CAR REVIEWS (59)
When looking for winter tires, there are always plenty of choices at any tire shop. Within minutes you will easily notice a three-tier pricing system, but the question remains which ones right for you?
If you’re a loyal Bridgestone or Michelin customer – this article will probably not change your mind. But if you’re one of the 59 per cent of Canadians that buy winter tires from brands outside of the top 5 – you might want to read on.
Customers are always looking for the best tire for the best price. That range usually boils down to third-tier tire choices. This is a competitive group that doesn’t seem to have one company take the bulk of sales. Part of this group is the little known company out of China called Sailun that have been making small strides in getting noticed in the Canadian market.
Sailun’s bread-and-butter has been winter tires that formerly comprised of 80 per cent of their sales. Since, Sailun has made a small, but effective marketing push of their all-season tires – they’ve shifted those sales figures to more of a 50/50 split between winter and all-seasons, which is healthier for the company as a whole allowing them to showcase their versatility. That versatility they hope will increase their global sales numbers from roughly 10 million tires to 30 million in the next two years.
A big part of Sailun’s marketing efforts has been wisely focused at the dealership level, where 80 per cent of decisions are made. Sailun has showcased their brand to dealers not just by talk and numbers, but have invited them out to events pitting their tires against a more expensive competitor. It’s a way for dealers to be more familiar with the Sailun brand and come away impressed wanting to tell their customer base.
Sailun wanted to extend those marketing efforts to us media folks, so they set-up a blind test involving their best-selling winter tire, the Ice Blazer WSL2 against a second-tier competitor. It’s always a risk to have a blind test where the competitor could blow up their entire plan, but Sailun has enough confidence in their brand to risk this venture.
The day consisted of a slalom course with an emergency stop and an accident avoidance/emergency lane change challenge, as well a street route to fully test out the two different tires. The slalom course was our group’s first challenge and awaiting us were both tires fitted on identical 2013 Ford Fusions in Titanium trim for there to be no bias whatsoever. The names on the tires were rubbed off, so it was a complete blind test without any ability to cheat. For the sake of the reader – the competitor was revealed afterwards and ended up being the second-tier Hankook i-Pike winter tire.
On the slalom course, I found it truly tough to decipher which tire was better and it really took three runs per car to be able to make a decision. In the end, I felt that the Hankook’s made it slightly easier to control where I wanted the Fusion to go and more consistent throughout the three runs. Both tires performed the emergency stop within two-to-three seconds stopping in-between the pylons during each run. The WSL2’s might have been quicker to accelerate at times, but I personally rather know where the car’s going than be faster to accelerate. I have to stress and this isn’t for Sailun’s sake either that the first test was close and for the first two runs I flip-flopped which one I preferred.
A regular driver isn’t going to perform many slalom tracks and emergency lane changes when testing out their tires, so the last grouping truly is the most important – a regular driving test on regular snowy road conditions. It consisted of a 10-minute loop with the addition of some curvy roads and some hill accent and descents. It was a real-life test!
This run resulted in a different result than the first as I felt the Sailun Ice Blazer WSL2’s provided me more control on turns and the during initial acceleration those Sailun’s bit down on the snowy road and got me going slightly quicker than the Hankooks. Once again, this test was close, but the key in any winter tire test is being confident and comfortable with your tires and Sailun won the day. Another key factor that made Sailun the best street choice was the lack of road noise that led to a more relaxing drive.
At the end of the day, Sailun proved the point they wanted to make. When our votes were tabulated Sailun were dead even to the Hankooks on the slalom challenge (I told you it was too close to call), but where they won was on the real-life road test, as well as destroying the Hankooks when it came to road noise. Talk is cheap and Sailun realized that, so they let their actions speak instead.
I saved the best part for last as the kicker to this event was the fact that Sailun Ice Blazer WSL2’s are 40 per cent cheaper than the Hankook i-Pike’s. Just to give you an exact price, Sailun provided us with Tire World Brampton’s prices and those Hankooks could be fetched for $184/per tire, while the Sailun’s were listed at the low price of $109/per tire and none of those tires were on sale.
Price is a big factor when making a decision on tires. When you factor in the point that these Sailun’s are equal at some aspects and better in others – there’s really only one decision to make. Everyone will have a different experience with these tires and it could be based on the way you drive, but I can only speak for myself and I will take the better street driving tires for 40 per cent less every time.
