CAR REVIEWS (54)
The Chevrolet Cruze made headlines when it was re-designed and offered to North America in mid-2010 as a 2011 model. General Motors hyped the new compact and the media responded in Canada by naming it AJAC’s 2011 Canadian Car of the Year.
It’s been close to three years since that announcement and Chevrolet has started to add to its Cruze roster. Not only is the Chevy Cruze available in LS, LT and LTZ trim – you can also get one in Eco trim and in the all-new Clean Turbo Diesel. Not to be forgotten, you can add an RS package to any LT and LTZ model.
I’ve been hearing about the Cruze for a long time, but I was amazed that I’ve never actually driven one. When I got the invite to head down to General Motors headquarters in Oshawa, Ontario to drive the entire Cruze lineup – I was delighted to see what all this talk was about.
It was a chance for Chevrolet to show us that the Cruze stays true to Chevy’s slogan that they “have a Cruze for every compact car buyer.”
Let’s start out with the engine choices, there’s a 1.8-litre four-cylinder, a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and a 2.0-litre clean turbo diesel four-cylinder. The base 1.8-litre engine gets respectable fuel economy numbers with 5.6L/100 km on the highway and 9.2L/100 km in the city in the automatic. Fuel efficiency improves in the Eco trim that has the 1.4-litre turbo engine achieving 5.0L/100 km on the highway and 7.8L/100 km in the city in the automatic. The numbers dip to 4.6L and 7.2L with the six-speed manual, but in reality most sales will come from the automatic gearbox.
My main focus was on the Cruze Diesel, as I wanted to see if it was a true challenger for the Jetta TDI, but I still wanted to try out the rest of the roster. Chevrolet boasted about their industry best 4.2L/100 kms on the highway and proved a similar number in their cross-country drive where the Cruze Diesel achieved 4.3L at an average speed of 80km/h.
Chevy didn’t take on the “we are better” approach, but focused more towards being able to offer alternative forms of fuel to their customers and educating them on it. This approach makes sense as Chevy wants to showcase what they’re capable of achieving; while Volkswagen is applauding and encouraging this competition. Both of these companies need each other to spread the word about diesel, so the cheerleading is fun to see.
In terms of the Cruze Diesel car itself, I instantly felt that it had more of a styling appeal both in the interior and exterior than the Jetta TDI. The sculpting of the body created more of an emotional appeal, while the interior was modernized, upscale and more eye-catching. There were plenty of controls to fiddle around with on the Chevrolet’s MyLink Infotainment system, but at times it was difficult to figure out where to find what you wanted.
It’s a bonus that the Diesel receives 17-inch aluminum wheels to separate itself from the other Cruzes. It also takes on a few aerodynamic improvements found in the Eco trim mainly in its air shutters that improves the vehicle’s drag coefficient.
When it comes to performance, the Cruze Diesel’s horsepower is at 151 (140 hp in the Jetta TDI) and torque is at 264 lb.-ft. of torque (236 lb.-ft. of torque in the Jetta TDI). There’s not much separating the two in the performance department and let’s be honest – you’re not buying a diesel for its speed. However, I did notice a lag in initial acceleration that annoyed me. It’s the type of lag that you might find in a CVT transmission or hybrid.
Where the Cruze seems to thrive is in the handling department. In all four of the models, I found the handling to be firm and direct. I’m very much against a loose steer and you won’t get that in any of these models. I felt comfortable driving the Cruze and making sharp turns, and for me, that’s a big plus with any vehicle.
As I mentioned previously, there’s a Cruze for every compact buyer and the 2.0-litre Clean Turbo Diesel was mine. Many others preferred the Eco trim that was represented by the manual mode option, but it really didn’t do much for me. I found a lack of power in second and third gear – where most of the fun is had. Once you zap the fun from a manual gearbox, it’s hard to see the point. It can’t be all about fuel economy? The Eco trim starts at $21,095 and the diesel option can be had for just for a little more at $24,945.
The RS package (an additional charge of $1,575 on the 2LT starting at $19,495) had a little more pep in its step through its Z-link upgraded rear suspension. The thing you’ll notice the most here is its unique design in its front and rear fascia. Chrome-trimmed fog lamps, 18-inch split five-spoke aluminum wheels and RS badging provide an added boost of sportiness. It was fun to drive, but there’s still a bit of a letdown when it comes to how fast it can go. I understand making the Cruze unique and cooler for some makes sense and for those people the RS package works brilliantly.
After testing out the various Cruze options, it all comes down to personal preference. While asking my colleagues which one they preferred – most had a different response. I still go back to the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel as my choice. It might not be making the most sales of the bunch, but it will have the most impact and will take a bigger piece of the Cruze roster pie. Chevrolet is already planning to put a diesel engine in their new Colorado truck coming out next year, so that just might be the start of a shift towards more diesel cars for the GM brand. At $24,945, the Cruze Diesel has the most expensive starting price, but it will be a wise fuel savings investment that you will get back over time.
The words luxury full-size family sedan are typically not associated with the Kia brand. If I tried preaching that Kia’s a luxury brand – I might get some strange looks. After a few moments those strange glares might turn to curiosity and intrigue, as the Kia Motors Corporation has rebranded itself into a serious contender that could do no wrong.
Kia makes quality vehicles. A statement I couldn’t say seven-to-ten years ago is now a reality. And not only do they make quality vehicles, they make them at a price that’s affordable and filled with the latest technology.
In Kia’s latest venture, they aim to prove that they’re not just a small compact or SUV contender, but one that can make a statement at the full-size flagship sedan level. That brings us to the brand-new 2014 Kia Cadenza.
