2016 BMW 750i xDrive
Take that, S-Class.
BMW wants to bring the fight to the S-Class, huh?
In the full size luxury segment where the Big 3 Germans play, BMW has uncomfortably held the role of overlooked middle child- Mercedes Benz rules the roost with the S-Class, and the Audi A8 has always been a distant third when you look at how many Canadians elected to put one in their driveway over the last few years. The folks in Munich finally decided enough is enough and when it came time to replace the 7 series for 2016; they pulled out all the stops in an attempt to dethrone the venerable S-Class.
Have they succeeded?
We’d have to say that the 7-sereies is destined to be a hit, and judged within the metrics of sales they’re clearly on the right track- the 7 has enjoyed a whopping 165% increase in vehicles sold compared to this time last year. If it’s going to truly unseat the stalwart Benz it will take more than just a few good months in the dealership space to mount a challenge to the S-Class who’s been at the top of this heap ever since it was introduced in the mid-fifteis.
2015 BMW i8
We take a spin in BMW’s time machine
OK, so there’s no flux capacitor on the rear console and you won’t be able to step back into 1955 hoping to attend the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. Despite the lack of actual time travel ability, the i8 is indeed a glimpse into the future. It’s so loaded with cutting edge technology and it gives is an idea of what the future of performance motoring might offer while simultaneously underlining the fact that hybrids needn’t be dull transportation appliances.
2016 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ AWD
We take an epic Road Trip in Chevy’s updated Equinox
It’s summertime here in Ontario, and our thoughts constantly drift back to the same question: what’s up for the weekend? The answer, at least for the recent Canada Day long weekend, comes in the form of a jaunt to the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York for a ‘Guy’s Only’ weekend- a couple of car shows, a music festival and a Farmer’s Market that sells everything from art to locally made beef jerky are all on the agenda. That takes us to the next question- what would be our mode of transportation?
While we could take a bus, that would leave so many of those special road trip moments off the menu- stopping for food at the greasiest dives we can locate, checking out some of those weirdly entertaining roadside attractions in places we’ve never set foot in to the freedom of using a real bathroom when nature calls instead of the decidedly unpleasant communal receptacle you find on buses. With the decision to drive ourselves, we asked General Motors for something that would fit the bill as a reliable, comfortable and commodious steed to whisk us down the unfolding strip of tarmac that is Interstate 90. They graciously threw us the keys to a 2016 Chevrolet Equinox.
2016 Chevrolet Malibu LT
Chevy nudges the Malibu back to respectability.
Chevrolet Malibu…I’ve rented these before.
It seems that the car rental companies and fleet sectors are the only ones who really warmed to past generations of Chevy’s midsize sedan. It wasn’t hard to see why- in a market segment with sales juggernauts like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion the Malibu always felt like GM was expending minimal effort on its design and phoning in the mechanical bits. Not surprisingly, this resulted in a car that could never compete on the same scale as the other players. The low point was when they revived the nameplate in 1997 after a fourteen-year hiatus- those forgettable steaming piles were wretched in everyway, and were only marginally better throughout the following couple of iterations. In its seventh generation which ran from 2008-2012 the Malibu was the subject of a torrent of criticism from the motoring press, so much so that they went back to the drawing board for a short lived eighth generation which lasted a scant two model years. This appeared to be GM finally taking its midsize entry seriously, although it still didn’t represent a determined enough challenge to the class leaders. With this ninth generation you see here, the contemptible tides are finally receding; they’ve finally got a winner on their hands.
2016 Ford Flex Limited
A one-of-a-kind vehicle with muscle to Flex.
What is this thing?
On Ford’s website, you’ll find the Flex grouped into the CUV’s and SUV’s heading- it’s closely related to the Explorer within the family bloodline. We’re not so sure about that designation as the Flex more closely resembles a station wagon, albeit one with cool styling and even more utility, thanks to its car based running gear. Stylistically, it looks as if it’s the offspring of a first generation Scion xB and a 2009 Range Rover Sport. It exudes a sort of California Cool vibe with its contrasting colours, embellishments stamped into the door panels and super cool Too Good To Be Blue paint (we didn’t make that up.)
365 horsepower!? It must really pile on the speed…
With a 0-100km/h time of less than six seconds, the Flex hauls ass as proficiently as it hauls stuff. Whether you’re comparing it to a station wagon or SUV doesn’t matter- it’ll smoke pretty much everything in its class, and elicit more than few looks of surprise from your fellow motorists when it charges off the line. Our Limited test car had the 3.5 litre Ecoboost turbo V6 from the F150 and although its down 70 lbs/ft. of torque from what you’d get in the truck, it’s plenty powerful and never feels stressed. It’ll also tow 2,141 kilos worth of boat or whatever toys you plan on bringing from your garage, in case you’re interested.
2016 Jaguar XF-S
The redesigned XF is still the cat’s meow
Wait a minute…Isn’t the XF supposed to be all-new for 2016?
