
A little more chrome is featured with some funky v-shaped door opener handles found close to the glove box and a similar v-shaped chrome closing handle to match.
There are some missing pieces that can be added to the better the Model S, but I must admit I’m being nitpicky to only better a great product. I found the sun reflector to be too small and oddly crafted. It’s so thin that you wonder why it’s even there. I also found the cup holders to be in an awkward position that made me accidentally bump my coffee with my elbow on more than one occasion.
Lastly, I felt there was a big need for air conditioned seats. The Model S can be customized for heated seats, but in the summer months, a cool breeze feature for those leather seats are needed. Plus, air conditioned seats go well with the whole futuristic theme anyways.
Under the Hood
Lift the hood open and there’s nothing. Absolutely nothing!
Ok, ok…so there’s no engine and appears to have nothing under the 6.6 cu.-ft. of storage space above, but underneath there’s something happening.
Everything is situated low to the ground for a low centre of gravity, but you will find an electric air conditioning system, electric power steering and an electric vacuum pump. You will also find some heat exchangers including a radiator that cools off the battery.
This performance model had the 85 kilowatt-hours (kWh) battery pack that lies flat underneath the floor of the car providing the most weight towards the centre of the car. For a tour of the shell of the car, you can always check it out at the Tesla showroom at the Yorkdale Shopping Mall.
When I picked up the Model S Performance edition it was fully charged and showed that I could go for 450 kms. In reality, how far you go will depend on your speed, driving style, your air conditioning and driving set-up, as well as a host of different attributes. Regardless of that, any full electric range between 400-450 kms is incredibly impressive. The fear of running out of juice in traffic is erased, now you only have to worry about mapping out road trips if you so dare.
In the rear, the Model S Performance model has a 416 hp (310 kW) and 443 ft.-lb. (600 Nm) rear-mounted electric motor. The motor package also sits low to the ground and can accelerate from 0-60 mph or 0-97 km/h in a remarkable 4.4 seconds without the feel of any gear shifting thanks to its single-speed transaxle.
On the Road
Just how you might have had issues with finding the door opener outside the car, finding how to start it might puzzle you as well. The Model S will sense your key and once your foot presses down on the brakes you’ve engaged the gears and set it in “Drive” – you’re ready to go. It’s a little awkward, but heck it’s quite the futuristic car and has to be different.
The Model S Performance is a fun car to drive. It’s a smooth ride when you’re in cruise mode and a smooth ride when you want to go lightning fast. When it takes off, it’s hard to believe you’re going that fast and that has a lot to do with that rear single-speed transaxle.
You can customize your driving style on the touchscreen panel. As in some latest model cars, steering and suspension can be personalized. Steering has three options being comfort, standard, or sport mode; while the suspension can be tuned to very high, high, standard, or low.
What makes the Model S stand out is the control you have over the vehicles regenerating braking. In regeneration braking standard mode, your ride can give you a jerky push once you ease your foot off of the brake. It takes a little while to get used to and assists in preserving your battery, but if you’re not into that, just adjust to a low level of regenerative braking and presto – your entire driving experience has changed.
For most of the time, I placed the steering in sport mode which provided a firm steering feel coupled with precise handling. The road feel is subtle and the drive can become cathartic. The gentle rocket ship encompasses all the great qualities you would ask for if you were customizing a car.
Road noise is almost non-existent as you effortlessly breeze past various onlookers. The silence in the Tesla is a constant reminder of the electric engine and the money you’re saving. And if you weren’t sure how much money you’re saving with an EV – Tesla was nice enough to remind me with some paperwork in the glove box stating an average gas savings of $8,100 in the first five years.
The Tesla Model S Performance was a thrilling vehicle to drive and unlike any other out there. The combination of power, style, technology and fuel-efficiency is rivalled by none. It finds itself in a unique setting of having no competition, but Tesla isn’t sitting on their accomplishments, but always looking to improve.
The performance model can be had starting at $94,900 that comes included with the 85 kWh battery pack. My tester had some additions such as 21-inch silver wheels with wider Michelin Pilot Sport SP2 tires, the all glass panoramic roof, the two rear-facing seats and the tech package that brought the price up to $111,770. The price is steep, but what do you expect from something that has a combination so rare.
As with every electric car there’s always the issue of charging. Tesla has various options and comes with a public charging station adapter and mobile connector adapters for 120 and 240-volt outlets. In a regular home this could be a bit of an issue as the normal 120-volt charges slowly, but if you buy the Model S, I’m sure you will make arrangements to install a new circuit and breaker.