Kia intends to bring in a new set of customers by giving them everything they would want in a full-size sedan priced right around the $40K threshold. Its cutting edge design, quality touches, latest technology and performance offers tremendous value that’s hard to beat.
Kia could be foolish to enter this market and stick to areas they’ve excelled at in the past few years, but this segment of vehicles that include the Acura TL, Buick LaCrosse, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon have gotten a bit stale over time. Leading to possibly the perfect time to jump in and impress.
The Cadenza is the brainchild of Kia’s Chief Design Officer and newly appointed co-President, Peter Schreyer. Schreyer is well-known for his signature “tiger nose” grille and that’s front-and-center when looking at the new Cadenza.
Its LED headlights form the rest of the tiger’s face providing a hint of aggressiveness, but Schreyer made sure it’s not too overwhelming. The Cadenza is a family car that leans on the conservative side with its focus on luxury and refinement.
The side of the vehicle continues this hint away from a full-on conventional featuring sporty lines that run across the body of the car in-line with the door handles until it reaches the front wheels, where the line that a nosedive plunge. A little more style is found with its large, panoramic sunroof that’s found in the premium package. These touches of style add a little substance to what would otherwise be a typical full-size snooze fest.
A Look Inside
I was amazed by the upscale look of the Cadenza’s interior. It’s clean, polished and sophisticated inside – a look that’s mostly found in your premium BMWs, Mercedes-Benz, etc. The premium package also comes with a seven-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) LCD screen for its speedometer and tachometer. This LCD screen is a full-colour display that delivers plenty of driving information, but from its look it instantly kicks the Cadenza up a class resembling the instrument panel looks of the new Jaguars.
You might be impressed so far, but there’s so much more. I tested the Cadenza with the luxury trim, so I was treated with grey perforated Nappa leather seats that go well with its soft-leather dashboard and wood touches throughout the cabin. You will also be pleased to find a heated steering wheel, as well as heated or cool seats.
Two things that seemed to be out of place in the interior were the wood trim and the analogue clock. It just appeared like Kia was forcing its luxury on the Cadenza rather than it exuding luxury on its own.
As much as I talked about the special upgrades you can get, the base model provides you a load of typical extras. Without paying anything more, you get voice-activated navigation, Sirius satellite radio, a back-up rear view camera and rear parking sensors, and an Infinity 12-speaker premium sound system.
In terms of space, there’s plenty to go around in the new Cadenza. It holds true to its full-size with plenty of room in the back for three adults and ample head and leg room in the front. The trunk space can fit at least three bodies or four golf bags – whichever reference you prefer.
Under the Hood
The Cadenza is powered by a 3.3-litre, direct-injected V-6 engine that produces 293 hp and 255 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is the same one on the 2014 Sorento and it up there equalling or exceeding its competitors in the power department.
The Cadenza only comes in a six-speed automatic transmission with the addition of some paddle shifters for your pleasure. There’s no all-wheel drive available for those Canadian winters, as the front wheels steer the Cadenza forward. The front-wheel drive helps save some weight on the Cadenza and frees up plenty of interior space for its passengers.
On the Road
The Cadenza has all the speed you want and more than you’ll ever need for a premium luxury sedan. One the road, the engine jets off smoothly with seamless shifting from its six-speed transmission. You rarely feel the brunt of the road allowing you to enjoy your quite ride. Upon acceleration, the Cadenza gets up to 100 km/h in just under 8 seconds and turns into a nice cruise once you level off in the 80-120 km/h range.
The real problem seems to come in the handling and steering department. I found the steering to be pretty loose and it had a bit of oversteer leading me to constantly have to correct myself.
The steering disconnect has to do with the electric-power steering and I have to admit, it bothered me throughout the week. You want a vehicle to turn where you direct it, but at times, it takes time to get used to a different type of steering feel. Keep in mind, I change cars every week, so I would eventually get used to it – the loose steering is just not a preference. I enjoy a tighter ride for full control.
When it comes to fuel economy, I mostly drove in the city during the first part of the week and mustered a lofty 16.0L/100 km. When I re-set those numbers and drove mostly on the highway I cracked the 10.0L/100 km barrier with a 9.9. Combined you will most likely see 11-13L/100 km numbers which aren’t earth shattering, but not close to the worst either. The Cadenza ends up falling somewhere in the middle in the fuel economy category.
There’s a lot that comes with the base Cadenza, more than many other base cars. However, if safety technology is your thing – you’ll have to bump up to the premium edition. We’ve already mentioned some optional features you would get (panoramic sunroof, TFT LCD screen), and in addition to those you will receive Advanced Smart Cruise Control (ASCC), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Blind Spot Detection System (BSD), Electronic Parking Brake (EPB) with auto hold, and finally, Adaptive HID headlights.
The ASCC is radar-based automatically maintaining your distance from the car ahead. Both LDWS and BSD use cameras and radar to denote if you’re veering out of the lane or have a vehicle that you don’t see in your blind spot. This technology can be very helpful, especially when you’re signalling to change lanes. The Cadenza will make a beep to warn you if there’s a car in the way of that lane change. Adaptive lightning is a nice perk to have on those dark drives without street lighting. As you make turns on your drive, the headlamps steer with you around each corner providing some visibility for that area.
The Kia Cadenza has a lot to offer and it has entered this full-size luxury sedan segment in a big way, offering customers a lot for a reasonable price. It has a bit of everything which can be a good thing, but it also feels disjointed at the same time. The Cadenza comes off as a jack of all trades, but not a master of any.
