Starting with the lowest-priced car in the country – the Nissan Micra S – there’s now an all-new, one-make racing series that’s shaping up to be the coolest championship anywhere in the world ...
 
 
Closed-top champion As Porsche’s range expands (even models themselves have to differentiate from one another) we’re beginning to see a diversity in the company’s lineup to an extent like never ...
 
 
  They don’t have to be long drives to be epic ones, even starting downtown No one can take epic road trips every weekend. Life is simply too hectic to carve out multi-hour drives for most ...
 
 
From Area 63 to Studio 63 Algarve, Portugal -  (Yawn) My chauffeur seems slightly miffed. “The guy behind just turned left,” he says while checking the rearview mirror. “On the straight!” he ...
 
 
A look at how some of the market’s most popular luxury crossover models stack up as used buys, and some tips to shop smart for the one that interests you Luxury crossovers are awesome because ...
 
 
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As the new Director for CASC-OR Ontario Time Attack, I am excited to announce the 2015 season! I have much to thank our previous Director Chuck Atkins for. He served for eight years and saw to it ...
 
Starting with the lowest-priced car in the country – the Nissan Micra S – there’s now an all-new, one-make racing series that’s shaping up to be the coolest championship anywhere in the world today. While the well-heeled have numerous choices of spec series – Porsche, Lamborghini and even Ferrari are happy to sell you a car and give you a place to race it – it’s been years since Canadian drivers have had an affordable spec series option.The underlying theme of the Nissan Micra Cup is to keep costs down and, more importantly, manageable over the course of the racing season. The road-going Micra S, with a starting price of $9,998, is relatively lightweight, has modest power and comes equipped with a manual transmission. If that sounds like a decent recipe for an inexpensive racing car, you’re not alone.The Micra Cup race car is a lightly modified version of the S. The interior is removed and fitted with a roll cage, racing seat, harness, window netting and fire extinguisher. Underneath, each race car gets a suspension kit from NISMO – not the Micra kit, mind you – but the kit from the Note NISMO for its stiffer spring and damping rates, as well as a different exhaust to make these little racers sound a little racier. Pirelli slick racing tires are mounted on alloys from Fast Wheels and racing brake pads are from Endless. A complete race car costs $19,998 and I don’t need to tell you that the Micra Cup racing car is a bargain. After running costs that include tires and consumables, entry fees, transportation, Nissan suggests that you can run the entire series for another $20,000. I suspect, however, that if you want to be at the sharp end of the grid, you’ll want a slightly bigger budget.Series promoter, Jacques Deshaies, hatched the idea for the series immediately following the Micra’s Canadian launch in early 2014. As the story goes, it took all of about 15 minutes to persuade Nissan Canada to support the series. And support the series they do, from getting on the schedule at the very high-profile Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and the legendary Trois-Rivières Grand Prix, in addition to the massive amounts of technical support required to develop, build and supply a couple dozen highly competitive drivers. Rightly, given that Québec is Canada’s race-mad province, the Nissan Micra Cup is a Québec-only series, at least for its first year. With 22 cars taking the green flag of the first race at Mont-Tremblant (followed by 25 in Montreal), there’s an obvious appetite for a high-profile, one-make series. To keep the costs down and maintain the competitiveness of each car, no modifications are permitted. Teams are allowed a little suspension and tire pressure tuning, but beyond that, the car’s livery is the only thing a team can change. Once you’ve seen a Micra Cup car in person, it takes on the aura of a racing car. In my mind, at least, it’s no longer an economical, five-door. With all its racing bits, it has made the leap from grocery getter to hardcore racer. Luckily for me, Nissan invited me to the ultimate test drive – to race in the inaugural round of the Micra Cup. For all of the racing, track days and driver coaching I’ve done, I have never driven Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant. That became an advantage, since the series mandated an extra test day prior to my race weekend. After picking the brains of my pro-instructor friends with countless thousands of laps under their belts – thanks Pierre Savoy, Philippe Létourneau and Jean-François Dumoulin – I was able to get the little Micra up to speed after a couple of sessions. Since Nissan had equipped my car with a top spec data acquisition system from AiM, I used that to my advantage, emailing my data to Peter Krause for analysis. Krause is one of the leaders in data-based coaching and I implemented his insights immediately. Before the test day was even over, I was satisfied with a lap time about a second off of what I’d heard was quick. In qualifying, a combination of a less than optimal tire setup and a power-to-weight disadvantage put me 15th on the grid. The total weight for a Micra Cup car and driver is based on a 180 pound pilot, and while I was getting 100% out of the car, I’m not quite in the range of 180 pounds and was paying the cheeseburger penalty.Starting in the middle of the pack can often be a disaster. Watch any race, from amateur to pro, and more often than not disaster strikes in the pack, not at the front. Since my one and only year of karting, I learned to be a great starter and prepared to capitalize on that for my first Micra Cup race. From my vantage point at the start, I couldn’t see the starter’s station, but my team radioed the drop of the green flag, and I was off. Tremblant’s first three corners are scary enough when you’re driving alone, but in a pack of Micra’s driven by bunch of crazy mad men and women racing drivers, it’s completely mental. Foot to the floor, I told myself, and I kept it there, slicing my way through the pack and settling into ninth spot by corner four. As I was settling in to a comfortable race pace to manage the longevity of the front tires, one of the regular series competitors and I had a dispute over the same piece of tarmac in Tremblant’s fast corner 11. I got the worst of it, spun, and since I’d seen numerous hard crashes in that corner in previous days, I managed to spin my Micra to a stop on the track surface. Disaster averted, but that also meant rejoining the race in last position. I picked up a couple of spots straight away and a couple more following a full course yellow, ultimately finishing race one exactly where I started in 15th position. One of the great things