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.
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.
Another Look- 2015 Volvo V60 Polestar
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.
2014 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD
Mom would approve.
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.
2014 Ford Focus SE
All the Focus you’ll ever need.
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…
2014 Jaguar F-Type Coupe V6 S and V8 R
Two delightfully different doses of delicious insanity.
Yeah, it’s big.
When 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.
If 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…
Victoria Beckham Approved.
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.
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 an upgrade to your services for less money (OK, that last one is rare.)
After driving Ford’s Fiesta SE 1.0L EcoBoost, I’m happy to report that it’s an unalloyed delight to drive, even if our enthusiasm was a bit unexpected.
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 engineered into their products. We indulged in this set of corners recently as we always do, hitting apexes with micrometer precision and rocketing out the curves on a stout wave of turbocharged torque- this, in a Volvo S60.
Wait…How’d that happen?