For an initial creation, the Cadenza is impressive and shows off to the world what Kia can accomplish. The days of Kia being the brunt of jokes are long gone and I would say that it’s worth venturing into a dealership to check out their products.
The loose steering can make the drive with the Cadenza less enjoyable, but the combination of power, technology, refinement and luxury are hard to resist. The base price goes for $37,995 and if you need to upgrade to the premium package, it will cost an even $7K more. If you’ve always wanted those options and refinement in a car, but couldn’t afford the BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi prices – the Cadenza might be the perfect fit and the best bang for your buck.
For a while now, Acura has been trying to redefine its full-size automotive offering. Known originally as the Acura Legend back in the 80’s and 90’s, the company renamed its vehicle to the RL, because suddenly it became cool to name cars using random letters and numbers. For 2014, the car has been renamed RLX – named appropriately to match the other vehicles in its family (the TL will be renamed TLX in 2014).
So we know where it fits in the Acura family, but how does it compare to its competitors? The RLX fits in a weird segment of B-market full-size luxury cars that don’t necessarily compete with the BMW 7-series, S-Class, or A8. Rather, it’s priced to compete with the Lincoln MKS and Cadillac XTS.
WHAT WE LIKE
At $49,990, the vehicle is priced slightly higher than its direct competitors mentioned above. However, if size matters to you most, then its dimensions rival the S-class and the 7-series for only half the price tag. Of course, it won’t carry the same features, performance, or brand value as the Germans, but expect it to last long enough to be your kid’s first car. If you take good care of it, these cars can last up to 300,000 kilometres. So what you’re getting is size and reliability at an affordable price tag.
Powered by a 3.5-litre V-6 i-VTEC engine, the RLX outputs 310 horses and 272 lb.-ft. of torque. Initially we doubted whether this engine was powerful enough to dart a sedan of this size, especially considering the engine’s specs are similar to the smaller TL’s engine. We are happy to report that the power delivery and throttle response was instantaneous and the gear shifts are seamless. There is also a “Sport” mode button, which enhances throttle response and the overall excitement of your ride. At most speeds, depressing your foot on the gas pedal in Sport mode will jolt the vehicle forward instantaneously.
The multimedia interface on Acura’s 2014 models has come a long way. We tested the systems on some 2013 models, only to be disappointed by the single screen that required input using a rotary dial. The 2014 RLX and MDX however feature a dual-screen layout consisting of a touch screen and a non-touch screen. The touch-screen, strategically placed closer to the driver, is used to input information using a keyboard and user-friendly buttons. The non-touch screen displays the information relayed by the touch screen. Both screens work very well together. The only thing we would have liked to see improve is the system’s speed, as the processor used to power these systems took a while to load.
Lane-Keeping Assist System
We first tested Acura’s Lane-Keeping Assist System on the 2014 MDX and were pleasantly surprised with what it could do. The system uses sensors to detect the white lines within a lane. It then tries its best to keep you within the lane. This feature helps reduce driver strain and provides an easier steering experience. Now couple this with the vehicle’s built-in adaptive cruise control and the vehicle is very close to being able to drive itself!
On a two-kilometre stretch, we activated the Lane-Keeping Assist System and the Adaptive Cruise Control and the car was able to follow and match the speed of the vehicle ahead. If the car ahead would slow down, the RLX would react and slow down as well. No acceleration or steering input was needed for this two-kilometre test. Don’t expect these systems to drive you home any time soon.
WHAT WE DISLIKE
The RLX, like many luxury cars, has touch-sensitive door handles. The way these work is you touch them and they unlock. Unfortunately upon many instances, touching the door handles didn’t always unlock the car. After further attempts, the door still didn’t unlock. So I had to go “traditional” and use the keyless remote to unlock the door. We’re not sure if it’s just an issue with the specific vehicle we got, but be sure to test it out if you happen to take one for a test drive.
This is by far the best full-size Acura we have seen to date. Throughout the body, you will notice sharp lines and smooth curves that set it apart from its predecessor. The problem however is that the body itself seems a bit outdated. Mind you, the headlights and taillights have been drastically redesigned, but they just feel like they are sitting on an older body that has gone through some nips and tucks. Ideally, we would have loved to see Acura design something sleek – something like the CLS or the A7. That being said, we could be totally wrong as many full-size car buyers are slightly older and prefer conservative designs. We’ll have to wait and see how well the RLX does in the long run.
Markham, ON – The ninth generation Honda Accord sedan made a big splash last September to positive reviews and it was reasserted when they took home the 2013 AJAC Canadian Car of the Year award. Just over a year later, Honda is primed for the launch of the Accord’s hybrid version. The Accord Hybrid provides Honda with a cleaner, more efficient product and positions themselves squarely against the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the Ford Fusion Hybrid.
The mid-size sedan segment can be crowded at times and the Honda Accord has held its own as one of the ring leaders, so it’s of no surprise that they want the same for its hybrid version against the other middleweights. The Accord Hybrid takes on the same shape of the gasoline-version, but the Hybrid does come with some unique touches.
For this first drive, Honda Canada gave us a suburb and rural route throughout York Region that had us go from their headquarters in Markham to King Township and back. They also added a fuel economy challenge to showcase the outstanding savings that could be had in their latest model. We will get to the results later, but put it this way, according to Natural Resources Canada – the Accord Hybrid delivers the lowest fuel economy rating of any four-door mid-size sedan.