Power stations for Tesla can be found in the Yorkdale garage and can be used in regular EV power stations. And soon we will be seeing Tesla supercharge stations popping up as they claim by 2014 they will secure networks in 80 percent of both the United States and Canada.
Tesla has made waves across the automotive industry and their cutting edge team have developed a Model S car that is nothing short of brilliant. The icing on the cake for Tesla owners is that if there’s any new feature or function that Tesla develops for their entertainment panel – it can be downloaded into your model at no extra cost making your Model S feel brand new again.
There are very few times that a car can blow us away, but Tesla has found the potion to do it. This might be just the start as Elon Musk and the team develop future vehicles such as the Model X, an SUV coming out next year. Technology prices will come down and make these electric flyers easier to own and when that time comes – the automotive world might have to watch out.
While I’m partially sick of Japanese car companies trying to turn standard family cars into “luxury” vehicles, I’m optimistic that a lot of automotive companies are trying to draw a bolder line between the two segments. One company that has been trying slightly harder than its competitors is Acura.
We had a chance to test out the 2014 Acura MDX, and have come up with a list of what we like and dislike about the vehicle.
First, let’s go over the specs:
-3.5-litre V6 Direct Injection V-TEC engine outputting 290 horsepower
-267 lb. ft. of torque
-6-speed automatic transmission
-Super Handling All-Wheel Drive
-Hill Start Assist
-Lots of airbags
-7 seats with third and second row fold-flat seats
-Tri-zone climate control
The vehicle had the Elite Package, and includes pretty much every gadget you have heard about, and thought “I wish my car had that!” Some of these features include:
-Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow††
-16” ultra-wide rear display to keep the kids entertained
-Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS®)
-Front and rear parking sensors
-Lane Keeping Assist
-Ventilated front seats
-546-watt Premium Audio System with 12 speakers
As I sit at a Starbucks and write this article, I’m listening in on a couple’s conversation. The wife asks her husband, “What SUV is that?” to which he responds, “Acura.” The woman then asks her husband, “Is it German?”
While the designers at Acura may take this as a compliment, it looks more like a fact. The design on this new MDX is very German-inspired. The back of the car looks very Audi-esque – perhaps stealing styling cues from the more expensive Audi Q7. Regardless, it’s tastefully executed – and looks even better in the dark.
The front of the MDX stands out. While some may argue that the shape of the lights remain quite similar to the outgoing model, that isn’t the case. The headlights on the new MDX are thinner and longer than the previous generation. Oh, and did I mention how amazing the Jewel Eye headlights look?
Like: Power seatbelts?
I understand seatbelts are a necessity and are capable of saving lives, but they can annoy and impede my driving. After driving the MDX, I have to say that its seatbelts have to be the most comfortable to have ever groped my chest. When changing the gear from “Park” to “Drive”, the seatbelts have a built-in mechanism that adjusts itself to conform to your body. Heck, there were times when I worried whether my seatbelt was actually on!
Like: Elite Package
I usually tell people to avoid upgrading their car systems because they’re just pouring money down the drain. But when you have a family and need the conveniences, having gadgets and gizmos somewhat makes sense – especially on a big vehicle like this.
The Elite Package on the 2014 MDX comes at a cost of $16,000. By no means is that pocket change. You seriously have to think about whether you want to spend that kind of money as $16,000 can probably buy you a Honda Civic!
However, you do get a lot for the money. We really liked the 360-degree bird’s-eye camera which made it feel like there was a helicopter hovering above us as we parked. This feature gives you four downward-facing wide angle cameras providing you a tour around the car as you park. We were surprised how sharp it was especially at night. The Elite Package also includes an ultra-wide 16-inch screen for rear passengers, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist.
Dislike: Third row legroom
Legroom in the first two rows is exceptional. You could easily fit five adults comfortably and go on a cross-country road trip without much trouble. But the third row of seats, like most seven-passenger SUVs, is meant for small kids. If you find yourself in the rare situation of having seven grown adults in one household and need a vehicle like this to move them around – look elsewhere. To be honest, look at a minibus. On the other hand, if your high-maintenance dog constantly whines about how he hates being put in the boot on every trip, give him the entire third row. And maybe show him how nice he has it – play him those movies (on the 16-inch ultra-wide screen) where celebrities walk around Hollywood with their pint-sized dogs stuffed in their purse.
