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All hail the reigning King of the Pickups.

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It’s far from an exact science, but you can assert with confidence that whichever manufacturer- usually referring to the Big Three domestics in this case- brings the latest pickup truck to market that it’ll all but certain take home honors for Best in Class/Truck of the Year. In true fashion, Chevrolet’s most recent addition to the ranks is the newest, and therefore best- so it should shock exactly no one that it took home AJAC’s Canadian Truck of the Year as well as some other impressive hardware south of the border.

Before I clambered up to the driver seat of Chevy’s newest offering, I began to question the wisdom of my AJAC colleagues. Before I even turned a wheel, I glanced up from an underwhelming spec sheet to find a truck that doesn’t really look groundbreakingly new compared to its predecessor. I’m not a truck guy, but I know this- shoppers who patron this segment do so with a generous dollop of loyalty, and also expect to be blown away when their truck of choice is replaced with a new variant. With the revolutionary-rather-than-evolutionary machine in front of me, I wondered how it would stack up against stalwarts like Ford’s well-received Ecoboost engines or RAM’s wind cheating and velvety ride delivering air suspension.

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Not a Grand National, but that’s the point.

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If you count yourself amongst China’s burgeoning populace who drives, trends are strongly suggesting that more than likely you fancy a Buick. If young professional best describes who you are, more than likely you don’t fancy a Buick. After General Motor’s great reorganization of brands, Buick survived the firing squad but found a pressing question on its hands: Now what? And how do we get posteriors under the age of 50 into the seats of our cars?

The tried and true path of making comfortable transportation appliances for retirees was one that was rightfully deemed unsustainable, and one that wasn’t serving Buick particularly well when sales figures are periodically released. No, fresh young blood would be needed to keep the brand on the good side of relevancy.

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IMG_4182BMW calls their entry-level driver training program “Advanced”, but don’t be mislead into thinking the curriculum includes storming apexes and trail braking behind the wheel of an M3. Those who are out to improve lap times will be disappointed; those that aim to improve their overall skill as drivers will be rewarded.

Like many driver training courses extant, this one starts in the classroom. Ex –racer Jason Carvahlo was acting as our chief instructor and went on to explain the day’s schedule, what exactly we’d be doing and some basic theory. The real fun began on the makeshift course BMW had set up- made even better by the fact that our steeds were 435i M Sports (the automotive gods blessed my co-driver and I with the only manual gearbox example on hand.)

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Distancing itself from the Malibu’s of the past.

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While spending time recently in Chevrolet’s Malibu LTZ, I wondered why this car isn’t on more people’s radar screens. It competes in one of the most popular and hotly contested segments in the market and thanks to a last minute refresh for 2014, happens to be pretty good. After spending a week driving it around, I’m still not sure I understand why people aren’t more aware of it.

The Malibu enjoyed its greatest sales success in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, but that isn’t saying much- that was a truly terrible era in automotive history, known affectionately as the Malaise Era, and wasn’t known for virtually any cool cars period. The prevalence of mediocrity was already so wide spread at that point that it took domestic auto manufactures years to shed the reputation of truly crappy, unreliable product; something that has dogged the Malibu for years.

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They took a Juke NISMO and gave it more power and a clutch. We said “thank you.”

2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS front three-quarter view

The 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS (photos by Dan Heyman)

2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS front three-quarter viewWhen we discussed the Juke NISMO last year, we mentioned that it had its flashes of brilliance. We did say, however, that if any crossover needed a manual transmission, then this would be it.

Well, lucky for us, Nissan listened and gave us a crack in the NISMO RS.

Not only does it have a proper six-speed manual (that’s the only way you can get an RS in Canada), but an additional 18 hp as well.

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More than a 1 Series plus 1.

2014 BMW 228i front three-quarter view

The 2014 BMW 228i (photos by Dan Heyman)

2014 BMW 228i headlightIn the ever-evolving volume that is BMW’s model names, the 1 Series is gone in North America for 2014, to be replaced by the 2 Series.