The Accord Hybrid is basically the same shape and size as the regular version. It’s a tad longer and lower, but you would never notice the difference. However, when it comes to the other exterior treatments, you can begin to decipher the variances.
It all starts with the colour blue. To emphasize the cleaner vehicle – Honda has given the Accord Hybrid blue tinted headlights, a blue accented grille and just in case you couldn’t guess, blue accented LED taillights. The blue touches make the Accord Hybrid stand out, give it a cool vibe and would be loved by any member of the Blue Man Group.
Outside of the blue touches, the Accord Hybrid gets 17-inch alloy wheels, hybrid badging on the side and rear, as well as a trunk lid spoiler and a unique rear air diffuser that helps to reduce aerodynamic drag.
A Look Inside
If space and comfort is what you desire – the Accord Hybrid won’t disappoint. It has a roomy cabin that’s actually best-in-class for interior volume that’s surrounded by black soft leather on the seats, the dash and the steering wheel.
You will find the front row to be neat and refined except for the double-screen infotainment system. That’s where you start seeing that blue colour re-emerge continuing onto the instrument panel. Many buttons and statistics can be found on the entertainment console and instrument panel making the driving experience a tad overwhelming. Nonetheless, looking at your Battery Charge Meter can be helpful towards saving that precious fuel. Monitoring your statistics might help you tone down your aggressive driving habits when you realize that you’re running on fuel alone.
I understand the need for more information and technology, but Honda makes it more distracting and at times frustrating rather than improved. They utilize the 8-inch Multi-information Display that serves as the main control centre. This is the second-level screen that allows you to change the radio, climate, navigation and check out your energy flow. If that’s not enough for you – it’s also where you can activate technology features such as LaneWatch (that assists drivers with wide-angle views of the road) or Lane Departure Warning (that provides warnings when you veer out of your lane). In this case more is not necessarily better and my preference would rather be to avoid a multiple-step process.
The round out the interior, the back seats are comfortable and identical to the regular Accord sedan. The difference can be found in the trunk that sees it shrink from 15.8 cubic feet (in the regular model) down to 12.7 to make room for the 1.3-kWh battery pack.
Under the Hood
The Accord Hybrid uses the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that runs on the Atkinson cycle. It’s a complicated system that has a gasoline motor, plus two electric motors. I won’t go into too much detail that would most likely bore you, but all you need to know is that the gas engine generates electricity in order to power the electric motor and continuously recharge the 1.3-kW lithium-ion battery pack with help from regenerative braking.
The Accord Hybrid has a driving system called i-MMD (Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive) with three modes of operation that it seamlessly shifts into while driving – EV, Hybrid and Engine. When driving, you will first accelerate in EV mode up to 30-40 kms. At this pace, the engine runs solely on battery, but when you climb above the 40 km threshold, it will switch into hybrid mode. This is where the electricity powers the wheels and the gas engine starts to kick-in generating power for the electric motor. Engine mode is only used during higher speeds around 100 km/h at high RPMs. Once you reach a cruising speed on the highway, the Accord Hybrid will station itself in between EV and hybrid mode.
Honda’s i-MMD system creates the perfect driving scenario – a simultaneous fuel-efficient and performance ride. When you put the two-motor hybrid system together, the maximum output you can get is 196 horsepower and 226 lb.-ft. of torque.
On the Road
As much as we talk about the advancements in hybrid technology, there always seems to be some lag in-between mode transitions. That lag is noticeable along with a slight disconnect during regenerative braking, but that’s expected and I guarantee you that it’s so much more subtle and developed than most of the hybrids out there. This is especially noted in the feel during regenerative braking. The Accord Hybrid uses an electric-servo brake system that acts based on your braking patterns leading to lighter stops minus any jolt.
What’s most impressive is that you can cruise around 60 km/h and hardly use any of your fuel. At that speed you will mostly be in EV mode. For further assistance in the fuel economy department, there is an EV button in the back of the gear shift that can improve on your fuel economy. When pressed a green EV box pops up on the instrument panel and you’re locked into pure EV mode. This can last up to a maximum of two minutes until the battery is depleted.
Our drive saw us go through some quiet rural areas and the Accord Hybrid contributed to that peacefulness drive. Handling is responsive and the steering is smooth without any loose feel, similar to the regular Honda Accord sedan. You could hardly hear a peep and that was due partially to the active noise control, but probably mostly due to us staying off the accelerator in order to win the fuel efficiency challenge.
And if you were wondering if this was all leading to victory in the challenge – you would be wrong. However, Honda Canada boasted about its combined 3.8L/100 km before the event began and we finished the challenge at an extraordinary 3.7L/100 km. Even more remarkable was that fuel economy posting finished third in the challenge. Can you believe that?
There was a team that got 3.6L/100 km and another that astonishingly got 3.5L/100 km. These tests proved to me that the Accord Hybrid is a true leader when it comes to saving money at the pump for its consumers.
There are two trim levels for the Accord Hybrid and they are the base Hybrid package or the Touring. The Hybrid version starts at $29,590 and if you want to jump into the top Touring that will pump up your starting price to $35,690. With the Touring package you get the juicy additions that include leather seats and steering wheel, navigation, satellite radio and a superior audio system, LED headlights and a power moonroof. Not too shabby of a list for only $6K more.
The fuel efficiency challenge can make it more difficult to fully test the Accord Hybrid out, but it looks like Honda Canada got the attention they wanted when it comes to fuel efficiency. Reaching levels of 3.5L/100 km in the city and on the highway clearly place the Accord Hybrid ahead of the hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry and the Hyundai Sonata.