While many cars in the market offer a hybrid variant, the value of a hybrid still isn’t convincing enough to get most people to make the switch. With laggy performance and a 25-40 per cent price premium on most hybrids, most people are better off using the extra money towards gas over the next few years.
So where does the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid fit into all this? We had a chance to drive it recently, and while consumers can still expect to pay that price premium, the performance behind this machine is much better than its non-hybrid counterparts. Let’s go over the specs of the base model:
• 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine
• 184 lb.-ft. of torque
• 27-horsepower electric motor
• seven-speed automatic DSG with Tiptronic
• 15-inch wheels
• six airbags
• Dual-zone climate control
• Aerodynamic body kit
• Priced at $27,895
The vehicle we drove was the Highline version, and came with additional features such as:
• 17-inch alloy wheels
• Bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and Adaptive Front Lighting System
• Leather seats
• Keyless access with start-stop button
• LED taillights
• Fender audio system
• Touchscreen navigation
• Priced at $34,025
Like: Audi-esque styling
The Highline model we test drove was equipped with stylish LED-enriched headlamps with the LED bulbs flowing through the outer halves of each headlight cluster. Assuming the car shares its LED components with those of Audi, expect the same level of quality out of these headlamps. In fact, in the dark, one could easily mistake the Jetta Hybrid for an Audi. At the back, the tail lamps flow with LEDs, but the lighting isn’t as sharp or striking as the Audi.
As mentioned, most Hybrids tend to struggle in the performance department. The Jetta Hybrid defies that logic with its powerful turbocharged engine, capable of producing 170-hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque.
The driver has a choice between performance and efficiency with the E-Mode button. With E-Mode button turned on, the car makes an effort to reduce engine use by making the best use of the electric motor. On E-Mode, the 27-hp electric motor was powerful enough to rev up to 30km/h independently, although the acceleration had to be done gently. Pushing the accelerator too hard while accelerating engages the gas motor in order to deliver the level of performance needed.
Although it was efficient, the turbocharged engine and seven-speed DSG transmission were both great at pulling the car along when performance was needed. Expect good acceleration and a 0-100 km/h rating of 7.9 seconds.
Dislike: Base model features
Most hybrids try to justify their high price tag with a good amount of additional features and design cues specific to the vehicle. While this strategy not only helps the price tag make a bit more sense, it also makes the car look more premium in the public eye. The aforementioned LED headlights and taillights unfortunately are only available in the higher trims, making the base model look undesirably similar to the non-hybrid Jetta. On the plus side, the hybrid-exclusive aerodynamic body kit does a good job at making the car look unique.
Just a few months back, the Cadillac ATS made a big splash at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) by winning the North American car of the year. Cadillac claims that the ATS' development cycle was one of the most intricate and detail-oriented processes the company has done in a while. While the design is unmistakably Cadillac, engineers spent a significant amount of time bench-marking the driving experience against the BMW 3-series and the Audi A4. With such a strong story of determination, it's no wonder journalists fell for the ATS - giving it a well-deserved win at NAIAS. So what do we like (and dislike) about the North American Car of the Year? Find out below.
1. CUE Interface
The Cadillac User Experience interface is used to control several aspects of the in-car features – including the climate, audio, and navigation systems. Unlike most car interfaces, the CUE system features both multi-touch and gesture input, allowing seamless operation with the use of one or two fingers. As mentioned in the video, using the system is similar to using an iPad or tablet device.
2. Audio System
We were quite impressed with the sound quality of the seven-speaker Bose sound system. The satellite radio was great too, although like most in-car satellite radios, it tends to lose reception in heavy weather or in areas with densely packed buildings. The system is controlled through the CUE interface.
When it comes to design, very few car companies dare to pull off sharp lines and edges – especially in the luxury segment. The ATS challenges that ideology, incorporating crisp lines and stark edges into its design that differentiates it from the competition – all without making the car look too boxy.
4. Rear Legroom
While the front of the cabin offers enough room and comfort to accommodate both passengers, the back of the cabin doesn’t do the same. Rear passengers might find the legroom a bit disappointing, and the rear passenger stuck in the middle seat has another reason to complain – the massive floor hump.