Dislike: Acronyms on buttons
LKAS? ACC? CMBS? It took me a few days to understand what these things meant. Now yes, I was too lazy to pick up the manual and too scared to experiment with the buttons without knowing what they meant. Anyway, when you get a high-tech vehicle like this, you will eventually be using the Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Collision Mitigation Brake System (CMBS) and the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) quite often – heck you spent $16,000 to get these upgrades! That being said, I think Acura could have used icons to explain these functions better. But once you know what these acronyms are, getting used to them won’t be an issue.
There are many vehicles on the road that have been around for a while, but outside of a few automotive manufacturers like a Porsche, a Mercedes-Benz, a Ferrari and possibly a Land Rover – everyone can spot a Jeep.
Literally and figuratively, a Jeep stands out among the crowd. It symbolizes patriotism and respect as its history dates back to World War II. The original Jeep known as the Willys-Overland MB was commissioned for the U.S. military in 1941 as a compact and light utility vehicle that could provide recon and be transported by plane or via river.
Keeping with Jeep’s history of rugged off-road capabilities, they created the Wrangler Rubicon in 2003. The Rubicon was the ultimate off-road truck with all the bells and whistles. Ten years, later the Wrangler Rubicon still holds strong as the most preferred off-road vehicle and to commemorate its decade of dominance, Jeep has created a 10th anniversary special edition Wrangler Rubicon.
The 10th anniversary Jeep Wrangler Rubicon I received came in a cool and sharp Anvil Clear Coat that is exclusive only to this special edition. Its legendary round headlights and vertical-slat grill stayed consistent reminding me of war time videos from years gone by. As you look beyond the grille, a dual-intake Power Dome hood rests above the engine. It not only aids in the cooling of the engine, but provides the special edition Wrangler Rubicon with a menacing look.
If the front of the Wrangler doesn’t intimidate you, the special edition 17-inch aluminum wheels might. They come standard with 32-inch tall BF Goodrich KM2 Mud-Terrain tires that battle large rocks and rugged terrain with ease.
Rounding out the exterior are black all-steel front and rear bumpers that have removable end caps and come with red tow hooks, two in the front and one in the rear. They assist in obstacle climbs and combined with the rock rails on the sides of the vehicle they provide damage protection while off-roading.
A Look Inside
When you enter the Jeep after a large step-up and push you’re greeted by a special red leather trim. And if you weren’t sure that it was the 10th anniversary Wrangler Rubicon, there are badges on the outside front-passenger door, on the red leather seats and on the interior passenger grab handle.
It’s a striking interior inside the cab and one you wouldn’t expect from a Jeep. You are provided with a half-inch higher headroom from the 2012 model and a leather steering wheel with audio and cruise control functions.
To the left of the steering wheel you will find a few buttons that easily control the axle lock and sway bar functions, while the gauge cluster above the steering wheel can digitally display oil and tire pressures when needed.
For all of the exciting additions to the special edition version, the entertainment console I found to be lacking in creativity. It’s a basic 6.4-inch touchscreen square box with tab buttons surrounding it to select whether you want to use the phone, navigation, or audio. I like the organization of it and the fact that it has premium features like navigation, satellite radio and a reverse camera, but the big thick touch screen buttons scream out-dated.
Under the Hood and On the Road
For the 10th anniversary edition, the Wrangler Rubicon comes in your choice of a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission matched to the 3.6-litre Pentastar VVT V-6 that produces 285 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque.
I was given the six-speed manual version and I must say it was smoother to drive than I thought it would be on the highway and on clear city roads, but a nightmare in stop-and-go traffic. Then again most manuals are horrible to drive in traffic, but most of the time the Wrangler gear shift wobbled around like a battered piñata. Now I need to hold back a bit, because it’s natural for a Jeep to be loud and have its gear shift shake – would it be a Jeep if it didn’t?
Unfortunately, I was unable to do any off-roading in my week, so my driving consisted of regular highway and city roads throughout Toronto. A bit of blame should fall on yours truly for not planning ahead on an off-road adventure.
If I went through some trails, I would’ve experienced its electronic-locking front and rear Dana 44 axles. And when matched with the six-speed manual, the 4.10 axle ratio comes standard and has an impressive crawl ratio of 73.1:1. The 4.10 axle ratio would provide greater torque for pulling, but will lack in high top end speed.