about motor racing is that it’s entirely unpredictable, so Sunday meant that it was not only a new day, but an entirely new race. I was looking forward to another great start and bettering my previous result. As a racer, you have no choice but to go for the gap, and I started this second race aggressively. At the drop of the flag, I couldn’t thread my way through the field as easily as I did the day before. Flat out through corners one, two and three, as I approached the braking zone for corner four, the field bunched up and I saw my teammate and GT Academy winner Abhinay Bikkani, spinning to my left. Suddenly, the driver to my left darted right to avoid another spinning car and didn’t realize I was there, making heavy contact with the driver’s side of my car and knocking me off the track.Just like race one, I rejoined the race in last position, but this time my Micra was hurt. The alignment was knocked out, the steering wheel off centre, and it had a completely different handling balance. I felt out the car over the next few corners to determine whether any suspension components were broken and indeed nothing was. This Micra is a tough little race car. The impact did give me a few extra degrees of negative camber on my front left wheel, which made low-speed right turns a blast because it turned in so easily, but it made corners one, two and three, the high-speed right handers, downright frightening with crazy amounts of oversteer. As a racer, you never give up and I wasn’t going to let a bent suspension get in the way. Even with its fun and frightening handling, I managed to pass a few cars and have some great battles with series drivers, working my way up to 14th at the finish. There’s an allure to one-make racing that you don’t find in other series. Other championships may place emphasis on tire choice or engineering, but a spec series places driver skill above all else. To have access to a high-profile, low-cost, one-make series is the dream for many drivers and we have that again in Canada with the Nissan Micra Cup. What makes great racing, for competitors and spectators alike, is close competition and that’s what the Micra Cup is all about. Even after the first couple of races, this little series in our little county is getting attention from around the globe. For all the attention that high-dollar GT racing has been getting, the Nissan Micra Cup is a breath of fresh air, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it grows quickly beyond Québec after this first season.   Montreal GP mania: Micra on Canada’s Biggest Racing Stage By Shaun Keenan   I was fortunate to be a guest of Infiniti Red Bull Racing for this year’s Canadian Grand Prix, and while it would have been nice to see the two Danny’s – Daniel Riccardo and Daniil Kyvat – finish on the lead lap, it was the two Nissan Micra Cup races that had the crowd on the edges of their seats. The Micra Cup cars peel away from the start/finish line like a swarm of bees and largely stay that way for the duration of the race with small break-away packs spreading out the field at both ends. A small army of cameras capture all the on-track action on GP weekend, and the monitors around the track were the place to watch. From rubbing tires and trading paint/vinyl to bump-drafts and car-flipping, the Micra Cup races had it all, including Canadian racing legend Richard Spenard, former NHLer Marc-André Bergeron and a couple of virtual-turned-real-racers from the GT Academy. Watching them bounce up on to two wheels, cut corners over the grass and close each other’s side mirrors among other things, it was obvious they were having so much fun. And from the sidelines, I was too. The Micra Cup just might have been the most entertaining racing in Montreal.
Closed-top champion As Porsche’s range expands (even models themselves have to differentiate from one another) we’re beginning to see a diversity in the company’s lineup to an extent like never before. Previously, it was just the 911 range that had almost countless models, from the classic Carrera to the hardcore, track-focused GT3 RS. For the second generation Cayman, Porsche has unleashed that same product strategy and no longer is the entry-level two-door limited to base and S spec. Cayman buyers now have the choice of base, S, GTS and GT4 models, and while I’m keen to get my hands on the GT4, this road test is all about the GTS. Porsche resurrected the GTS placard a few years ago, taking its inspiration from the 1963 904 GTS, a sports car that was intended for double duty – a car you could take from the road to winning races on any given circuit. Like the 904, the GTS is completely usable as a road car with a broad range of capabilities, but the fact it has two generous trunks is what makes the Cayman a superb choice for a daily driver, if not an eminently capable second car. Unlike the days of the 904, racing your road car isn’t exactly possible any more because, alas, a road car needs a pile of safety gear to meet racing rules and driving a race car on the road isn’t all that enjoyable given the demands of racing, nor is it legal in most jurisdictions. Yes, those magical days are indeed gone. Still, the Cayman GTS is the sort of sports car one could drive daily and take to the track on weekends. You see, the GTS name means something in the world of Porsche. In modern Porsche practice, any model bearing the GTS starts with key performance components fitted as standard equipment. Among them, and perhaps most importantly, the engine from the Cayman S is here, but it makes 15 more horsepower than the S, for a total of 340 horses at a remarkably high 7,400 rpm. The dry sump 3.4-litre flat six makes its peak torque of 280 lb-ft from 4,750 to 5,800 rpm. This engine is one that loves to rev all the way to redline. It’s exceptionally responsive through the entire rev range, especially the top half. Enhancing the drive is Porsche’s fantastic sport exhaust, otherwise an option on lesser Caymans, and it sounds glorious. I found myself driving with the windows down as often as possible. While a dual clutch transmission undoubtedly accelerates faster than a manual – and even Porsche says so – the row-your-own, six-speed box is infinitely more satisfying and truly completes the GTS package. The clutch pedal has the right amount of heft, as well as the necessary feel to determine the bite point, which only serves to make the driving experience more visceral and enjoyable. Shifting is direct and the gates are defined well enough to avoid even the laziest missed gear. The shift action would benefit with a little more weight for more positive gear changes. The GTS philosophy also ensures that Sport Chrono is standard equipment. In short, it gives the drivers a range of drive mode settings that adjust throttle response, traction and stability system engagement, as well as suspension dampening. However, in Sport Plus mode, there is a throttle blipping downshift