There’s a popular trending joke about the BMW brand that goes something like this. What’s the difference between a BMW owner and a porcupine? Porcupines have pricks on the outside. As an ex-BMW owner (well, lessee), I would like to think that these jokes are the brainchildren of jealous middle-agers who have at some point or another got confronted by a bad BMW driver on the road.
The fact is that both, BMW owners and BMW haters have different issues. The BMW hater has most likely never experienced the pleasure and confidence that one gets behind the wheel of one. The BMW owner doesn’t realize that his/her overzealous driving habits on busy streets can be perceived as dangerous by other drivers. The owner is simply enjoying their performance-tuned BMW as they were intended.
The 3-series is the most influential culprit in all this. Often driven by 20 to 30-something single men with decent jobs and equivalent egos, the 3-series provides the brand reputation and performance that very few luxury brands provide at that price point.
For the 2014 model year, BMW redesigned the 3-series line-up. The most interesting news to come out of this was the addition of a new 4-cylinder engine. BMW claims that the output from this engine rivals the base engines of its other German competitors. While we highly doubt that is true, we wanted to see what it was truly able to achieve.
First off, here are some of the specifications of the press vehicle we were given:
-2.0L, 4-cylinder engine
-181 hp @ 5000 rpm
-200 ft.-lb. of torque @1250 rpm
-8-speed automatic transmission option
The four-cylinder engine has been well-mated to the eight-speed transmission delivering decent power and quick shifts. Like previous 3-series models, a light tap on the accelerator delivers equally low increases in RPMs – resulting in equally light thrusts. In order to get stronger performance, you would need to push the accelerator about half way to generate higher RPM increases and instant thrust. This is great because it allows better control over the car’s speed from a standstill – especially in dense traffic. That being said, don’t expect the four-cylinder engine to get you much burnout action from the rear wheels.
The 181 horsepower engine is no V-6 equivalent, but it wasn’t designed to be. However, for a price tag of $36,000 it makes performance junkies question the poor dollar-to-horsepower ratio. But this car wasn’t designed for them anyway. This car is for people who prioritize brand value and fuel efficiency over performance. For those looking for more performance, the 3-series offers other variants including the 328i and the 335i – both generating 241 hp and 300 hp respectively. There’s also a 300 hp hybrid variant offered for a $22,000 premium over the base model.
The car has 3 modes, Comfort, Sport, and Eco Pro mode. When performance is needed, Sport mode delivers instant acceleration and quick shifts at close to 4,500 RPMs. In comparison, Eco Pro mode limits the RPMs to 2,500 and controls some of the climate control features to deliver better fuel efficiency. Eco Pro mode won’t be the most thrilling drive, as the pick-up can be quite slow. For a balance between the two, Comfort mode offers better acceleration, while still achieving acceptable fuel efficiency.
The redesign of the 3-series is exceptional. It’s a welcome replacement for the previous generation – which has been on the market since 2004. This generation looks sporty and aggressive with a good balance of lines and curves. In fact, don’t blame yourself if you accidentally mistake it for one of the bigger 5-series.
The lighting system on the 320i we drove looks pretty cool, especially at dusk. Equipped with adaptive projection beam headlights and bright white halo rings, the headlights can scream BMW from a mile away. We were disappointed to find out however, that these headlights are an optional upgrade at a $1,200 premium.
The standard headlights on the 320i are just an awful sight. While the shape remains consistent, the lights feature two lighting clusters on each side and blurry daytime running lights on the lower half of each cluster. There are no projection beam headlights or halo lights on the base model. As mentioned above, you would have to pay a premium to get the upgraded lights.
Unlike its outgoing generation, the new version comes standard with keyless start-stop – even on the base 320i. What this means is you can start the car without having to stick your key in the ignition. That being said, you still need to remove the key from your pocket to unlock it, which seems to defeat the purpose of a true keyless system. Additionally, the 3-series seems to have a poor key range. In many instances, I wasn’t able to lock/unlock the doors if I was more than 25 metres away from the car.
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When you think of luxury automotive, no one does it better than the Germans. When it comes to power and performance under 50k, you can’t go wrong turning towards the 3-Series, A4, or C-Class. These cars are preferred status symbols among young 30-something business professionals who most likely favour power over practicality.
