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2015 BMW 435i xDrive Cabriolet

It’s never too cold to drop the top.

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Although it may seem like we’re nuts for Road Testing a convertible in the depths of a Canadian winter, it gave us a chance to verify that yes, BMW’s trick folding hardtop on all Cabriolet models will work just fine in ambient temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius. Not many owners will decide to let the underwhelming glare of the winter sun into their cars, but count us among the slightly insane few who’ve tried it. Want another impressive tidbit? The insulation of the top deserves praise not only for the way it dulls road and wind noise but how impervious it is- I was amazed that a bottle of water that had frozen overnight had melted significantly after sitting in the parking lot upon arriving from work an hour prior- the way it held onto the interior heat was remarkable.

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2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E Platinum

Change is a-comin’.

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You may be forgiven for passing over the S60 you see here as just another Volvo, albeit one with a healthy level of optional equipment in Platinum trim. The ordinary vehicle you see here is actually much more than that; it packs some serious tech under the hood, thus making it a harbinger of the sorts of things to come from Volvo in the future. The Swedes are betting the farm on new engine technologies that promise to deliver the efficiency we expect nowadays while prolonging the weaning of our long built up dependency on the instant gratification of power afforded by larger sized mills.

How do they aim to do this, you ask? A serious weight reduction regimen? Diesel engines? None of the above. Volvo is heading down a decidedly more complex road to achieve their goals, and their new “Drive-E” engines will be small displacement four cylinders with artificial aspiration. In the case of our T6 tester, our 2.0 lump under the hood was a double pumper, meaning it possesses a turbocharger as well as a supercharger. The supercharger fortifies the engine with good low end response, and above 3,500 rpm the turbo takes over. It’s all completely transparent, but more on that in a moment.

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Another look- 2015 BMW M4 Cabriolet

Is the end of December a good time to grab the keys to a seriously high performance drop-top? No, it isn’t, a fact that should surprise exactly no one. What is surprising is how good the BMW M4 Cabriolet fares as a winter car- it’s amazing. After getting dumped on with 20-plus centimeters of accumulation and bone chilling temps, I was gleefully shocked that the M4 performed so well, even as CUV’s around us with jaw-clenched pilots promptly turned generic all season rubber into wheel spin and smoke.

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BMWs all have always been inherently blessed with good balance, and their chassis bits try to make the most of their job in flattering the driver, especially in vaunted M trim. Throw a good set of snow tires into the mix, turn off stability control entirely and you have the makings of a vehicle that will get you to and from the office no matter what’s going on outside. It was great fun steering the car effortlessly with the throttle (the Active M Differential really earns its value here too) and we even put the top down for a few moments, much to the startled glances of fellow motorists.

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Another Look- 2015 Volvo V60 Polestar

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A couple of months ago, we Road Tested Volvo’s hottest offering du jour, the S60 Polestar. We enjoyed the experience quite a bit but were left wanting somewhat. As good as the sedan was, we couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would choose it over its significantly better looking and more practical wagon stable mate you see here, the drool-worthy V60 Polestar.

We auto scribes have never been shy about professing a deep love for wagons, but it seems that these warm feelings are slowly permeating mainstream tastes- more and more manufacturers are coming around to the fact that some folks don’t need the sky-high ground clearance, frivolous weight and ghastly fuel economy of an SUV. Slap on some go-fast chassis bits, up the horsepower and slather it in Rebel Blue paint and instantly you’ve got a compelling choice in the premium wagon marketplace that is anything but crowded- other than the certifiably bonkers Mercedes Benz E63 wagon you aren’t going to be spoiled for choice. Although the ballistic German will trounce the Polestar in every measureable performance measuring stick, it still demands a soaring premium over Gothenburg’s finest.

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2014 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

Mom would approve.

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The Volvo XC60 is the vehicular equivalent to eating granola or running that extra mile- you feel good about driving it. During our time with the turbocharged CUV we kept arriving at the same conclusion- the XC60 is good for the soul.

For starters, it’s pretty darn comfortable. We’ve gone on and on about the sinful comfort of the thrones in Volvo cars, and the XC does not differ from that path. It’s also quiet, nicely refined and reassuringly solid. A cornerstone of Volvo’s reputation is founded upon safety, and you get the feeling that they sweated the details in keeping you and your passengers as secure as possible.

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2014 Ford Focus SE

All the Focus you’ll ever need.

