2015 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Convertible
Al fresco motoring in Ford’s newest pony.
We aren’t shy about unleashing a torrent of praise from the Carpages Garage whenever we have a Ford Mustang under our watchful eye. It doesn’t matter if you fancy yourself a hard-core enthusiast or simply a casual admirer (and there are many examples of both that no doubt help the Mustang earn the distinction of The Most Liked Car Ever on Facebook) there is a lot to be smitten with: bedroom wall poster styling, intoxicating sound effects and the performance chops to back it all up. With that in mind we embrace our first foray into the new generation known internally as the S550- we said a tearful goodbye to the S197 version several months ago, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new breed. While we hung on for the new model to hit the streets, a question began to fester in our minds- what if, despite the progress of an independent rear suspension and the re-introduction of an available four cylinder turbo would see the new ‘Stang became too tame a pony?
I’m happy to report that those fears were ridiculously unfounded. The Mustang has gotten steadily better since the wretched 2nd generation, where buyers were subjected to the horrors of the Mustang II chassis/styling combination and even lost the option of a V8 in 1974. Inflicting this kind of pain on pony car faithful is a heinous crime, and the Mustang has been steadily repaying its debt to the society comprised of legions of fans culminating in this eye-searing sunburst yellow GT convertible you see here now.
PROS: Glorious powertrain, super-fast convertible top, Line Lock feature!
2015 Cadillac CTS 3.6 AWD Premium
There’s a new benchmark in town.
You’ll often hear automotive marketing types breathlessly claiming how their newest sports sedan offering will emerge as the class benchmark, especially in terms of driving dynamics. The phrases ‘sport-tuned suspension’ and ‘unrivaled handling and control’ are often thrown around with reckless abandon, but the fact is these exercises in chest-thumping are usually little more than just that. Every so often, a car will actually deliver on those promises, sometimes even displacing the class of the field in handy fashion. As unlikely as it may seem to some, that’s exactly what Cadillac has done with the CTS- each generation has become progressively better right up to the present day offering. But Cadillac has not only successfully closed the distance between its German rivals within the segment, it has soundly replaced them as the car to have if you emphasize “sport” in your sport sedan.
If you haven’t driven anything that plays in this sandbox for a while, know that there’s a distinctive trend taking place- these so-called sport sedans are moving away from the values that made them so much fun in the first place. Back in the day near-perfectly tuned suspensions, a dedication to keeping needless weight at bay and steering that actually gave drivers an idea of what’s happening at the front wheels was de rigueur. Cadillac could only watch longingly from the sidelines as buyers flocked to BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz, their offerings being pooh-poohed by shoppers who knew Cadillac only by its defining traits of yesterday: bloat, float, and general malaise.
But what a difference a few short years make.
PROS: Scalpel sharp chassis, luxuriously trimmed interior, all-weather versatility thanks to all-wheel drive.
2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4X4
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.
2015 Chevrolet Colorado LT 4WD Extended Cab
Chevrolet’s resurrected Colorado makes perfect sense.
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.
2015 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel
A diesel from Chevrolet, not in a pickup truck.
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.
2015 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Performance Coupe
Grandad would not approve, but that’s a good thing
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.
2015 Cadillac SRX Luxury Collection AWD
Cadillac’s other SUV still has what it takes
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.
2015 Acura TLX Elite V6
Two become One.
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.