Adding the hybrid version to their existing roster of the Accord allows Honda to show off their Earth Dreams Technology powertrain and become more in-line with consumer demand and certainly the future of the auto industry.
Cadillac has been reinventing itself over the last couple of years to reach out to a new, younger generation. The transformation has taken form with its luxury sports sedan, the ATS and now with the middle-tier flagship sedan, the CTS. It always takes a while for consumers to make that transition over, but the third-generation CTS is hoping to lay the groundwork for that.
The CTS has plenty of competition including the Jaguar XF, the Infiniti Q70, the Lexus GS and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class E350. However, the one car that Cadillac has its sights set-on is the BMW 5-Series. It’s always good to aim high and if the CTS can take a chunk of sales away from those vehicles listed above – they would be doing well to better their status.
To achieve this goal, Cadillac has focused their attention on improving the CTS’ exterior and interior looks as well as its performance. An emphasis on making it more luxurious and technologically sound was imperative.
The event was held at the beautiful Shangri-La hotel in downtown Toronto. It was a perfect setting for the CTS launch, as they both share similarities when it comes to sophistication, style and elegance. Now let’s break down the new CTS for you.
The Cadillac CTS has gone through a much needed dieting regiment. It’s now a lightweight in its class after shedding 200 kilograms from the previous model. When sized up against the BMW 5-Series –it weighs in at 90 kilograms lighter. This weight loss is mainly due to the use of aluminum in its door structure and throughout the new CTS creating a 50/50 weight balance. Lots of attention was placed in every component to save on weight and to result in better handling, acceleration, braking and of course in the fuel economy department. With all of this weight loss, the CTS still managed to increase its wheelbase by 1.2-inches, stretching it out to add some more leg room for the comfort of its passengers.
The roofline and hood were lowered 19mm and 30mm, respectively, to create a lower and sportier appearance. While, the new grille is noticeably wider with the Cadillac badge centered in the middle. A standout feature of the exterior are the CTS’ headlamps and LED lights flowing vertically upward on each side of the car. It’s a striking pattern that sets the tone for the new image of Cadillac.
A Look Inside
Similar to Cadillac’s rival company, Lincoln, it has tried to re-invent its brand with a radical change to its interior. Cadillac has designed the inside to be more driver-centric. Every nook and cranny has been analyzed to create the most unique, complementary finish to enhance your experience. One of the more eye-catching features of the cockpit are the magnesium paddle shifters that erect from the back of the soft-leather wrapped steering wheel.
There are seven distinct interiors to choose from that range from leather to carbon fibre to suede and come with authentic wood finishes and hand-sewn stitching. It’s not something that would be the deciding factor in choosing the CTS, but it’s nice to see the time and attention-to-detail they pay for the comfort of their consumers.
Situated front and centre in the instrument panel is CUE, Cadillac’s infotainment system. A lot of people dislike the CUE system, but I tend to favour it over Ford’s version, My Ford Touch. It’s less complicated and I seem to like the way it’s organized making it easy to navigate around without having to swear or pound the steering wheel. It’s an eight-inch screen that helps you adjust your climate, radio, navigation, as well as a number of other things.
The longer wheelbase provides more room for the driver and their passengers creating a more relaxing and luxurious ride. The added touches to the CTS really elevate it to the level it so desires.
Under the Hood
The new Cadillac CTS comes with three engine choices. The base CTS engine is a 2.0-litre (L), 4-cylinder engine that puts out 272 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and can be had in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The next step up is the 3.6-litre (L), six-cylinder engine that puts out 321 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque. You can opt for either the eight-speed transmission in rear-wheel drive or the six-speed transmission in all-wheel drive.
The final engine choice is the most exciting and that’s the all-new 3.6-litre (L) twin-turbo V-6 engine that powers up to 420 horsepower and 430 lb.-ft. of torque. This only comes in an eight-speed transmission in rear-wheel drive. This new engine called the “Vsport” is the first twin-turbocharged engine ever offered by Cadillac. The turbochargers provide an instant boost in power allowing the CTS Vsport to be launched from 0-100 km/h in approximately 4.4 seconds.
It’s nice to see the capabilities of the new Vsport, but according to Cadillac Canada, it will only account for 10 percent of its sales. The sales should be spread evenly amongst all the other options, so that is where we will focus our drive review.
On the Road
For the drive from Toronto to London and back, I took out the 3.6L regular V-6 to start followed by the base 2.0L. The route map took me and my driving partner onto the highway, some regular street driving and some picturesque country roads.
First up was the 3.6L and acceleration was quick yet smooth. As we had to pass a vehicle on the highway to make our exit stop – the engine revved a little and smoothly blasted past the car ahead and casually veered into the right lane without much of a whimper. We had the eight-speed transmission that comes in the rear-wheel drive set-up and it effortlessly upshifted and downshifted without any lag.
The CTS does feel lighter on the road and gives more of a smaller-size feel opposed to how it should feel as a mid-size sedan. It’s light and nimble on the road, but has the exterior size and roominess as its competitors. The handling was most surprising as it was did exactly what I wanted it to do around those country bends.
When switching to the 2.0L, the lack of acceleration and speed is felt, but it’s not major. The 2.0L can run with the base models of its class – it just doesn’t possess that extra boost when needed. The handling seems about the same, however, you will feel a bit more of the cracks on the road which can be a nuisance at times.