feature that can’t be switched off, making it mildly annoying to old school heel-and-toe downshifters who prefer to blip themselves. Both the steering wheel and shifter are covered in Alcantara, the material being a GTS theme as you’ll see, and when you’re behind the wheel, the tactile experience is superb. The material lends a feeling of purposeful luxury, since Alcantara is the best material for these applications. On the wheel and shifter, it encourages you to actively engage in the act of driving the Cayman. Alcantara also finishes the seats, centre console and the headliner in the GTS and, with the contrasting stitching of the GTS interior package option, the interior is completely distinctive. Duplicating this in any other Cayman would be very expensive. The seats, however, aren’t the best they could be, at least when you consider what’s available in Porsche-land. The first Cayman GTS I drove in Germany had the fantastic two-piece carbon fibre bucket seats, in addition to all of the other GTS goodness, and immediately became the top GTS I’ve driven. In North America, however, those brilliant seats aren’t available in GTS trim and are relegated to the Cayman GT4 model exclusively. Instead, our GTS mule uses the regular sport seats, which are perfectly comfortable, but I’d prefer the support of the carbon buckets in this Cayman given the more sporting character of the GTS. As tested, the Cayman GTS tallied up to $102,995 Underneath, a 20 mm lower sports suspension is available as a no-cost option and I highly recommend it. By nature, it improves handling by lowering the centre of gravity, of course, but the GTS looks much better sitting lower to the ground. I thought that driveway approach angles would be compromised, but in reality that was never the case. Just the normal care and shallow approach angles are required for pulling into steeper driveways. All GTS models include damping by the multi-mode Porsche Active Suspension Management, which truly has distinct levels of wheel and body control, and it works so seamlessly that I’ve never been able to find fault with the system in any Porsche. And brakes? Porsche always over-delivers on braking, whether it’s capacity or feel and control, and they work wonderfully here, too. The GTS rides on 235- front and 265-section rear tires and, on the surface, that doesn’t seem like a lot of tire for a 340-horsepower mid-engined sports car, but the Goodyear Eagle F1s do a spectacular job of giving the GTS a tremendous amount of traction, as well as control at the limit.   Sure, being able to hustle and play with the GTS at its limits is one thing, but it’s the balance of this car’s overall platform that makes it truly special. Given the Cayman’s size, layout and utterly superb steering, driving the GTS is sublime. It reacts to inputs almost telepathically, it seems, and that’s because the quality of this car’s feedback is exceptional. Whether it’s the steering wheel, brake pedal or seat-of-the-pants chassis feel, you’re in direct communication with each of the four contact patches at all times. And when you spec a GTS like this one, the manual transmission only heightens your level of engagement with the car. While many sports cars are entertaining and easy to drive, very few of them are able to create that special bond with the driver. The GTS has the ability to do that – to make the driver one with the machine. ESSENTIALS 2015 Porsche Cayman GTS Base Price: $85,800Engine: 3.4L flat-6Horsepower: 340 hp @ 7,400 rpmTorque: 280 lb-ft @ 4,750-5800 rpmConfiguration: MRTransmission: 6-speed manualDry Weight: 1,345 kgTires: Goodyear Eagle F1 (235/35 R20 front, 265/35 R20 rear) Fuel Economy Ratings (city / hwy. / comb.): 12.1 / 8.9 / 10.5 L/100 kmWarranty (mos / km): 36 / unlimited By the Numbers$250/hp (calculated w/ base MSRP)100 hp/L (engine displacement)229.32 hp/ton (horsepower to weight)3.95 kg/hp10.5 L/100 km (manual – combined) Options on Test Vehicle: Carmine Red paint ($2,950), GTS Communication package ($4,200); 20-inch 911 Turbo Design wheels ($1,640); ParkAssist front and rear /w reversing camera ($1,730);convenience package ($1,030); infotainment package /w BOSE sound system ($4,560); 20 mm lower sport chassis ($0).
  They don’t have to be long drives to be epic ones, even starting downtown No one can take epic road trips every weekend. Life is simply too hectic to carve out multi-hour drives for most people on a regular basis. So while we highlighted some of the best drives in the country in last year’s Ignition Handbook, with bucket list-worthy roads along 200 to 1,000+ kilometre routes, here’s a list of great drives that are shorter but still memorable, all located within 90 minutes of seven major Canadian cities. All these road trips reflect the naturally diverse scenery across the country, with notable destinations as well as highlights and suggestions along the route. Some are well-known favourites, others are lesser-known hidden gems, and some of these roads are simply worth experiencing for the driving exhilaration they offer – no set destination necessary. Most of these drives are less than 100 kilometres outside their respective city centres, so depending on your starting point, you could very well be done in about an hour, 90 minutes at most. So feel free to keep this magazine nearby: in your glove box, or on your next trip out of town, so that whenever or wherever you find a spare hour or so, you’ll be ready to quickly make your next drive an epic one. 1) Vancouver to Squamish, BC: Highway 99 (Sea to Sky Highway, above), 67 km Start at the scenic and twisty NW Marine Drive in Vancouver, gawk at the nice homes and water all around, then take your time as you drive through Stanley Park and up through West Vancouver, ideally avoiding rush hours as much as possible. Though this could be one of the nicest commutes in the world, this parcel of natural beauty can also become seriously clogged with traffic. The drive up 99 – the famed Sea-to-Sky Highway – meanders along water all the way north to Squamish, where you’ll want to see the waterfall and hike the kid- and beginner-friendly trails at Shannon Falls Provincial Park. Here you’re about halfway to the resort mecca of Whistler, another worthy destination if you have more time.  2) Edmonton to Collingwood Cove, AB: Highway 881 (and Elk Island National Park), 105 km Sure, you could drive to the small hamlet of Collingwood Cove from downtown Edmonton directly in 40 minutes. But if you want to actually make it a fun drive, you’ll be well advised to double the time and distance involved by taking a circular route north, crossing the river near Fort Saskatchewan, taking the time for bison-spotting or a sunset over the water in Elk Island National Park. Moose, deer, coyotes and, unsurprisingly, elk are also common here, so have your camera ready, especially if you take in any trails. The tiny waterside hamlet of Collingwood Cove, population 362, is known more for its flying wildlife, with large flocks of pelicans and swans common in the summer.      