2016 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD
Mazda reminds us that crossovers actually can be fun to drive
So…just another crossover, huh?
Yes, but this one isn’t like the others. Crossovers are known for versatility and practicality, and the CX-3 has a bit of both. What sets it apart from its competitors is that it is actually entertaining to drive. Mazda has been pushing its Skyactiv Technology for a few years now, and its success as a means of balancing efficiency with entertainment is as good as it’s ever been. The CX-3 is not only amongst the lightest in class, but also one of the stingiest with fuel. You end up with a sprightly, chuckable little thing that easily trumps its competitors in terms of driver involvement. It really feels like a Mazda3 with higher ground clearance and AWD, mostly due to the fact that the CX-3 gets a bunch of its mechanicals handed down from the bestselling compact.
Will the CX-3 work off-road? Just how much “utility” does it offer?
It’s the same story here that you’re familiar with for all trucklets of this genre, and the answer is “not much”. Yet despite components that are heavily biased towards highway use, the CX-3 will acquit itself surprisingly well on some gnarly logging access roads- some of our colleagues did just that during the summer at an event Mazda put on, and each one in the convoy returned with nary a scratch. If off-road for you is pulling onto a gravel shoulder alongside a rural road, consider the CX-3 more than capable to handle whatever you’ll throw at it. If you favor the high-in-the-saddle driving position characteristic of a crossover, you may be disappointed with the CX-3; the carlike ride height won’t provide a commanding review of the road. Similarly, if schlepping lots of stuff around is your thing, the CX-3 cargo hold isn’t as commodious as some of the other players in this red-hot segment.
Porsche e-Hybrid Canadian Tour
Coming to a venue near you.
Most people can’t believe it, but it’s true- Porsche is the only manufacturer on Earth who currently offers three plug-in hybrid vehicles for sale. What makes this particularly interesting is Porsche is a manufacturer not known for their environmental stewardship. Rather, what makes Porsche such a well-known name amongst enthusiasts and regular folk alike is their lineup of beautiful high performance sports cars followed by their incomparable success on the racetrack. Case in point: Porsche’s 919 Hybrid took the top spot at Le Mans this year, giving the company an unparalleled 17th overall win at the storied racetrack.
2016 Mazda MX-5 GS
Mazda’s 4th generation roadster continues to delight
So the world has a new MX-5. What’s the big deal about a car that only 511 Canadians bought last year and has almost no room to put stuff?
If you judge the goodness of the MX-5 based on sales numbers or how practical it is, please move on- this car isn’t for you, not to mention that the point of this little funster has been missed entirely. The MX-5 holds steadfastly to the fundamental recipe old-school British roadsters brought to the motoring world decades ago: build a light weight car whose sole focus is to enjoy the act of driving. The major difference here is that the MX-5 actually works instead of quietly rusting away while leaving a pool of oil on the garage floor. The MX-5 then, is a direct descendant of the original niche vehicle. And while there is scant space to put your stuff, there are ways around this problem. Golf clubs can be wedged into the passenger footwell and we’ve seen ingenious racking systems that’ll let you take a couple of bikes along to your destination.
Is it any better than the last generation?
Yes. Admittedly, we were a bit disappointed to hear that the current model has less power than the outgoing one (155hp vs 167) but delighted at other things it didn’t have- turbos, unnecessary weight gain, ridiculously sized wheels and tires. Those are all things that are so en vogue with automakers these days in the relentless hunt for more efficiency and lower L/100km consumption figures coupled to a “sporty” experience. Almost 100% of the time when a car is replaced by a successor, said car has usually grown in every dimension, including weight. Not so with the MX-5. Not only does it retain the same overall footprint (actually getting a bit smaller in some areas) but the engineers were somehow able to find further weight savings. This strategy bordered on the obsessive, with stuff like changing the bolt pattern on the wheels to 4 lug instead of 5 in the name of whittling away a few extraneous grams. Fun Fact: The MX-5 is perhaps the only car on the road today that is impossibly close to the version that started it all back in 1989. In an era of increased electronics, higher crash standards and the general bloat that’s effecting all cars these days, this is a particularly noteworthy feat. Speaking of electronics, Mazda fits each MX-5 with its excellent HMI infotainment system that is a stress-free joy to use.
2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription AWD
We spend some time in Volvo’s newest Luxo-SUV
It’s…beautiful. Is this the nicest looking SUV you can buy right now?