To set-up the CTS how you like it, Cadillac provides you their Magnetic Ride Control as an option. You might be familiar with this as it’s available in the ATS. If you’re in the mood for a quiet and comfortable ride – the touring option is best for you. If you’re looking for to drive with a little edge – sport mode is your option. In sport mode, the suspension tightens allowing you to take on certain corners harshly. However you want to drive that day, the Magnetic Ride Control allows you to transform your CTS with a push of a button.
To add to all of this excitement, Brembo front brakes come standard in all of the CTS models. The high-end performance brakes add to the sophistication of the CTS and its overall quality.
There’s also plenty of technology that’s offered in the CTS including a Driver Awareness and Driver Assist packages that use pulses, vibrations and warnings to keep you alert when you’re moving outside of your lane or coming up to close to a vehicle. Additionally, you can get an Automatic Parallel Parking Assist that can come in handy when dealing with those small parking spots in downtown Toronto.
As with many new launches recently including the Infiniti Q50, the Cadillac CTS can come with Front and Rear Automatic Braking. This (luckily) wasn’t put to the test during our drive, but apparently the vehicle uses sensors, radar and cameras to avoid collisions and if you’re still not paying attention the CTS will brake for you before impact. Very cool, but I would love to see a demonstration before commenting on it.
Cadillac has provided a bevy of engine choices for its customers, but one of the most important aspects outside of the improved power is the fact that their lightweight materials used in building the CTS has helped in lowering the CTS’ fuel economy numbers. The 2.0L in rear-wheel drive is rated at 10.5L/100 km in the city and 6.6L/100 km on the highway; while the 3.6L is rated at 11.4L/100 km in the city and 6.9L/100 km on the highway. As per the all-wheel drive options, you can bump up those numbers by 0.3-0.7L/100 km in each area.
It’s always difficult for a North American company to compete with the big boys from Germany in regards to mid-size luxury sedans. In the past BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have dominated this segment, but Cadillac has bolstered its new CTS to a point that it has to be part of the discussion. Consumers might still hold an inferior perception towards Cadillac, but I would advise those to at least take it out on a test drive and compare it with those same German vehicles.
The price for the 2.0L starts at $50,895, which is less than the BMW 528i at $54,600 and the Mercedes-Benz E300 at $58,800. If you add the luxury, performance or premium package the price does go up all the way to $66,665, but that’s up for you to decide. With the performance package you do receive navigation, 18-inch wheels and the Magnetic Ride Control; while in the premium package you get upgraded to a full-leather interior and get treated to the Driver Assist packages.
The CTS has gone through major improvements and is far better than its outgoing model. The new cars arrived this past month in October and its longer, leaner and lower stature will definitely make some indents into the sales of their German friends.
Land Rover? Range Rover? What’s this thing actually called? Its official name is the “Land Rover Range Rover Sport” – Range Rover Sport for short.
Even after the company’s long running history and decades of off-roading experience, it’s not uncommon to find people who are confused by the brand’s naming strategy. Regardless, this British luxury sport-utility vehicle needs no words to describe what it truly is – an expensive over-performing jewel that you’ll be too afraid to take off-road.
But that’s okay, because this vehicle is much more appreciated on city streets. You will see many eyeballs peering through your windshield while you ride past business executives in suits. Why? Aside from envy, there’s an element of intrigue as well.
For decades, Range Rover has managed to maintain its portfolio of boxy off-road vehicles that preferred lines over curves. The 2014 Range Rover Sport however combines design elements from its siblings, the Evoque and the Range Rover Supercharged. In fact, this has to be the most drastically redesigned Range Rover since the turn of the century.
Here are some specifications:
Engine: 3-litre supercharged V-6 / 5-litre supercharged V-8
Horsepower: 340 hp (V-6) / 510 hp (V-8)
Torque: 332 lb.-ft. (V-6) / 661 lb.-ft. (V-8)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 12.6L/100 km city, 8.6L/100 km highway (V-6) / 15.5L/100 km city, 10.4L/100 km highway (V-8)
Like: Highly Customizable
When you have this kind of money, you have the right to be choosy. That’s why the Sport comes in a choice of 19 exterior colours, 11 interior colours, 4 aluminum interior finishes, 3 real wood veneers, 3 headliner colours, 9 wheel options and 3 roof colours. Can you imagine the amount of combinations! Don’t ask me to figure that out, I’m a fan of cars – not math.
Like: Bespoke Interiors
The interior has been modernized significantly starting with the center console. It has been raised making the controls easier to access for the driver.
The seats are comfortably accommodating and give you the choice of how firm or soft you would like them to be – at least for the front row. Rear passengers are provided with individually controllable heated seats and air vents.
The model that I was provided was draped in soft touch material throughout the dash, especially noticeable surrounding the touchscreen. Most of the car’s interior features can be controlled through the touchscreen’s interface. Although there are physical buttons and knobs to control the climate settings, most of the audio settings are to be controlled using the touchscreen or the buttons on the steering wheel. If that doesn’t matter and you love screens, you can consider replacing your analog gauges with a large digital gauge that magically appears as you start the car.
Like: Auto Start/Stop
Of course, no one buys one of these for its fuel economy or eco-friendliness, but it’s good to know that that there’s some thought when it comes to that department. How? It features an auto start/stop that shuts down the engine as you come to a complete stop. This feature works best at a red light or in a traffic jam. This feature can be enabled or disabled using the “Eco” button located near the armrest.