3) Winnipeg to Beauséjour, MB: via Highway 84, 79 km One may not immediately think of Winnipeg as a haven for great driving roads, but there’s certainly some charming towns and asphalt if you’re willing to drive some out of the city. Head north out of the city on Chief Peguis Trail, all along the famed Red River towards Selkirk, where the Selkirk Golf and Country Club makes a fine rest stop. From there, head east to the charming little town of Beauséjour, where a small Pioneer Village Museum offers rustic railway station, schools and stores.   4) Toronto to Orangeville, ON: via Belfountain, 96 km A favourite of sports car drivers and motorcyclists for generations, the drive from Toronto to the small yet biker-friendly town of Belfountain is one of the prettiest routes in the province, meandering around burbling brooks on the Forks of the Credit river road. Be careful on summer weekends, because police and motorcycle numbers swell notably in this area, which is only about 30 minutes past the northern reaches of suburban Mississauga. Cool Scoops is the great local spot for ice cream, but keep in mind they’re closed Tuesdays, and open noon to 7 p.m. otherwise. This could be a worthy destination, or continue on north into Orangeville, with its historic charm and Bruce Trail views, intersecting at Orangeville’s Mono Cliffs Provincial Park.     5) Ottawa, ON to Montebello, QC: via QC-148, 73 km You’ll want to allow the Outaouais River to be your guide for this drive, and avoid the busier Highway 50, all along regional road QC-148, once you’re out of the hustle and bustle of Ottawa proper and into Québec. If you’re with friends, there’s a paintball place on the outskirts of Gatineau called Tactik Paintball along the way, or stop at Plaisance to see the 63 metre high Chutes de Plaisance waterfall. The two Fairmont properties at Montebello and the nearby golf course may be worthy destinations here, but so is the little chocolaterie called ChocoMotive nearby. Montreal to Mont-Tremblant: via Trans-Canada, 131 km This one may stretch our 90 minute guideline, but the amount of great driving on the way and activities once you arrive in Mont-Tremblant – both at the village resort itself and nearby – are worth pushing that self-imposed 100 km limit. The Trans-Canada highway takes a squiggly northwest route up through the Laurentians on the way to Tremblant. A good rest stop about 60 km north of Montreal is Saint-Jérôme, where you can check out the castle-like Saint-Jérôme Catholic cathedral built in 1897. Once near Mont-Tremblant, the famed ski hills offer a gravity-driven coaster track that winds down the mountain in the summer, to the delight of kids and adults alike. Or you can enjoy big kid fun at the nearby Le Circuit de Mont-Tremblant (www.lecircuit.com), a roller coaster of a track itself, either with your own car, or with a rented exotic ride (www.g1tour.com) that you can book from Montreal or elsewhere in the province. Halifax, Nova Scotia to Peggy’s Cove, NS: via 213/333 (along St. Margaret’s Bay), 58 km Avoiding the more direct inland route may take you an extra 20 minutes, at about an hour versus 40 minutes if you drive straight through, but this much more scenic route will be a much more rewarding drive. It circles through the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area just north of Halifax, then through Tantallon, where you’ll find multiple beaches along the way as you wind southward along St. Margaret’s Bay. With the famed Peggy’s Cove lighthouse as a picturesque destination, you won’t be able to go up it, but there is a great restaurant nearby, with staggering natural beauty all around.
From Area 63 to Studio 63 Algarve, Portugal -  (Yawn) My chauffeur seems slightly miffed. “The guy behind just turned left,” he says while checking the rearview mirror. “On the straight!” he chuffs before saying something in German to a colleague over the two-way radio in his right hand while nonchalantly holding the steering wheel with his left. My German is at best rudimentary, but I imagine he said something like: ‘Sheesh these guys are slow as molasses.’ Indeed they are. At every corner, the three South African writers following the lead car are falling farther and farther behind. They’re definitely a buzzkill. The driver says to me, “It’s an easy ride, yeah?” “These guys are kind of chill,” I reply. “No, these guys are slow.” Bernd Schnieder looks over and smiles at me before giving some words of encouragement to the follow group over a second walkie-talkie. His points are moot though. My personal “Stig” still has to put it in park to give them a chance to catch up before the long, front straightaway. Meh. It’s not every day you get the chance to try and chase down the most successful German touring car (DTM) driver of all time on a race track in southern Portugal. But when the time comes, you’d better make sure to make the best of it. In its 48 years of existence, the performance and race engineering arm of MercedesBenz has created some truly iconic cars. The original AMG 300 SEL 6.8 “Red Pig,” the CLK GTR, SLS AMG and AMG GT all come to mind, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. There have been many lesser, but no less incredible AMG models since the days of the hippies. But only one can have the dubious distinction of being the tuner’s most successful product to date. That is the C 63 AMG. The outgoing coupe-only version has been integral to AMG, more than doubling its sales since 2011 says Oliver Weich, Director of Vehicle Development. “It was, quite simply, a rocket ship for the road.” I’m happy to report that is still the case on this latest version to come out of Affalterbach. It stays true to the V8 roots, with the company’s top-line “hot inside the V” 4.0-litre biturbo direct injection engine boasting two different output levels – 503 and 469 horsepower – for the S or non-S specifications, respectively. This is the very same engine the new flagship Mercedes-AMG GT S has, and it features Nanoslide cylinder liner technology to ensure the high-performance luxury saloon will have no trouble getting you to the office as quick as you dare, or lay waste to any racetrack you put it on without fuss. Aside from the 34 horsepower and 37 lb-ft torque advantage, the S-Model gets a number of uprated features above the base C 63 AMG. These include electronic speed limiter deletion (290 km/h versus 250 km/h), AMG performance steering wheel and suspension, rear air suspension, electronic limitedslip differential, active engine mounts, red brake calipers, sport exhaust system, eco start/stop and engine heat recirculation. The S-Model also gets Pre-Safe, collision prevention assist, a full AMG exterior and interior, plus Nappa leather, designo silver seatbelts, power lumbar support and Audio 20 CD multimedia system with touchpad.     