To our eyes, it just might be. It is easily the most striking vehicle in the Volvo portfolio. These days, high-end SUV’s are having a bit of an identity crisis; they’re trying to be too much like sports cars. Lowered suspensions, chopped rooflines and ridiculous horsepower outputs do not a family-centric SUV make. The XC90 has a bit of that upright, boxy 240 styling from Volvo’s of old but seamlessly combines it with the best of modern Scandinavian design. From any angle, it looks strong, purposeful and handsome. Those “Thor’s Hammer” headlights are as arresting as they are insanely bright.
So the theme of Swedish awesomeness continues in the interior?
We spent a week in the coddling confines of the XC90’s interior, and it wasn’t even close to enough time to appreciate all the detailing typically reserved Volvo has endowed this cockpit with. The way the bleached wood and flawless metal trim combine to tastefully adorn the console, dash and doors could pass as luxury décor in the most extravagant homes. Look at the drive mode selector on the console. It’s a delightfully solid metal cylinder with these little dimples that feel great to touch. It rotates with a well-oiled click, too- pleasing stuff. Don’t even get us started on the seats; they’re perfect. You can sum up the XC90’s interior thusly: it’s a textbook exercise in restrained ostentatiousness. The infotainment is also hugely intuitive and easy to use- if you’ve ever used an iPad, you’ll feel instantly at home.
2015.5 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD
We attempt to answer some pressing questions surrounding Volvo’s new V60 wagon.
This whole lifted wagon thing…it’s been done before, right?
Yes. Volvo’s been at the game for a while, although Subaru can be credited with starting the genre back in the early oughties. The recipe is pretty basic: add some ground clearance and butched up exterior doodads to a practical car with four wheel drive and BAM! You end up with the Outback Wagon. Actually, if you want to reach back even further in history for this concept, there’s the AMC Eagle of the early 1980’s…
No, that won’t be necessary. Does the need for a car-based wagon with a bit more ground clearance even exist?
Look, there are plenty of cars out there whose existence we question often but they seem to find buyers no problem. The Volvo you see here is the stylish V60 wagon with a little more toughness added to the formula, and we don’t see the harm in that. The increased ground clearance makes entry and egress a breeze, lends a bit more in the capability department all while forgoing cheesy plastic body cladding and noisy, off-road biased tires. Plus, Volvo’s research shows that people really dig the commanding seating height but don’t want to end up with a crossover or SUV.
Sgt. Kerry Schmidt from the Ontario Provincial Police’s Highway Safety Division
Would you know what to do in the aftermath of a fender bender?
Accidents sometimes happen, oftentimes as a result of driver error, so it makes sense to know the do’s and don’ts should you ever find yourself involved in a vehicular mishap.
Safety is Priority No. 1
During a telephone interview just before the busy Labor Day weekend, Sgt. Kerry Schmidt from the Ontario Provincial Police’s Highway Safety Division informed Carpages.ca that safety is the No. 1 priority in vehicle accident situations.
So if anyone’s been injured after an accident, you or someone else needs to call 911 and, if necessary, phone for an ambulance as well.
And then there’s the matter of exchanging data. If you’re in an accident, you need to exchange information with any other driver(s) involved. Details that need to be shared include insurance information, license plate information, names and telephone numbers, and driver’s license numbers.
“You need to stop and provide your information to the other driver,” stressed Sgt. Schmidt. “It doesn’t matter who’s at fault. You both need to exchange information.”
2016 Porsche Cayenne V6
Porsche’s lowest-on-the-heat-scale Cayenne still proves satisfying.
Porsche purists are an influential group. When the builder of iconic sports cars was putting the finishing touches on the transformation from air cooled to water cooled engines, they howled loudly in protest. The recent decision to kiss naturally aspirated engines goodbye for the entire 911 model range has garnered its share of vitriol. And if we look way back to 2003 when the first Cayenne models were landing at dealerships, the backlash reached a fevered pitch, sputtering on and on about how one of the world’s greatest sports car companies could have the chutzpah to build an SUV. Speckled throughout the company’s existence have been periods of doubt by those who claim to hold the brand’s principles in their truest forms.