Like: Fuel Economy
Thanks to a new V-6 Supercharged 3.0-litre engine – the same one found in the Jaguar XF – the Sport is able to achieve better fuel economy than its predecessor. Expect to get around 12.6L/100 km in the city and 8.6L/100 km on the highway. If you opt for the 5.0-litre V-8 Supercharged engine, you can expect 15.5L/100 km in the city and 10.4L/100 km on the highway.
Dislike: Gear Shifter
To go with the amount of technology in the car, Land Rover decided to upgrade the shifter as well. For 2014, the Sport features a traditional lever-based shifter that allow you to shift between 3 gears – Drive, Neutral, and Reverse. To shift to Park however, you will have to press a button located on the shifter. In most cars, pushing the lever all the way to the top shifts it to Park, but doing the same in the Sport puts you in Reverse gear. Expect to spend around two weeks before you getting the hang of this. For a final word of caution, I would avoid reverse parking too close to other cars – just to be safe.
Road trips are great, but they are made even better with a vehicle that gets great fuel economy. One of our readers recently gave us a challenge – she wanted us to find her a family-oriented SUV that seated her family of four comfortably, while delivering great fuel economy. Furthermore, she wanted a vehicle that could bring about a good resale value a few years down the road.
The vehicle will be used to drive her to work during the weekdays, while her husband would be taking it to visit his parents in St. Catharines, Ontario – approximately 115 kilometers each way.
Based on her need for something that could stand time, we looked at what was recently redesigned. New to the market were the 2012 Honda CR-V, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe and the 2013 Toyota RAV4. Assuming she would be selling it in five years, we compared the resale value of all three of those vehicles from its 2008 model year using Auto Trader. The 2009 Toyota RAV4 had the highest resale value, so we gave it a closer look.
Testing the RAV4 Fuel Economy
So I decided to put the vehicle to the test. In the one week we had the vehicle, I did five short trips each day to simulate her eight kilometer drive from home to work. On the last day, I simulated a 115 kilometer drive from Toronto to St. Catharines as per the families’ general visit. To offset the family’s weight, I took 3 other people along for the ride to increase accuracy.
Most of this trip was done on the Queen Elizabeth Way, one of Ontario’s most used highways, at a speed of approximately 110 kilometers with virtually no traffic both ways.
At the end of the trip, including the city and highway driving, we were able to get a fuel economy of 11.3 L/100 km (20.8 MPG). This was fairly average in this segment, and we weren’t expecting it to be much different from its competitors. Carrying over a similar 2.5-litre engine from its outgoing model, we assumed the fuel economy would be the same, but the new six-speed transmission provides more shifting activity than the outgoing four-speed – allowing for slightly better fuel economy.
Cadillac recently launched a redesign of its flagship SUV, the Escalade. Expected to go on sale next year as a 2015 model, Cadillac has still remained quiet about the Escalade’s features and specs. Currently, all we have to help us fantasize about it are some rather tasty images. While it would’ve been nice of them to wait for the Detroit Auto Show to release it, perhaps they couldn’t find a rotating display large enough to spin this long wheelbase monster.
So going by what we have, let’s break down its design.
The grill on the 2015 Escalade is huge! While most SUVs have horizontally stacked headlights that lead into the grill, these headlights want nothing to do with that chrome-rich centerpiece that occupies most of the front end leaving a large amount of space between the grill and the headlights. Instead, Cadillac has their headlights vertically stacked to go with their design language. There are also five projector lamps inside each headlight – similar to the currently selling Platinum model. There is also an LED strip running vertically down the edge of the headlights – similar to the brand’s ATS model.
Cadillac has got rid of its wood-rich dash for a more technology-centric look. While there’s still quite a bit of wood accents around the interiors, it’s quite a bit less compared to the outgoing model. Gone also are physical buttons – now replaced by touch buttons similar to the Cadillac ATS’ dash.
Tall taillights and boxy rear
The rear of the Escalade has gone through a significant update – especially the taillights. These LED-rich lights stretch from the bumper to the roof and feature Cadillac’s LED stripe. This is probably the longest stripe we have seen so far from any auto maker. The rear spoiler pops outward quite a bit, making the rear window look smaller. Overall, the rear further emphasizes the boxiness of the vehicle.
Expected release time: 2014
Expected price: $80,000 CAD ($68,000 USD)
To see a bit more of the Escalade, here’s a great video that we found:
Vancouver, BC – A few weeks back, I responded to an invitation to attend a ride and drive for the 2014 Mazda3 in Vancouver – a 10th anniversary and introduction of the vehicle’s 3rd generation.
At the presentation for the vehicle to say that there was a definite air of arrogance, way beyond unbridled enthusiasm exhibited by the team responsible for R&D and the group program manager, would be an understatement.
Only Mazda Canada, Inc. President, Kory Koreeda seemed to express the now expected dialogue of respect generally associated with Asian automotive manufacturers.
Has the Mazda3 been successful? Yes, by well-accepted automotive business practices and bench marks. In fact, 3.5 million cars with the Mazda3 marque have been sold to date. And, the 1st and 2nd generation iterations won a combined 136 awards worldwide and garnered respect and admiration from buyers and auto aficionados alike. It is the manufacturer’s best selling vehicle since its introduction to the compact segment 10 years ago for the 2004 model year. The Mazda3 is an incredibly important car for this Japanese manufacturer; it represents 35 percent of the company’s global sales, 40 percent of its U.S. sales and over 50 percent of its sales here in Canada.
So why this apparent attitude? The Mazda3 has consistently proven to be a popular choice in the compact class due to clean styling, eager performance and responsive handling combined with well-accepted interiors which were perceived as being above and even slightly beyond most of the manufacturers in the competitive compact class.
