2017 Lincoln MKZ 3.0T
Lincoln makes some noise about Quiet Luxury
What exactly should a luxury car be?
Lincoln has been asking itself this very question, and after taking a look at some of the usual suspects the MKZ will do battle with, they aren’t sure the other guys have the correct answer. These days it seems that the luxury car class is suffering from an identity crisis- there’s a little too much sport creeping its way into these cars, which in turn are trying to be all things to all people. Mostly the strategy is met with mixed results- you end up with a car with sporting pretenses that doesn’t perform all that well (and usually offers an unduly harsh ride) or on the flip side, something that feels too soft, isolated and floaty. Lincoln’s current is to straddle that line while incorporating the values that made the brand what it is- focusing on “Quiet Luxury”, offering a more “human” approach to driving. The MKZ you see here is no apex slicer, and it’s just fine with that. Conversely, it doesn’t feel nautical with copious body roll and marshmallow tuned suspension, either. You might call reinvigorated Lincoln “Lincoln 2.0” which embraces the future while keeping the best from its past- the reboot is looking promising.
2016 Ford Fiesta SE
We take a closer look at the swan song of the Feista’s current generation
The automatic gearbox used to be an issue for the Fiesta. Have they made it better?
An easy way to avoid an unpalatable automatic gearbox experience is to avoid it all together and stick with three pedals and a stick. It’s more engaging, generally offers better fuel economy and there’s less complication inherently so they’re more durable (plus, in the Fiesta’s case, you’ll pocket $1,250 dollars.) But the take rate for a manual gearbox isn’t particularly high these days, so the slushbox remains the choice for the majority of buyers. The last time we drove the Fiesta a few years ago, it was hobbled by the first generation of Powershift transmissions that suffered from issues dual clutch setups tried to avoid, specifically clumsy step off and the inability to swap gears as crisply as you’d expect. They addressed this issue and now the Fiesta feels vastly better to drive, confidently moving off the line and swapping ratios with speed and smoothness. We’d still take a manual, but anyone who’s driven the older versions and came away holding their noses really ought to give the rejigged tranny a shot. It’s much, MUCH better.
2017 Jaguar F Pace 35t R-Sport
Late to the SUV party, maybe, but it still makes quite an entrance.
It sure is easy on the eyes…
Jaguar has had a few missteps in its long history (mostly of the reliability persuasion, thankfully a thing of the past nowadays) but building ugly cars hasn’t been one of them. The F Pace follows that tradition by wearing the current design language rather well- it translates pleasingly onto the proportions mandated by an SUV. You may think of it as an F Type in hiking attire, if you like. The taillights are instantly familiar as what you’ll find on the sports car’s rear end, and the front visage with its prominent mesh grille and embellishments are taken from the XF to good effect. It is certainly a handsome conveyance, and it’s one of those cars where we’re constantly cleaning fingerprints and nose smudges off the windows and sinuous body work when we arrive back to where we parked it.
2016 BMW M2
BMW’s pint-sized 2 series gets the M treatment. We like the results
No one does fender flares quite like BMW, do they?
Nope. Park an M2 next to an M235i and the difference is stark. The flares fore and aft give the M2 a needed dose of attitude without looking contrived. We’ve always liked the 2 series but when the conversation would turn to styling, we’d murmur something about it looking a bit too upright and how its butt looked awkwardly truncated. Those gripes melted away when we strode across BMW Canada’s parking lot over to our Long Beach Blue ($895) tester. It’s got the beguilingly swollen hips, yes, but its front end of gaping air inlets, trademark quad exhaust pipes out back and manhole cover sized brake rotors peeking out behind those smoked wheels add a suitably nasty degree of menace to BMW’s littlest M offering.
2016 Shelby GT350
The Mustang achieves perfection.
Hang on just a minute…didn’t you gush over the Boss 302 a few short years ago proclaiming “Best. Mustang. EVER?”
Guilty as charged- we blurted out that claim while basking in the glory of what used to be the zenith of the Mustang model range. It was an incredible car, and its greatness is still fresh in our minds as well as the collective enthusiast community and will still command an asking price remarkably close to the windshield sticker when it was new. The Boss took the Mustang’s 5.0 litre V8 and live axle rear suspension and honed both to deliver every last millimeter of performance they could offer within that framework. When the current S550 generation with its independent rear suspension dropped in 2014, we eagerly awaited to see how Ford would attempt to outdo itself. When they started to tease the GT350 in the media and slowly lifting the veil of what kind of hardware it’d be packing, we started to salivate profusely. Consider the hype not only lived up to but exceeded- they have built not just the pinnacle of the Mustang’s lineage, but something that will strike fears into a who’s-who of renowned performance machines. The engineers had iconic heavyweights in their crosshairs; namely, the BMW M4, Porsche GT3 and Camaro Z/28.
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.