Now available only in coupe form (there was a 1 Series convertible), the new car is a little bigger, a little more edgier than the model it replaces.

For those lamenting the loss of the number “1”, not to worry; the 1 Series still exists overseas as a hatchback. Considering how popular hatches are in Canada, you just never know.

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Automotive Essentials Car Care KitNow that the summertime driving season is here, Carpages.ca has decided to mark the occasion with a list of the top five car-related products that cost less than $30.00.

While there are undoubtedly other products that are worthy of being on the list, the five that were selected can definitely make for happier drivers.

Now on to number five on the list…

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The Ultimate (Electric) Driving Machine.

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Strange things are happening across the automotive landscape. Don’t believe it? Witness that honors for the world’s fastest production car are being contested by a trio of hybrids. Bentley, one of the most rarified and aristocratic brands there is has confirmed that they will be bringing an SUV to market, albeit a massive one with an equally massive price tag. Even BMW, a company that clings fiercely to its Ultimate Driving Machine ethos has made its own decision to pipe induction and exhaust noise into the cabins of their revered M-powered machines (a choice met with a few guffaws and a raised eyebrow or two, but we digress). Perhaps all these bizarre instances will help you fit the following tidbit through the doors of your perception: BMW is building electric cars.

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Driving downtown just got easier.

2015 Nissan Micra front 3/4 view

The 2015 Nissan Micra (photos by Dan Heyman)

2015 Nissan Micra grille badgeIn an unprecedented move of not shilling to the enormous American market, Nissan is returning with the Micra microcar (or is it “Micracar”?) to Canada for 2015, and not the US.

It’s usually the opposite, with manufacturers building sedans they only plan on selling to Americans. The rest of the world has moved on to much more practical hatchbacks, but the Yanks keep diggin’ four doors and a proper trunk.

In the Micra’s case, it means they’re going to miss out on one of the early surprises of the 2015 model year.

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Preview_2013 Honda Accord PHEV 162

Honda has built a reputation on manufacturing vehicles with above average fuel efficiency. So it is with trepidation they are testing the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in in the Canadian market. The lynchpin behind this Accord, which you can plug in to the wall, is it will offer up to 28 kilometres of battery only driving. Enough for most people to get to and from work each day.

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2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

AWD + turbo 6 power = the driver’s SUV. My colleague Adam Allen will surely tell you how great the latest generation of the V8-powered X5 Sport Activity Vehicle is. How it’s got tons of power after its refresh for the 2014 model year and so forth. I’m here to tell you, however, that there’s [...]

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2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

The Nissan Pathfinder has been a rough and tumble off-road SUV since the dawn of time. But the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder was redesigned to appeal to the SUV/crossover crowd. And that appears to have been the right move. Nissan Pathfinder sales more than doubled over the previous model year proving that just tickles Nissan all [...]

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2014 Mini Cooper S Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

A bigger Mini in every way. While it may not look it at first blush, the Mini Cooper S, along with its Cooper sibling, is all-new for 2014. It’s bigger and more powerful, and as we’ll soon find out, a surprisingly comfortable ride, too.

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2014 BMW 428i xDrive Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

Doors down, thrills up. BMW’s TwinPower turbocharged four-banger has become the toast of the town since it debuted in 2011. It’s made its way under the hood of crossovers, sports cars and sedans; it stand to reason, then, that the all-new (sort of) 4 Series should get it.

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2014 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

Power and luxury, in spades. Ahh, the Range Rover. Earth pounder. Royalty mover. Rap lyric mainstay. As British as bangers n’ mash. Granted, the “earth mover” part may not be quite as focused in North American markets, making way instead for “luxurious family hauler” more often than not. Having said that, though, it does that [...]

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2014 Mazda MX-5 GT Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

Delivering the goods since 1989. People are always grumbling about how driving purity is so elusive these days, but all they need to do is spend some time behind the wheel of a Mazda MX-5. Since 1989, they’ve sold almost a million of ‘em, and although much has changed since the first one rolled off [...]

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