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It wasn’t that long ago when auto scribes lashed out at Ford for not supplying North America with the light-years better Focus they’d been enjoying in Europe for years. In 2011, Ford provided us the keys to the first “world” Focus (the same kind whether you’re in Kapuskasing or Kuala Lumpur) to get us to stop complaining. The strategy worked; we, along with the small car market took notice and gleefully embraced Ford’s compact offering as best in class- an honor it wholly deserved. Nowadays it would just feel weird complaining. Keep reading…

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2014 Jaguar F-Type Coupe V6 S and V8 R 

Two delightfully different doses of delicious insanity.

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Yeah, it’s big.

DSC01804When we tested Infiniti’s jumbo SUV back in 2009, it was called the QX56 and it was, in a word, huge. Fast forward to 2014 and the proceedings are still massively proportioned although the name has changed, adopting the QX80 moniker. If you think (like most people may be inclined to) that they’ve enlarged the already substantial V8 to 8.0 litres, you’d be wrong- this is just another ridiculous example of Infiniti’s wisdom when they decided to name every car in their range after a watch battery.

So it isn’t an 8.0 litre monster, but 5.6 litres of displacement doesn’t mean it’s a pip squeak. The engine delivers a robust 400 horsepower and 413 pounds feet of torque and makes some pretty good noises doing so- if NASCAR ever moves from pushrods to overhead cams, this is what they’re going to sound like. It has enough muscle to tow almost 4,000 kilos making it one of the few monster SUV’s that allow you to take the boat with you. All these facts translate into prodigious thirst, but I was still a bit shocked that despite my week of all-city driving the QX could only yield a paltry 18.2L/100km. The 7-speed transmission tries to upshift as early as possible and operates transparently in the background, but perhaps some taller gearing might help stave off the insatiable, but unsurprising appetite for petroleum.

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CarPicIf you haven’t already prepared your vehicle for winter driving, you’d better hurry since many parts of the country could be even colder and snowier this time around than they were a year ago.

Towards the end of last winter’s relentless bouts of sleet, hail and snow, it hardly would have seemed possible for the weather to wind up being even worse a year later. But the Old Farmer’s Almanac has predicted just that – tear-inducing thermometer readings and road-clogging piles of snow that threaten to overshadow the horrendous conditions of last winter. And central Canada? That part of the country will likely get the brunt of the wintery onslaught, according to the almanac. Keep reading…

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Victoria Beckham Approved.

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The Range Rover Evoque is an exceedingly rare example of a concept car whose stylish duds didn’t get lost in translation when producing a mass produced vehicle. I mean, look at it; it’s probably the most dramatically styled crossover there is and still looks incredibly sharp even after a few years since it’s debut.

Inside is more of the same. When you feast at the option buffet as the person who ordered our tester did with reckless abandon, you’ll end up with headrest video monitors, a powerful Meridian stereo and a tastefully executed mix of stain finish aluminum and piano black trim. The leather covering most of the surfaces is properly supple, and the stitching running across the dash is meticulous. Though this is an entry level Landie, it certainly feels premium.

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2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

We discover huge joy in Ford’s smallest offering There’s nothing quite like reveling in the unexpected joys of life. Finding money in one’s pocket, for example. Light traffic and a constant flow of green lights on the morning commute. Arguing with your telecom company about some suspect charges on your bill only to be offered [...]

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2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

Scandinavia’s Sports Car. One of my favourite off ramps begins with a sharply decreasing radius right turn, followed by the road abruptly straightening out before gently bending to the right again. This is an ideal set of curves to glimpse into the composure (or lack thereof) that so called sports car manufacturers claim to have [...]

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2015 Volkswagen GTI 6-Speed Manual and DSG Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

Just about perfect. I’m prone to bouts of extreme laziness, so I don’t mind telling you that I thought about writing the review for Volkswagens Mark 7 GTI like so: The Volkswagen GTI is the best front wheel drive car there is, period. You should buy it. Aside from the boss chewing me out for [...]

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2015 BMW M3 Sedan & M4 Coupe

Car Reviews & Road Tests

Is the magic still there? OK, we admit it – we’re big fans of BMW M cars. In order to minimize the risk of endless gushing throughout this review, we attempt to answer your most pressing questions surrounding these performance car icons:

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2014 BMW X4 xDrive35i SAV

Car Reviews & Road Tests

Finding BMW’s X6 too big? You’ve gotta see this! When I picked up the keys to BMW’s new X4, one of their public relations staff told me that like the bigger X6, the little smaller X4 is “quite a polarizing car.” Turns out he was right. Throughout my time with BMW’s newest model, reactions were [...]

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2014 Toyota Corolla S CVT Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

A Corolla? Oh yes. Sporty? Um… With more than 1.3 million examples parked in driveways across Canada, the Toyota Corolla has enjoyed the kind of sales success many manufacturers dream about. Over the years it has solidified its reputation as a durable, loyal method of transporting its owners, many of whom appreciate its thrifty pricing [...]

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