I appreciated the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon for what it was – a hard-working, no-nonsense beast that could take on any adventure. For Jeep fans, this special edition is worth holding out for as it provides you all those extra additions that any Jeep fanatic wants and won’t have to add in themselves.
Away from its rugged off-roading style, it was comfortable to drive in the city as long as you stay away from rush hour. So don’t think of it as just a heavy-duty trail seeker – it can deliver a smooth ride in real world conditions. My tester ended up being $46,985, but you can get it starting at $34,840 after a consumer cash discount online. Not a bad price considering that the regular FJ Cruiser starts at $33,440 and the cheapest Land Rover, the LR2 starts at $39,990.
LUNDBRECK, AB – The GMC Sierra has been a staple in the GMC lineup accounting for close to 50 percent of its sales in Canada. With the modernization of the truck game upon us, it was time for the Sierra to receive its upgrade after seven years without any major changes. General Motors went to task on both their leading haulers, the GMC Sierra and the Chevy Silverado.
It’s nice to see and hear about the new technology and modern twists that the all-new third generation Sierra gets, but the people at General Motors felt that we would appreciate the new Sierra by experiencing the trucker lifestyle. The place was conveniently named the Sierra West Ranch near Lundbreck, but it was a beautiful choice to experience the Alberta hills and farmland. That would be our resting stop for the next day where we would be camping, horseback riding, driving up rolling hills and driving through creeks. Ah the trucker lifestyle!
While driving closer to the ranch all we saw were trucks with fewer and fewer sedans and SUVs in sight. Whether we saw the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150, Dodge Ram or this very own Sierra – it seemed like we were heading to the truck homeland. The perfect scene was set to see why GMC was calling the Sierra the most advanced truck in their 111-year history.
There are four trims available for the GMC Sierra (Sierra, SLE, SLT and Denali), but we were only able to test out the 5.3L V-8 SLT Crew Cab.
The GMC has stayed true to its origins by keeping its blocky truck look. Its shape predominantly stays the same, but accents are felt everywhere else. Major standouts are the chrome grille surrounds and black wheel arch moldings that make that front GMC logo pop. Right beside the grille are large projector headlamps with available LED signature lighting that complete the eye-catching Sierra look and distance it from their lower-tiered brother in the Chevrolet Silverado.
Heading to the backside, the addition of flared fenders gives the Sierra a more rugged and menacing look. In some of the Sierra’s that were available, the bumper had steps shaped into the corners creating a step-stool allowing for easier access to the truck bed.
A Look Inside
Almost all the top truck competitors are paying plenty of attention to the interior and the GMC Sierra is no different. This is where you see the upscale refinements made to the Sierra that separates it from the Silverado.
The interior is large to say the least. The front seats are broad and comfy with plenty of headroom and legroom. Surrounding the interior cabin are premium materials including soft-touch plastics and aluminum finishes.
Front and center on the Sierra SLT is a nicely organized entertainment console featuring a standard eight-inch colour touch screen with IntelliLink connectivity. I found it easy to navigate through the various radio stations, phone options, and GPS. The touch screen was large, organized and in my opinion fit the style of the average truck driver. I liked the fact that the Sierra offered sizeable knobs and buttons directly below the touchscreen, which are easier to use while in transit and stays consistent with most of the trucks in the market today.
And if that’s not enough connectivity for you – the Sierra has a centrally located 4.2-inch colour Driver Information Center located above the steering wheel. You can access a lot of data such as vehicle status information, a trip computer, radio information and navigational directions.
There are plenty of storage compartments throughout the cabin and the people at General Motors showed them off by placing a number of small and large water bottles in the cup holders and side door panels. In addition to the convenient cup positions, the Sierra had two glove boxes on top of each other, as well as one of the deepest centre consoles that could easily fit an Ipad and much more.
It’s clear that the new Sierra wasn’t going to be shy on connectivity. Inside you will find a 110-volt outlet, five USB ports, four 12-volt outlets and an SD card slot.
Under the Hood and On the Road
General Motors offer three all-new engines for both the Sierra and Silverado that as a whole attend to the needs of any truck driver. As mentioned, all of the Sierra’s on this trip were the all-new 5.3-litre EcoTec3 V-8 SLTs that whip up 355 hp and 383 lb.-ft. of torque. Later this year, you can opt for the 6.2-litre V-8 that ups the ante with 420 hp and 450 lb.-ft. of torque. The other new option is a 4.3L V-6 EcoTec3 engine with 285 hp and an impressive 305 lb.-ft. of torque – the most of any standard V-6 in its segment.