However, size wise, these cars are small and match up to the likes of the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla. If you wanted a German mid-size, be prepared to spend up to $60,000 for an E-Class, 5-Series, or A6. But what if you wanted to pay a compact luxury price for a mid-size luxury sedan?
Turn to Japan and USA to provide you with luxury alternatives like the Lexus ES, Acura TL, and the Lincoln MKZ. We recently had a chance to test drive the MKZ Hybrid and decided to write about what we liked and disliked.
Most people can’t justify buying a hybrid, because the price doesn’t justify the long term savings – especially during a four-year lease term. For instance, the Accord Hybrid has a $5,500 price premium over the standard Accord. To justify the premium, the buyer would have to save over $1,400 every year (over a four-year term) in fuel expenses for the purchase to make sense.
Lincoln makes the purchase decision a bit easier by eliminating the premium. It’s the only Hybrid in the market that is the same price as the standard model. For $38,460, you can pick between the MKZ and the MKZ Hybrid. If you were to factor in the monthly lease payment and fuel expenses, this hybrid’s operating costs would be much lower than its non-hybrid counterpart.
Outstanding Fuel Economy
The MKZ delivered a combined fuel economy rating of 6.7L/100km. Although this number is not exactly close to the 4.0L/100km figure that Lincoln claims, it’s still pretty impressive for a luxury mid-size sedan. Throughout our test, we didn’t use any climate control features aside from the heated seats.
The MKZ performed extremely well in stop-and-go traffic, as we were able to drive two kilometres on just the battery before the engine turned back on. Like most Hybrids, the Lincoln uses regenerative braking to charge the battery whenever the brakes are applied. Compared to many hybrids on the market however, the MKZ seems to provide better driver feedback that encourages fuel efficient driving. For instance, there are two LCD screens on the dash that show how much charge returned to the battery upon braking.
The screen can also show Ford’s trademarked “Efficiency Leaves” – animated leaves that spread and grow as fuel efficiency increases. Want to hear the best part? While most luxury sedans rely on premium fuel, the Lincoln is able to power its Ford-derived engine simply using regular gasoline.
Is this really a Lincoln? I’ve been asking that since its initial debut last year. The MKZ looks like a concept car that you are most likely to crowd around at the auto show. The headlights seamlessly transition into the kidney-shaped grill – surrounded by a chrome outline on each side. The rear window stretches further into the trunk, giving it a coupe-like appearance. While we’re not crazy about the unibrow taillights, they are still unique in their own way.
World’s First Modern 4-Door Convertible
The MKZ has a distinctive feature that distinguishes it from the competition – its optional panoramic roof. Touch the sunroof button and wave goodbye to your roof as it moves to the back of the cabin. This gives you 15 square-feet of open sky that covers most of the front and rear seats. Sure, many cars have panoramic sunroofs, but the MKZ offers the largest opening of all of them. What truly sets it apart is the fact that the roof doesn’t retract, but rather shifts all the way to the back – like a convertible. Cruise around in the MKZ over the summer with the roof open and bask in the glory of jealous onlookers. The roof comes at a premium of $3,450.
While the battery does a great job at delivering performance at idle or very low speeds, the engine kicks in when you need more power. Unfortunately, the engine feels like its lacking the power needed for a car of this size. While a 2.0L sounds like it should be delivering sufficient power to complement the battery, it can be quite slow to deliver the level of acceleration demanded from the throttle. Moreover, it seems a bit noisier than the average car engine. If you need something more powerful, the non-hybrid MKZ offers a turbo engine at the same price point.
While the headlights look impressive, they’re less impressive at night. With a basic xenon lamp and 2 amber LEDs, the lights are a bit too simple to make a statement. Other luxury brands like Audi and BMW have done a phenomenal job at this, using a combination of LEDs that create distinct shapes within the headlight. Unfortunately, the MKZ’s LEDs are placed on the front bumper and act as daytime running lights.
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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. (Get Better Price.)
The RS package (an additional charge of $1,575 on the 2LT starting at $19,495) (Get Better Price.) 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, (Get Better Price.) 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.
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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 (Get Better Price) and if you want to jump into the top Touring that will pump up your starting price to $35,690 (Get Better Price). 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 (Get Better Price), 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 (Get Better Price), 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.