Mercedes-Benz has chosen southern Portugal to launch the 2015 C 63 AMG and the 2016 C 450 AMG 4MATIC. The amazing roads in this part of the world, and the Autodromo Internacional de Algarve are ideal to experience the two characters of these latest AMGs. The C 63 AMG in particular. The C 450 AMG 4MATIC isn’t a true AMG, but rather an entry point to the mark (much the like the 4 Series M Performance model for BMW is an intro to the M brand) for those still on the fence, or who think the 63 is too much car. The second new AMG sports model has a 367-horsepower 3.0-litre (non-AMG) biturbo V6, permanent allwheel-drive, and suspension technology adopted from the C 63. Along with the recently introduced GLE 450 AMG Coupe, the C 450 AMG represents the second stage of a new model initiative to bring more emotionally-inspired AMG sports models to an even wider audience. The drive out to the racetrack in the C 63 AMG S took us through the moun- tains on undulating tarmac ribbons that twist, turn, rise and fall through the lush countryside with aplomb. Dynamic engine mounts seem to smoothen the road as it’s being driven on, and the suspension system slices and carves the turns like the sharpest of knives through the toughest cuts of meat to yield only the finest thinly-sliced carpaccio. AMG’s adaptable and highly-capable ride control sport suspension offers adjustments to the dampers in three preset stages (comfort, sport and sport plus) plus a customizable (individual) one, and the 10-way power adjustable seats are comfortable for everyday driving and supportive enough for track outings. The speed-sensitive electromechanical steering is tuned to perfection. The car has excellent turn-in response, and its cornering grip through the sleepy hillside villages – the narrow, curvy roads, blind corners and all – that our route passes through is tremendous. The beautiful, lux’d-out interior of the C 63 AMG benefits from all the comfort, convenience and tech of the standard C-Class, and then some. Features such as the innovative touchpad to control all infotainment functions, the large (seven- or 8.4-inch) colour display, Burmeister surround system, Internet capability (via Bluetoothenabled phone with data) and more provide a business-like atmosphere. There are countless buttons and settings to help you stay in your lane, prevent collisions, see better after dark and more. The car will even park itself without the driver having to operate the gas or the brakes. The C 63 AMG can indeed change its character on a whim, and its seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission is a thing of beauty with smooth and fast gear changes. Dynamic select drive programs allow tailoring to suit any number of situations, including the race track. Combined with the transmission’s manual shift mode and race start function, it knows how to boogie. The upgraded AMG composite brakes are powerful, and easily reign in the 1,839-kilogram car at the end of the long, front straightaway, albeit with a bit of wiggle in the rear to keep drivers on their toes. This could be attributed to smaller rear discs (360 mm versus 390 mm in the front) and fewer pistons (six-piston calipers in the front versus one-piston in the rear). Carbon ceramics are available for those planning for more track duty. The electronically-controlled AMG shocks and other suspension parts help the chassis stay flat and composed in high-speed corners, while the rear axle locking differential ensures you can put down all 516 lb-ft of torque exiting the turn. Rocket ship? Good Lord this thing is fast! It does 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds while the non-S is four seconds flat. The variable dual AMG sports exhaust system boasts quad tips, and the car sounds stoically similar to those being flogged by Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg throughout the Formula 1 season. Like those F1 cars, this AMG has bite to back up its bark. It had become clear the C 63 AMG was up for the task within a few laps. It’s easy to control near its limits, which makes it predictable as well as capable. It’s unfortunate that my group runs at the track had much slower drivers in them, because this thing is anything but slow. It turns out that Mr. Schneider likes to drift, too, as he so aptly demonstrated to me during my stint riding shotgun. He was either feeling sorry for me or bored. My guess is the latter. There’s no doubt in my mind the C 63 will continue on as AMG’s top-selling car for years to come. It’s quite attainable and, as long as it stays in production, it will be a thorn in the side of BMW’s M3 and Audi’s S4. Of course, neither Audi nor BMW are in Formula 1 these days. Coincidence? Not. Bring on the Black Series Mercedes! Bring it on! 2015 Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG S-Model By the Numbers $164.81/HP (CALCULATED W/MSRP) 128.1 HP/L 251.23 HP/TON 3.2 KG/HP 8.2 L/100 KM (AUTO – COMBINED)     ESSENTIALS BASE PRICE: $82,900 ENGINE: 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 HORSEPOWER: 503 hp @ 5,500-6,250 rpm TORQUE: 516 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500 rpm CONFIGURATION: FR TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic DRY WEIGHT: 1,839 kg FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (NEDC CYCLE; COMBINED): 8.2 L/100 km WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 NOTABLE OPTIONS: PREMIUM PACKAGE - Parktronic w/ active parking assist, COMAND online navi w/ MB Apps, Burmester surround system, KeylessGo; INTELLIGENT DRIVE PACKAGE ($TBA) - Distronic Plus, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, CMS rear, BMS Plus w Cross Traffic Assist, Pre-Safe Brake, Advanced Driving Assistance package; PREMIUM REAR SEATING PACKAGE - rear window sunshade, Thermotronic automatic climate control; metallic paint; designo upholstery; head-up display; passive lane keeping assist; power trunk closer; air balance package; 19-in. AMG 5-spoke wheels; AMG performance seat; AMG carbon ceramic brakes.   ALTERNATIVES: Audi S4, BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Infiniti Q70, Lexus RC F, Volvo S60 Polestar Story & Photography by Shaun Keenan   2015 MERCEDES-BENZ C 63 AMG S From Area 63 to Studio 63  By Shaun Keenan     Algarve, Portugal -   (Yawn) My chauffeur seems slightly miffed. “The guy behind just turned left,” he says while checking the rearview mirror. “On the straight!” he chuffs before saying something in German to a colleague over the two-way radio in his right hand while nonchalantly holding the steering wheel with his left. My German is at best rudimentary, but I imagine he said something like: ‘Sheesh these guys are slow as molasses.’ Indeed they are. At every corner, the three South African writers following the lead car are falling farther and farther behind. They’re definitely a buzzkill. The driver says to me, “It’s an easy ride, yeah?”  “These guys are kind of chill,” I reply. “No, these guys are slow.”  