It’s a good thing that Porsche has tuned the contemptuous chorus of voices out. The 911 continues to sell briskly, and even more so does the Cayenne; in fact, for all the doomsday rhetoric spewed by fanboys and pundits Porsche enjoys the current distinction of being the world’s most profitable automotive brand. Also flying in the face of traditional values is a manufacturer with such a strong focus on performance to become the first to have three separate plug in hybrid models for sale (OK, so one of those is the hyper-mega-cool 918 Spyder.) To those who get their knickers in knots about messing with the sacred formula that made the company so great- put a sock in it, would you?
After all, the success buoyed by the Cayenne and Panamera (two models who often don’t get enough love and are often chided for less-than-beautiful styling) allow Porsche to continue building small volume gems for enthusiasts to salivate over like the GT3 RS and Cayman GT4.
PROS: Superb build quality, handles and stops much better than it ought to, surprisingly capable off-road.
2015 Tesla Model S P85D
A pleasant shock from this bit of electrocution.
Everyone loves a good take on a David versus Goliath-type story, and Tesla Motors may be one of the more fascinating ones in the modern automotive world. Compared to many of the major manufactures, Tesla isn’t a small fish in a big pond- it’s a piece of plankton, and a small one at that. The Model S, which is the subject of our review has sold just over 75,000 units worldwide since it first dropped in 2012. To put that into perspective, Ford moved just as many Mustangs in 2013 alone. Yet the company continues to grab headlines, whether it’s breaking Consumer Reports rating system, adding locations to its Supercharger network and above all, its game-changing electric drivetrains. All of these are solid talking points, but there’s something else that grabs our attention even more: the scorching real world performance and (if you’re careful) range capability of the Model S P85D.
By now you may have seen many YouTube videos of unsuspecting passengers who go along for a ride expecting the sedate pace of a glorified golf cart, followed by their faces instantly contorting into a mixture of horror and delight when the driver pins the accelerator. When I tried this for the first time, I felt the kind of acceleration serious drag racers are used to- it’s so fast that it’s almost faster than falling, serving up near as makes no difference one full G of accelerative forces.
PROS: Face distorting speed, loads of technology that isn’t half baked, will spoil you with how serene the driving experience is.
2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Heaven and Hellcat.
While the Dodge SRT Hellcat was in the Carpages Garage, we were subjected to a torrent of intense emotion. The sheer joy of leaning into the throttle; the thick fear that followed as we grasped the alarming rate at which the speedometer would climb and the gutting disappointment we felt on the way to return it to Dodge HQ. It caused all who encountered it to behave in similar extremes, but here’s the special part- even those who’d never call themselves car folk gravitated towards it with the same awe and enthusiasm as the diehard gearheads who flocked to it wherever we parked. There’s something very rewarding about watching kids make the transition to new car fanatics, becoming hooked right before our eyes. Then there was my wife, who thought the Hellcat was loud, crude and juvenile. Which instantly sealed its fate as an awesome car by my judgement.
Driving the Hellcat is huge fun, but also uniquely rewarding. Cars like this don’t come around too often, especially so when there’s such emphasis on hyper efficiency and litigiousness in the auto sector.
Let’s sum it up thusly- the Charger Hellcat is the fastest sedan in the world. A Tesla P85D might be a smidge faster to 100km/h, but once the speed really starts piling on the Hellcat leaves it for dead.
PROS: Astonishing power and speed, exceptional usability, backed by a full factory warranty!
2016 BMW M6 Coupe
The Ultimate Gentleperson’s Express
You don’t have to be an enthusiast to know the BMW M6 Coupe is fast. I mean, look at it- that slinky shape, huge wheels and ginormous brakes peeking out from behind suggest speed at every angle. A glance at the spec sheet shows it’s putting out an honest-to-goodness 600 horsepower and despite a prodigious curb weight, this thing really moves.
Get into the throttle hard in first and second gears and hold on as the M6 rockets forward in a way that just feels obscene for such a big, heavy car. You think, “Well, this is certainly fast.” The ferocity in which this Competition Package equipped (more on that later) example accelerates won’t really surprise you that much until you shift to third and you realize that the M6 is still blitzing the horizon with the same penchant for velocity as it did in the first two gears. Ditto the same result in fourth gear and beyond and unless you’re on a race track with a long straightaway or have access to an airport runway, you’ll be travelling at a rate of speed that is WAY too fast for street driving. That’s when it dawns on you just what kind of performance this is thing capable of. The 4.4 litre, twin turbo V8 is a tantalizing engine, able to punt you forward in almost violent fashion and equally at home pootling around town.
PROS: Breathtakingly fast, sumptuous interior, capable of some heroic moves for such a big car.