Mazda, corporately senses an opportunity. Not only here, in Canada, but worldwide.
Let’s address the Canadian marketplace, “owned” in the compact class by the Honda Civic for 15 straight years (with the likelihood of a 16th not far from its grasp) as the best selling compact vehicle in this country.
To Mazda, there are seven meaningful contenders, by volume in this category.
Here’s how those auto makers stack up at time of writing by market share:
Honda Civic 15%
Hyundai Elantra 15%
Toyota Corolla 11%
Chevrolet Cruze 8%
Volkswagen Jetta 8%
Ford Focus 7%
As you can see, the “race” for third and fourth position is tight. Mazda once held the number 3 spot, and Toyota number 2 – before Hyundai came along. The Toyota Corolla in Canada knocked the Mazda3 out of third place in 2012.
So let’s be quite clear; Mazda’s confidence is not that they see an opportunity to knock off the two leading contenders. No – at least, not yet.. Their sights are set, for now, firmly on regaining third place.
Is this a reasonable expectation? The buying public will make that final determination.
Step back for a second and look at some global numbers. Volume. Since it’s introduction, the Corolla has sold more that 40 million vehicles, and the Civic more than 20 million. The Mazda3 practically pales by comparison.
Have they, historically built a good enough car? Again, the answer is a strong affirmative. Can they take on Toyota and climb the ladder?
In a classroom-like environment, we were presented with figures, charts, graphs and exhortations. Looking at the actual vehicle specs it would appear that the Mazda3′s redesign should indeed help its cause. Mazda’s designers and engineers have trimmed the new car’s weight and given it more “oomph” and, bang for the buck, further enhancing its reputation in the compact category. Depending on the model the new car weighs in at between 25 and 45 kg less than the previous generation. The new SKYACTIV 2.5L engine develops 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque (17 more horsepower than the outgoing 2.5), while the SKYACTIV 2.0L develops 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque (five more horsepower and 15 lb-ft more torque than the old 2.0L). Further, the 2014 SKYACTIV 2.0L also bests the performance of the 2013 SKYACTIV 2.0L thanks to a big bump of torque in the mid-range (it has 14 lb-ft more torque at 3,000 rpm).
Visually, the car reinforces the notion that Mazda has a potential winner on its hands. Mazda’s “Kodo” (soul of motion) design philosophy has been previously very well received in the new CX-5 and Mazda6, and the new Mazda3 takes cues from both of them. Step back and admire gracefully flowing lines and a sense of motion. These days, all Mazda’s are designed in the more traditional manner out of Mazda’s California Design Centre, sculpted from clay, before computers and number-crunchers can tear out the heart and soul of the vehicle. The 3rd generation Mazda3s achieve lower height, greater width, and shorter overall length on a longer wheelbase than before, creating a stronger, more assertive stance.
During the morning session, we soon learned that Mazda had indeed looked beyond and determined that this generation needed to create a feeling of being in a class above; aspirations aside, Mazda took inspiration, they said, from BMW in so many areas – interior trim, handling and available features and technology normally reserved for more expensive automobiles.
But how did it drive?
Unlike two previous groups that same week, a new drive route was created just for us: Highway 99 or the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver north to Whistler, BC, a terrific route guaranteed to put just about any vehicle to the test.
Suffice to say, the Mazda3 came through with flying colours. We drove the Sport GT hatchback mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that was naturally, set in Sport mode, northbound. An agile performer that made love to the curves of the blacktop as it negotiated twists and turns with ease, holding revs and road position with eager confidence, this car was a willing and responsive runner.
The drive back to Vancouver was in the GS trim – this time with a 6-speed manual transmission. Initially the main comment was that the car’s power plant was a little lacking – but reality set in when you quickly realize that most driver’s commute would never occur on a road such as this. Another positive grade.
Mazda is putting more of its eggs in the SKYACTIV basket, these days. And remember, SKYACTIV is not just about an engine. SKYACTIV is a series of technologies developed by Mazda which increase fuel efficiency and engine output. This technology covers engines, transmissions, body and chassis.
Canada will see three different trims for 2014: GX, GS and GT. The suggested MSRP for entry level of each model is as follows: $15,995; $19,695; and, $26,855. Each model provides standard features that will please most. Additional packages may, of course be added to make any of these cars best suited for your needs.
If you are in the market for a compact car with an upscale interior, efficient and dare we say peppy engines and available features in a good-looking package, then the new Mazda3 will likely fulfil most personal wish lists.
And, in our opinion, this highly-likeable car should have Honda and Hyundai glancing nervously over their shoulders.
All in all, the new Mazda3 gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Keep right – except to pass.”
We know the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, commonly just known as the Lancer Evo, is out there, we hear about, but we rarely see it.
It’s the rally car turned production car back in 2003 that earned a cult-like following. The Lancer Evo has a turbocharged engine that powers its way around any terrain in all-wheel drive. It has the looks of an expensive sports car, but the ticket price that’s affordable. Perhaps, that’s due to the least electrifying interior in the automotive industry, but that’s a different story altogether.
The Lancer Evo comes in two trims, the GSR (starting at $41,998) and the MR (starting at $51,998). Both come with the 2.0-litre MIVEC engine that puts out 291 horsepower and 300 lb.-ft. of torque. If you choose the MR, you will get the Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission instead of the five-speed manual transmission plus other additional features.
The precision handling, tight cornering and sheer power in the Lancer Evo is exciting to watch, so we will treat you with a video from our friends at Auto Emotionen. Sit back and enjoy!