Bernd Schnieder looks over and smiles at me before giving some words of encouragement to the follow group over a second walkie-talkie. His points are moot  though. My personal “Stig” still has to put it in park to give them a chance to catch up before the long, front straightaway. Meh.  It’s not every day you get the chance to try and chase down the most successful German touring car (DTM) driver of all time on a race track in southern Portugal.  But when the time comes, you’d better make sure to make the best of it. I  n its 48 years of existence, the performance and race engineering arm of MercedesBenz has created some truly iconic cars. The original AMG 300 SEL 6.8 “Red  Pig,” the CLK GTR, SLS AMG and AMG GT all come to mind, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. There have been many lesser, but no less incredible AMG models  since the days of the hippies. But only one can have the dubious distinction of being the tuner’s most successful product to date. That is the C 63 AMG.  The outgoing coupe-only version has been integral to AMG, more than doubling its sales since 2011 says Oliver Weich, Director of Vehicle Development. “It was,  quite simply, a rocket ship for the road.”  I’m happy to report that is still the case on this latest version to come out of Affalterbach. It stays true to the V8 roots, with the company’s top-line “hot inside the V”  4.0-litre biturbo direct injection engine boasting two different output levels – 503 and 469 horsepower – for the S or non-S specifications, respectively. This is the very  same engine the new flagship Mercedes-AMG GT S has, and it features Nanoslide cylinder liner technology to ensure the high-performance luxury saloon will have no  trouble getting you to the office as quick as you dare, or lay waste to any racetrack you put it on without fuss.  Aside from the 34 horsepower and 37 lb-ft torque advantage, the S-Model gets a number of uprated features above the base C 63 AMG. These include electronic  speed limiter deletion (290 km/h versus 250 km/h), AMG performance steering wheel and suspension, rear air suspension, electronic limitedslip differential, active  engine mounts, red brake calipers, sport exhaust system, eco start/stop and engine heat recirculation. The S-Model also gets Pre-Safe, collision prevention assist, a  full AMG exterior and interior, plus Nappa leather, designo silver seatbelts, power lumbar support and Audio 20 CD multimedia system with touchpad.     Mercedes-Benz has chosen southern Portugal to launch the 2015 C 63 AMG and the 2016 C 450 AMG 4MATIC. The amazing roads in this part of the world, and the  Autodromo Internacional de Algarve are ideal to experience the two characters of these latest AMGs. The C 63 AMG in particular.  The C 450 AMG 4MATIC isn’t a true AMG, but rather an entry point to the mark (much the like the 4 Series M Performance model for BMW is an intro to the M  brand) for those still on the fence, or who think the 63 is too much car. The second new AMG sports model has a 367-horsepower 3.0-litre (non-AMG) biturbo V6,  permanent allwheel-drive, and suspension technology adopted from the C 63. Along with the recently introduced GLE 450 AMG Coupe, the C 450 AMG represents  the second stage of a new model initiative to bring more emotionally-inspired AMG sports models to an even wider audience.  The drive out to the racetrack in the C 63 AMG S took us through the moun-  tains on undulating tarmac ribbons that twist, turn, rise and fall through the lush  countryside with aplomb. Dynamic engine mounts seem to smoothen the road as it’s being driven on, and the suspension system slices and carves the turns like the  sharpest of knives through the toughest cuts of meat to yield only the finest thinly-sliced carpaccio.  AMG’s adaptable and highly-capable ride control sport suspension offers adjustments to the dampers in three preset stages (comfort, sport and sport plus) plus a  customizable (individual) one, and the 10-way power adjustable seats are comfortable for everyday driving and supportive enough for track outings. The speed-  sensitive electromechanical steering is tuned to perfection. The car has excellent turn-in response, and its cornering grip through the sleepy hillside villages – the  narrow, curvy roads, blind corners and all – that our route passes through is tremendous.  The beautiful, lux’d-out interior of the C 63 AMG benefits from all the   comfort, convenience and tech of the standard C-Class, and then some. Features such as the innovative touchpad to control all infotainment functions, the large (seven- or 8.4-inch) colour display, Burmeister surround system, Internet capability (via  Bluetoothenabled phone with data) and more provide a business-like atmosphere. There are countless buttons and settings to help you stay in your lane, prevent  collisions, see better after dark and more. The car will even park itself without the driver having to operate the gas or the brakes. The C 63 AMG can indeed change its  character on a whim, and its  seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission is a thing of beauty with smooth and fast gear changes. Dynamic select drive programs  allow tailoring to suit any number of situations, including the race track. Combined with the transmission’s manual shift mode and race start function, it knows how to  boogie. The upgraded AMG composite brakes are powerful, and easily reign in the 1,839-kilogram car at the end of the long, front straightaway, albeit with a bit of  wiggle in the rear to keep drivers on their toes. This could be attributed to smaller rear discs (360 mm versus 390 mm in the front) and fewer pistons (six-piston calipers  in the front versus one-piston in the rear). Carbon ceramics are available for those planning for more track duty.  The electronically-controlled AMG shocks and other suspension parts help the chassis stay flat and composed in high-speed corners, while the rear axle locking  differential ensures you can put down all 516 lb-ft of torque exiting the turn.  Rocket ship? Good Lord this thing is fast! It does 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds while the non-S is four seconds flat. The variable dual AMG sports exhaust system  boasts quad tips, and the car sounds stoically similar to those being flogged by Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg throughout the Formula 1 season. Like those F1  cars, this AMG has bite to back up its bark.  It had become clear the C 63 AMG was up for the task within a few laps. It’s easy to control near its limits, which makes it predictable as well as capable. It’s  unfortunate that my group runs at the track had much slower drivers in them, because this thing is anything but slow. It turns out that Mr. Schneider likes to drift, too,  as he so aptly demonstrated to me during my stint riding shotgun. He was either feeling sorry for me or bored. My guess is the latter.  