Other than a few nuts and bolts, the XF has received a thorough makeover. You’ll be forgiven if you have a tough time rationalizing the changes they made- it’s much easier to see if you have a 2015 version around for comparison’s sake. The design directive, in typical Jaguar fashion was evolution in favour of revolution. Even if you can’t spot the differences it won’t matter too much- you have to agree that the XF is pretty nice to look at, isn’t it? It certainly looks better than the usual suspects it will go to battle against, that’s for sure.
Oh, bother. This time around you can’t get a V8. I want a V8. I need a V8.
In most situations, we’d agree wholeheartedly- a V8 is better than a V6. They sound better, there’s two more cylinders and they make more power. Many of life’s problems can be solved by adding more horsepower. But the thing is, we really didn’t miss the bigger engine when we upped the pace in the XF. Being the top level S model, it comes with Jaguar’s supercharged V6 taken directly from the wonderful F-Type coupe and roadster. It still makes the same 380 horsepower and 332 pounds feet of torque and honestly, its more than enough fizz to put a smile on your face. That’s not to say they won’t shoehorn one of their bonkers supercharged lumps into the engine bay down the road- but the blown six is more than adequate in giving this kitty a good dose of catnip when you nail the throttle.
2017 Ford Escape Titanium
Buckle up as we have a go in Ford’s reboot of the popular Escape
So Ford finally gave up on the MyFord Touch infotainment system?
As the sun sets on the MyFord Touch era, a new day dawns with SYNC 3, its revamped replacement. Actually, revamped isn’t the proper term- re-imagined or re-thought more aptly describes the new tech. MyFord Touch did show some promise but it was plagued by complex menu layers, poor response times or other miscellaneous gremlins that reared their heads often- we cringingly recall driving a Focus whose screen went completely blank while the stereo was cranked at almost full volume for a good chunk of a long trip. SYNC 3 appears to have been designed by those who conceive operating systems for smartphones, meaning that it’s clean and intuitive right off the bat for most folks. Pleasing graphics, super fast responses to your commands and cool stuff like pinch to zoom on maps make for a genuinely pleasurable user experience. It just might be the new standard to which all others are judged, regardless if you’re comparing it to cars within its class or vehicles that cost much more.
2016 Range Rover Td6 HSE
The nicest oil-burner in the country club parking lot.
The nicest diesel you can buy, huh? What about the Germans? They make some swanky rigs too…
They certainly do, but they’re upstaged quite a bit by the Rangie. Even if you option out a BMW X5, Mercedes Benz GLS or an Audi Q7 (hard to do since you can’t have one at the moment because of fallout from Dieselgate) to the max you’ll have yourself a fine luxo-SUV but not one that can hold a candle to the Range Rover’s superior prestige. Settle into the fragrantly leather lined cockpit and the feeling of distinctive luxury is palpable. If it’s the poshest diesel full-size SUV you’re after, it has to be the one hailing from Blighty. If you put one in your driveway, you’ll be treated to fuel consumption numbers befitting of an eco-minded sedan and the ability to tow 3,500 kilos of whatever along for the journey. For those with a Muskoka McMansion which comes bundled with the long highway commute to get there and the need to schlepp a boat along, this is what you want.
2016 Nissan Sentra SL
After an extensive refresh, can the Sentra rise to the occasion?
Nissan is saying the Sentra has been heavily updated- what does that mean?
If you park our 2016 tester next to last year’s model, you will agree that Nissan didn’t just add a couple of paint choices and different wheels to the Sentra and call it a day. The same basic shape remains, but now the Sentra is sporting duds that recall the best mixture of Altima and Maxima styling cues with the V-Motion front grille acting as the exclamation point on the visual front. They’ve updated some of the oily bits too, and the Sentra now boasts retuned suspension with 10% stiffer springs and dampers, power steering with more feel and a chassis that has been stiffened to chase off the limpness imparted by the outgoing model. The engineers also spent a considerable effort trying to eliminate undue noise, vibration and harshness from the driving experience by adding generous amounts of sound deadening material.
2016 Nissan Micra SR
A pint-sized package that delivers big time value
Nissan Micra, huh? Where have I heard that name before?
If your bells of familiarity are ringing, you are dating yourself. The last time you could buy an Nissan Micra in Canada was from 1984 to 1991, a time when C + C Music Factory was basking in the success of Gonna Make You Sweat, the Pittsburgh Penguins were hoisting the Stanley Cup and Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister. Much has changed since the Micra was relaunched in 2014, and yet some things remain the same- this little runabout is still meant to serve the purpose of maximizing your dollars where cheap transportation is concerned.
Is it really the cheapest new car you can buy in Canada?
This is a bit of a moving target, what with exchange rates and manufacturer incentive programs available at any given time. If you require a new car and want to spend the least amount of money as possible, your choices will include the Micra, the Mitsubishi Mirage and the Chevy Spark, all of whom boast a starting MSRP of less than ten thousand dollars. These base models represent a small percentage of overall sales- and they are so lightly equipped that they’ve got roll up windows and no air conditioning- but they exist to lay claim to the easiest access financially to a new car in 2016.