The 5.3 SLT is fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission that can be used in rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Our drive from downtown Calgary to the Sierra West Ranch was a lengthy three-hour journey. However, it was very relaxing and comfortable throughout the highway-concentrated drive. It felt like we were in a premium SUV as the cabin was so quiet. This might have been helped by the Sierra’s noise reduction updates from the mirrors to the triple-sealed inlaid doors to the roof and tailgate design all aimed for a quiet ride.
All of the trim levels are equipped with electric power steering that made turning predictable and easy to handle around some curvy roads. The weight of the truck wasn’t felt and we were able to manoeuvre it around effortlessly.
What makes the Sierra stand out is its cylinder deactivation, direct injection and continuously variable valve timing that keeps it both powerful and decent on gas. Under light loads conditions, the cylinder deactivation system uses oil pressure to disable four of the cylinders on the V-8 engine – turning it into a V-4. This helps out fuel economy in a big way as we combined for 11.4 L/ 100 km. The breakdown of fuel economy numbers provided were 13.0 L/ 100 km in city and 8.7L/ 100 km on the highway, which is considered the best in their class.
Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and front and rear parking sensors are all offered as options in a package called the Driver Alert package. The main draw in this package is GMC’s Driver Attention Alert where vibrating pulses are activated on your lower seat cushion to alert you of upcoming potential dangers that are occurring based on your driving actions or vehicles around you.
After camping for the night, our next mission was to tow our camping trailers back to Calgary. This was going to be a good test for me since my towing experience starts and stops after a full 25 minutes in a Ford F-150. I put it in tow/haul mode and I was ready for the challenge.
The Sierra 5.3L SLT offers a towing capacity of up to 11,500 pounds, which is class-leading and more than enough to move our 5,000-pound trailer. The trailer was 28-ft wide, so it filled up almost the entire lane I was driving in, so I needed to be careful.
With all trucks, towing capability is high on the list and the Sierra didn’t disappoint. When driving down flat roads or highway, you couldn’t feel all that weight behind you. Yes, the acceleration was a little slower, but it didn’t worry me or change my driving style.
On hill climbs, it was a bit different, but expected. Our speed dropped about 15-20 km going up the hill, so you really needed some more throttle and at times I hit 4,000 rpms to get back up to speed.
Braking was no sweat thanks to the four-wheel disc brakes with Duralife brake rotors on the Sierra. Concern over having to sharply brake is always present, especially in the pouring rain we were in, but I felt no push or sway from the backside and stopped at a reasonable pace and distance. The GM-exclusive Duralife rotors provided quiet braking with minimal vibration.
While towing, I noticed the cylinder deactivation kick in at times, but only by seeing the green V-4 on my dash. You can’t feel the physical transition at all – a big bonus for those that have to do some long distance towing. We were able to achieve a reasonable 25.5L/ 100 km on the drive back to Calgary with one stopover.
The GMC Sierra 1500 has been refreshed to take on the trucking community with a strong package of power, connectivity, fuel economy and towing capability. In order to keep up with the Ford F-150s and Dodge Rams, GMC knew they had to elevate the Sierra’s interior into a more noticeable premium brand and they achieved that while simultaneously creating further separation and distinction from the Chevy Silverado.
The Sierra’s trio of engines are vastly improved from the outgoing model and provide a nice choice for the various truck drivers in the automotive community that can range from the heavy towers to the fuel-conscious.
The base Sierra starts at $31,615 and the SLT we tested starts at $44,155. Prices are higher than both the Dodge Ram and Ford F-150, so that might sway your decision. I understand that the GMC brand is considered a luxury brand, but in order to attract a bigger consumer base they might have to shave off some of that price tag. To rationalize it, General Motors should equate it to the way the food industry is going. There’s been a transitional shift to casual moderately-priced scratch cooking restaurants and away from the stuffy higher-end type place. That’s no different from the automotive industry and I think GMC models would be much more successful with that business model.
Outside of the price, there’s nothing really bad I can say about the GMC Sierra. Test it for yourself and see if it suits your lifestyle. It stood tall in all of the challenges that came its way and showed off a good mix of power and luxury with a big boost of technology. I’m not a trucker by any means, but living that lifestyle for two days – it seems that mix worked just fine for me.