There’s no doubt in my mind the C 63 will continue on as AMG’s top-selling car for years to come. It’s quite attainable and, as long as it stays in production, it will  be a thorn in the side of BMW’s M3 and Audi’s S4. Of course, neither Audi nor BMW are in Formula 1 these days. Coincidence? Not. Bring on the Black Series  Mercedes! Bring it on!  Captions  The AMG-built 4.0L bi-turbo V8 with Nanoslide cylinder liner technology produces 503 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque in the C 63 AMG S Model.     Dynamic engine mounts smoothen the road as it’s driven on, and the suspension system slices and carves turns with ease.  The C 63 AMG can indeed change its character on a whim, and its seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission is a thing of beauty with smooth and fast gear  changes.  By the Numbers $164.81/HP (CALCULATED W/MSRP)  128.1 HP/L  251.23 HP/TON  3.2 KG/HP  8.2 L/100 KM (AUTO – COMBINED)  SPECIFICATIONS  2015 Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG S-Model BASE PRICE: $82,900 ENGINE: 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 HORSEPOWER: 503 hp @ 5,500-6,250 rpm  TORQUE: 516 lb-ft  @ 1,750-4,500 rpm CONFIGURATION: FR TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic DRY WEIGHT: 1,839 kg FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (NEDC CYCLE; COMBINED): 8.2 L/100 km WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000  NOTABLE OPTIONS:  PREMIUM PACKAGE - Parktronic w/ active parking assist, COMAND online  navi w/ MB Apps, Burmester surround system, KeylessGo; INTELLIGENT DRIVE PACKAGE ($TBA) - Distronic Plus, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping  Assist, CMS rear, BMS Plus w Cross Traffic Assist, Pre-Safe Brake, Advanced Driving Assistance package; PREMIUM REAR SEATING PACKAGE - rear window  sunshade, Thermotronic automatic climate control; metallic paint; designo upholstery; head-up display; passive lane keeping assist; power trunk closer; air balance  package; 19-in. AMG 5-spoke wheels; AMG performance seat; AMG carbon ceramic brakes.    ALTERNATIVES: Audi S4, BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Infiniti Q70, Lexus RC F, Volvo S60 Polestar 
A look at how some of the market’s most popular luxury crossover models stack up as used buys, and some tips to shop smart for the one that interests you Luxury crossovers are awesome because they’re high-tech, comfortable, have room for your people and stuff, and are fantastic to drive in the winter. The sheer number of entries in the luxury crossover marketplace is a big indicator – this is a segment that’s thriving, growing and not going away. Of course, should a brand-spankin’-new luxury family-ute not be in your budget, numerous few-year-old alternatives are becoming delightfully affordable in the used market. Here’s a look at some of the most popular used luxury crossovers on the scene, and some tips to shop smart for the one that most interests you. 2007-2013 BMW X5 The Draw: This generation X5 hit the road for model-year 2007 packing a world-class list of feature content, including all of the luxury crossover must-haves. Look for two or three seating rows, standard xDrive AWD, an available M Sport package for fancy handling and a range of six- or eight-cylinder engines. Available horsepower peaked at 400, depending on the year. Owners rated styling, confidence and performance highly, and complained most commonly about the lack of a spare tire and learning curve to the iDrive system. The Test Drive: Confirm proper operation from all windows, locks and the power tailgate, if equipped. Ditto the sunroof. Ensure no warning lights or messages are present in the instrument cluster and triple-check the navigation, Bluetooth and climate control systems for functionality. A battery and charging system check, as well as a ‘scan’ of the X5’s computer brain should be considered mandatory to ensure you’re not about to drop tens of thousands on a model full of electrical gremlins. Have a mechanic scrutinize the cooling system for signs of leaks and dribbles, especially in the ‘valley’ between the cylinder banks on earlier V8 models. This leak is well documented and pricey to fix. Also, have a mechanic go over the X5’s suspension, especially if you notice any popping, clunking or other unwelcome sounds from beneath on a test-drive. 2010-2012 Lexus RX The Draw: The 2010 to 2012 iteration of this sensible Japanese best-seller offered an available hybrid drive system, an excellent reputation and proven residual values. All models got a 3.5-litre V6 making 275 horsepower, or 295 in the RX h Hybrid variant. Feature content in this five-seater included automatic or motorized everything, navigation, Mark Levinson audio, a Bluetooth interface, climate-controlled seats and plenty more. All models got all-wheel-drive, and owners liked the RX’s sense of practical luxury, the well-appointed cabin, flexibility and all-around comfort. The Test Drive: Double check for proper operation of the intelligent key system, all windows and the climate control system. Ensure the RX you’re considering hasn’t been pre-warmed ahead of your test-drive. Insist on starting the engine cold and listening for any loud ticking or knocking sound as it idles after start up. Though inconclusive, some owners have reported this issue, which could indicate valvetrain problems. Hesitation or ‘hunting’ during gear shifting on the automatic transmission may be remedied by reprogramming the transmission’s computer brain, which isn’t too serious. Have the RX you’re considering inspected for standard signs of fluid leakage, rust, suspension wear, sporadic power delivery or warning lights as well. Shoppers are advised against purchase of a Lexus hybrid model without having all system components inspected and ‘scanned’ electronically by a Lexus technician at a dealer. 2007-2013 Acura MDX The Draw: The MDX earned a reputation for solid reliability, owner satisfaction, residual value and safety – all of which helped it become one of the most popular machines in its segment. All models got a 3.7-litre V6 with 300 horsepower, an automatic transmission and Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). Available feature content for this seven-passenger ute included adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and an active damper system for push-button access to various suspension calibrations. Owners loved a blend of comfort and fun-to-drive dynamics, as well as overall performance, refinement and confidence. Common gripes centre around wind noise and limited rearward visibility. The Test Drive: Confirm proper operation of the power seats as well as the memory and heating function of said seats. The navigation and climate control systems should also be triple-checked for proper operation. Other issues were reported infrequently, though they warrant mention. A chattering or binding sensation from the rear when cornering sharply at low speeds could indicate worn out clutches or contaminated fluid within the SH-AWD system. Have an Acura mechanic investigate if you notice any unwelcome sensations like these. Some owners have reported consuming large amounts of oil between changes on newer models, which may be a result of thinner engine oil being specified as part of MDX’s fuel-saving powertrain updates. Be sure to check the condition and level of the engine oil in the model you’re considering. Several owners have reported replacement of the transmission’s torque converter, usually under warranty. Symptoms of a bad torque converter could include very hard shifting or ‘slippage’ during shifting. 