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2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4X4

GMC’s Escalade-on-a-budget.

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After the Infiniti QX80 spent some in the Carpages Garage a few months ago, the general consensus was that it’s a properly enormous vehicle. That was before we picked up the keys to GMC’s range-topping Yukon XL Denali, whose modest dimensions eclipse the monstrous QX in every measure. So who buys these behemoths anyway? Why do you need something so vastly immense? The answer is inevitably the same- those who’ve got minivan style hauling priorities but abhor the Box-on-Wheels shleppers. More often than not these folks have something heavy to hook up to a trailer hitch, like a boat. General Motors practically invented this segment back in 1934 with the original Chevy Suburban. Since then, these full size leviathans have moved significantly upmarket, culminating in the Yukon XL Denali you see here; not exactly a Caddy Escalade, but pretty darn close.

That means the Yukon carries a sticker price that is creeping up on Escalade territory and is not for the faint of heart. $83,675 is a whole lot of dough for what is essentially a Sierra pickup with seating for seven. But you know what? As expensive as this rig is, it doesn’t feel like an exercise in frivolity. If you genuinely do happen to fit within the profile of needs typically associated with a truck like this, it feels like money well spent. If you turn your nose up at the Yukon/Suburban twins, your only real choices are the aforementioned Escalade, the baleen-inspired QX80 and the recently revamped Lincoln Navigator.

PROS: Drivetrain is easily the class of the field, mega capability, all the toys.

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado LT 4WD Extended Cab

Chevrolet’s resurrected Colorado makes perfect sense.

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I find it puzzling when I see people running errands or simply commuting in a full size truck. Fine, you need the towing capacity and payload area here and there, but what about the vast majority of the time? Seems kind of silly to have all that capability wasting away. Never mind that these are the folks who typically slow to a crawl to go over a speed bump with their increased ground clearance and off-road conquering componentry. Hopefully the days of purchasing a truck that are clearly overkill can be put behind us. As this optimistic new era dawns, enter Chevrolet’s reborn Colorado.

Or re-enter, as it were. The Colorado (and corporate twin, the GMC Canyon) have been resurrected from their embarrassing past of anemic 5 cylinder engines, (a V8 was hastily offered for a few years) a cockpit saturated with industrial grade plastics and relatively diminutive payloads. They join the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier as the only choices in the “real-world” sized pickup segment. The Dodge Dakota and Ford Ranger used to play in this sandbox until they were called home for dinner by product planners, citing lack of buyer interest. It stands to reason they did this to focus on their full size truck programs which were enjoying explosive growth, while sales dwindled for these more manageably sized players. In typical cyclic fashion, the mid-size pickup sector is hot once again, even if the Tacoma/Frontier are so aged that their basic formulas go back to the days when the Colorado was a first weak-kneed effort from GM. Until their replacements arrive, the Colorado/Canyon are the most bleeding edge, state-of-the-art small(er) pickups you can buy.

PROS: Perfectly sized, healthy dose of refinement, impressive capabilities.

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2015 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

A diesel from Chevrolet, not in a pickup truck.

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We often review cars that vie for sales in highly crowded and competitive marketing segments, so it was refreshing grabbing the keys to Chevrolet’s Cruze Diesel, a car that joins the Volkswagen Jetta as the only other compact diesel offering trying to land your hard earned Canadian dollars.

We’ve logged many kilometres behind the wheel of Volkswagen’s oil burners and can say with confidence that they are the undisputed benchmark when it comes to compression ignition. They are smooth, powerful, and efficient and are so clean burning when they leave the factory they don’t require an exhaust treatment system. VW’s been at this game for a long time, and it shows.

The Cruze is the newcomer to the party, although diesel engines can be found in the engine bays of Cruzes all over the world, depending on market. It’s been adapted for North American duty, with the most significant change being the addition of a urea exhaust treatment system.

PROS: Satisfying torque, incredible efficiency, proficient highway companion.

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2015 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Performance Coupe

Grandad would not approve, but that’s a good thing

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My grandfather was a self-proclaimed “Cadillac Man.” He drove them for most of his life and you could always reliably find one tucked carefully away in his garage. Years of loyal ownership made him a self-proclaimed expert on the brand, and every time a new model came out he’d shake his head, get that wistful look in his eye while he uttered the old cliché- “they don’t make ‘em like they used to.” I’ll never forget the first time he laid eyes on the sordid Catera; he was speechless, and not in a good way.

Along with the other masses of Cadillac Men and Women, my grandfather didn’t think that Caddy’s needed to go around corners quickly, nor did he believe that timeless, unhurried luxury should ever be sacrificed at the altar of driving dynamics. That said, I’m quite sure he wouldn’t like the ATS Coupe we flogged recently. I think that’s because the ATS is as far away from the old Fleetwood Coupe land yachts he became accustomed to as you can imagine.

PROS: Sharp styling, tremendously good chassis, excellent V6 engine.

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2015 Cadillac SRX Luxury Collection AWD

Cadillac’s other SUV still has what it takes

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Cadillac’s SRX SUV is powered by General Motor’s 3.6 liter V6 engine, as is the case for every model they make save for the Escalade and ELR. Count us among the fans of this engine- its uniquely oversquare bore and stroke allow it to build revs with satisfying ease, it spits out healthy horsepower and torque numbers and emits pleasing sounds in the process. But something happens when the 3.6 is installed in SRX engine bays. It seems…hobbled.

Stepping off the line requires a much deeper press of the throttle than expected, and what happens next is a bit underwhelming- it lurches forward unenthusiastically accompanied by a soundtrack that sounds almost agricultural. And what happened to the zest for revs? Don’t be misled by our bellyaching, because the SRX isn’t slow and keeps up with traffic just fine. Fuel economy, on the other hand, will not be anything to brag about- we saw 13.8 l/100 over our road test.

