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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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We discover huge joy in Ford’s smallest offering

DSC01604There’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.

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Scandinavia’s Sports Car.

DSC01566One 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?

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Just about perfect.

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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 an epic lack of effort, that statement, er, road test, is completely accurate.

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Is the magic still there?

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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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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.

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Throughout my time with BMW’s newest model, reactions were split evenly. “That car looks awesome!” blurted one person excitedly.

“It looks too much like a Pontiac Aztec. And where am I supposed to put my stuff?” asked another.

Polarizing stuff indeed. But whether or not you like the X4, you can’t blame BMW for building it. Despite the X4 being the answer to a question most people aren’t asking, they will probably sell as many of them as they can build. The bigger X6 has been something of a quiet sales success, racking up impressive numbers in a few markets across the globe, one of them being Canada. If you’ve spent any time commuting anywhere across our City of Toronto, you’ve probably seen your fair share of them. There are those extroverts who go for that Armadillo profile but don’t want to step up to the X6, be it for size reasons, cost, or both. BMW will now happily fill that void in their lives with the X4.

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A Corolla? Oh yes. Sporty? Um…

DSC01143With 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 and low cost of ownership. Despite these accolades, one thing the Corolla has never been known for is sportiness, or even fun.

OK, so we’re leaving out the spunky rear-drive AE86 version, but that one was short lived and wasn’t wholly embraced by enthusiasts until it was out of production.

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Lexus builds a spiffier Prius, but falls short on Sport.

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The Lexus CT200H has a number of things going for it. It’s nicely appointed. It skips across city streets in hushed comfort while returning stellar fuel economy. It even looks pretty cool, a sort of Japanese take on the Volkswagen GTI. In F-sport trim as worn by our tester, it’ll throw itself into corners with more enthusiasm that you’d expect.

Ah yes, the F-Sport trim level, something people ostensibly select if they like all the virtues the CT has but want them delivered with a sporty edge. Judged within that framework, the CT falls quite a bit short.

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Short time, but still sweet.

scion-frsThere are certain things in life that are just too irresistible to turn down, like free money and the keys to exciting sports cars. No offers for cold hard cash materialized recently, but Toyota did offer a scant few days in Scion’s mildly updated funster, the FR-S, and we quickly accepted.

We very much indeed liked the FR-S the last time we drove one and gushed, “…so much fun to saw away at the wheel and travel up and down the gears, it’s pure automotive bliss.” Heady but wholly deserving praise indeed, especially when you consider the Scion FR-S is a practicality-be-damned, extremely low and somewhat underpowered conveyance.

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2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trial Teams Edition Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

It had a good run. This Road Test can be considered a eulogy. That’s because after model year 2014, Toyota’s FJ Cruiser will be relegated to the pages of history, another vehicle marched into irrelevance. I’m just not sure that’s a fair way to sum up the FJ’s life.

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2014 BMW 428i xDrive Cabriolet

Car Reviews & Road Tests

The 4 series drops its top for the first time. Despite the fact that they’ve been around for a while, folding hardtops are still one of the remaining examples of curbside automotive theater. Flick a switch and try not to be fascinated by the insanely complex hydraulic and steel ballet that ensues, exposing you to [...]

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2014 MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

Less MINI, more BMW. Back in 2001 the MINI brand emerged from the shadows of bankruptcy, solidly backed by BMW and almost singlehandedly introduced a market segment we North Americans weren’t familiar with – the premium small car. The R50 generation landed with great fanfare as retro resurrections tend to do (VW’s New Beetle that [...]

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2014 BMW 2 series: 228i/M235i Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

History repeats itself. Enthusiasts: cue celebration. I will readily admit that I’ve been guilty of BMW double talk. On one occasion, I’ll wax poetic about the brand that has clung fiercely to its defining trait as purveyors of Ultimate Driving Machines. And yet, out of the other corner of my mouth, I’ll bemoan the prevalence [...]

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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4X4 EcoDiesel Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

No need for earplugs anymore. If your experience with diesel engines installed in Jeep products includes the Jeep Liberty CRD, that’s too bad. From 2005 to 2007, this spoon-in-a-blender masquerading as an engine could be found displacing 2.8 litres under the hoods of the poor folks who actually ordered one. As a fairly modern diesel, [...]

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2014 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ 1500 4WD Crew Review

Car Reviews & Road Tests

All hail the reigning King of the Pickups. It’s far from an exact science, but you can assert with confidence that whichever manufacturer- usually referring to the Big Three domestics in this case- brings the latest pickup truck to market that it’ll all but certain take home honors for Best in Class/Truck of the Year. [...]

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