PROS: Sharp styling, luxuriously trimmed interior, one of the best riding SUV’s we’ve encountered lately.

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2015 Acura TLX Elite V6

Two become One.

2015 Acura TLX Elite V6

Over the years the auto industry has seen its fair share of consolidation. Back in 1906, Charlie Rolls and Freddy Royce decided to combine forces which turned out pretty well, aside from a few bumps in the road. Quite the opposite came to pass in Daimler and Chrysler’s “Marriage of Equals”, and don’t ask Ford Motor Company about its ill-fated Premier Automotive Group, which at one time even included a Formula 1 team. Although it doesn’t always happen that way, consolidations are meant to ease and simplify. Acura is betting (hoping?) that the philosophy pays dividends where their newest model is concerned, the TLX.

The TLX has been tasked with replacing two popular and well-liked models in the Acura portfolio, the larger, more serious and luxurious TL and the smaller, playful TSX. The biggest thing wrong with these two cars was that they competed in segments too close to one another, and there were many occasions where the TSX lured buyers otherwise set on getting into a TL, and vice versa. Perfect, thought the Acura product planners. This is a perfect opportunity to streamline our lineup and make room for a CUV variant (we jest, however it’s rumoured that Acura will get a more luxurious version of Honda’s upcoming HR-V, so that’s not an entirely baseless joke.)

PROS: Perfectly sized, a sweetheart of a V6 engine, terrific value.

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2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

Sometimes, greatness is found hiding in plain sight.

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You’re forgiven of the name “RLX” flies right over your head. We’ll look the other way if one were to drive right by you and you wouldn’t notice whatsoever. That’s because Acura’s RLX, perhaps one of the most underrated and painfully neglected cars out there, is styled to look like a toaster.

That’s not exactly fair; it looks much better than a toaster, but its shape isn’t going to keep you tossing and turning at night. That forgettable styling is but one of three major problems facing this car, the other two being a woefully small cargo area in the trunk (blame the hybrid hardware) and terribly wooden brake feel (more on that later.) Other than these faults, the Acura RLX Hybrid is a tremendously enjoyable car to drive.

PROS: Wonderfully innovative hybrid system, intelligent four-wheel drive, one of the quietest cars we’ve ever driven.

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2015 Honda Accord Touring

Like fine wine and cheese, it keeps getting better as the years go by

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The Honda Accord is the vehicular equivalent of a Golden Retriever- eager to please, loyal and extremely well liked by everyone. When you look at it on the same level as the lovable pooch, it should come as no surprise that Honda sells hundreds of thousands of them every year, numbers that keep it at or near the top of midsize sedan sales charts. With such a large ubiquity index, how is it that they manage to keep it feeling like such a special car?

The Accord Touring we drove was only one unit out of many, many thousands, but it didn’t feel like it. Somehow, in the fevered pitch that they build these things they still make certain that each nut and bolt and panel feel like they were assembled with care and patience. That feeling of bespoke is hard to find anywhere in the automotive industry these days, let alone one of the most populous classes of car.

PROS: Extremely comfortable, excellent road manners, effortlessly capable.

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2015 Honda Fit EX-L

Honda’s smallest car will perfectly “Fit” the bill for many situations.

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I remember the first time I drove the Honda Fit: it was a revelation. At the time of its introduction, you simply could not put the words “fun” and “subcompact cars” in the same sentence. Being accustomed to morale-sapping rides like the Toyota Yaris and Chevy Aveo, I figured it was going to be a very forgettable week behind the wheel, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Fit embodied everything I love about the “VTEC, yo” era of Honda- playful, flickable chassis, zingy engines, slick gearboxes and pretty much no low end torque so you had to drive them in a keep-up-the-momentum kind of way. Not only was it a gas to drive but it also had an interior that acted like a Black Hole, meaning it could easily swallow whatever we tried to put in it. No other small car offered as much fun at such a low price point and could hardly touch the Fit’s ingenious packaging and practicality.

PROS: Super practical, delightfully fun-to-drive, sips fuel.

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Ignition: 2016 Honda HR-V

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Miami Beach, Florida- Remember in the early Oughties at the height of the SUV craze- everyone complained that they were too big, too ponderous and too thirsty? Fast forward to today and while SUV’s are still popular, there’s an emerging shift towards downsizing this popular vehicle type. People are starting to come around to the fact that sky high ground clearances make getting in and out a pain in the butt, and won’t do driving dynamics any favors either. They don’t want to be shelling out mega bucks in fuel costs or for off-road capable technology they’ll frankly never use. That’s why the hottest segment in the industry at the moment is the mini-subcompact CUV market- vehicles that are built for life in the urban jungle rather than the actual one.

Drawing on the success of the best-selling (and Canadian made!) CR-V, Honda plans to take the core ingredients of what made it such a runaway success and adapt them to the HR-V platform. They aren’t going to be using the CR-V’s architecture, instead opting for the Fit as the bones of the HR-V. Actually, it’s a modified version of the Fit platform- it’s wider, longer and taller than its donor, a platform that has already been garnished with high praise for its ingenious packaging and commodious interior.

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2015 Honda CR-V SE Review and Road Test

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2015 Toyota Avalon Limited Toyota’s flagship starts acting more its age. Typically, twenty-one year olds are most concerned with proliferating the latest social media app and partying, not making sure the PVR is set to capture Perry Mason reruns and being mindful that one’s patent shoes and belt are the same hue of white. Yet [...]

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