2003-2010 Porsche Cayenne The Draw: The first-gen Cayenne was available with anything from a 3.2-litre, 247-horsepower V6 to a 550-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8. Automatic transmissions will be fitted to virtually all used models. Look for Porsche’s five-seater hotrod-ute with goodies like navigation, a sunroof, premium audio, Bluetooth, heated leather seats and a full suite of safety features. With a low-range transfer case and air-adjustable suspension on most models, you can actually take this one off-roading if you’d like. Owners typically rave about a blend of off-road capability and on-road comfort backed by plenty of performance. Brakes, handling and power output were highly rated on virtually all models, too. Complaints included a smaller-than-expected back seat, controversial styling and limited rearward visibility. The Test Drive: Start your test-drive with an exhaustive check of every component and accessory that runs on electricity. Pay extra close attention to the stereo, power seats, navigation system, instrument cluster and all lights. Note any check engine lights, too. Poor, lumpy or hesitant acceleration on any model could be caused by faulty ignition coil packs, and the engine compartment and underside should be checked for signs of a fairly common coolant leak. If possible, avoid models with the air suspension, which many owners say will eventually wear out and do nasty things to your wallet. A turbocharged Cayenne model will be the fastest and most fun to drive, though it’ll also be the most expensive to fuel, insure and maintain. Due to the numerous complicated systems and potentially pricey repair bills, buying a Cayenne without a pre-purchase inspection from a Porsche dealership is not advised. 2006-2012 Range Rover Sport The Draw: All hail its snorting, supercharged majesty! Smaller, shorter, less expensive and lighter than a typical Range Rover, the last-generation Range Rover Sport was introduced for 2006 to compete more directly with machines like the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5. All models were powered by a V8, including an available supercharged unit on ‘Supercharged’ designated models. The Range Rover Sport features a terrain mode selector and multi-mode 4x4 system with low-range provided above-average off-road capability. Owners liked the blend of luxury, confidence, exclusivity and great deal of presence. A driving experience rich with luxury and capability seems to be the big draw here. Complaints typically centre around smaller-than-expected rear seat and cargo dimensions. The Test Drive: Have the air suspension checked out by a Land Rover mechanic after you toggle it through its various settings to confirm it operates without any warning lights illuminating. This is an expensive-to-repair system if any problems surface, possibly related to the ‘valve-block’ that controls airflow to the shocks. Toggle the 4x4 system between its various modes as well, checking for signs of trouble along the way. Some owners have reported unusual, unwelcome sounds as possible signs of issues with driveshafts, joints, axles or differentials. Use your ears at a variety of speeds while making moderate to sharp turns on a variety of surfaces. If anything sounds out of the ordinary, be sure to have it investigated. A hesitation, misfire sensation or power loss at heavy to full throttle could be the effect of a fail-safe engaged in response to low coolant flow through the supercharger, caused by an improperly-wired electric coolant pump. 2007-2014 Cadillac Escalade The Draw: Driven primarily by ballers, business execs and big-dollar shot-callers, the last-generation Escalade got a standard 6.2-litre, 400-horsepower V8, plenty of room and a real truck-frame chassis for hard-to-beat toughness. The most recognizable posh-ute on the road, owners loved Escalade’s big-time presence, abundant space and upscale feature content. Look for climate-controlled seats, Bose audio, retractable side steps, navigation, rear-seat entertainment consoles and more. The Test Drive: Open the front doors and ‘feel’ the carpeting under the front floor mats for signs of moisture, which could be caused by a leaky windshield seal and/or plugged sunroof vent tubes. Check the rear seating floor area for moisture, too. Ensure proper operation of the cruise control, as some owners have reported issues with cruise control failure caused by a fairly simple-to-fix brake-light switch. Other items to triple check for proper operation include the heated and chilled seats, heated steering wheel (if equipped) and powered tailgate. None of these will be cheap to fix if they aren’t working. Finally, note that many Escalade models in the used market will have modifications like air intakes and exhaust kits, which are typically considered safe, if they use high-quality parts and installation. However, the average shopper is advised to avoid models with extensive modifications to the engine, suspension or drivetrain. Lifted Escalades, models with modified engine management or extremely large tires and wheels could cause issues. General Used Crossover Shopping TipsNo matter which used luxury crossover you decide to make your own, be sure to bear these tips in mind  Recalls: Recalls are issued by automakers to address a latent safety defect that wasn’t caught in development. Recall work is important – and anyone buying a used vehicle should ensure the recalls affecting their ride have all been carried out. Just provide the VIN number of the model you’re considering to the vehicle’s dealer. They can advise which, if any, recall work is outstanding. Recall-related work is free. Trickle Charge It: Newer rides – especially gadget-rich luxury models with their numerous high-draw systems and thirst for delicious electrons – can be hard on their batteries. That’s especially true if the vehicle will be used for frequent short-distance driving, which may not allow the battery time to recharge fully. If you’ll only drive your new-to-you luxury crossover occasionally, budget for a so-called trickle-charger and hook it up to the battery while the machine is parked. You can get one at Canadian Tire for about $30. Fluids: Not sure the service history of the used ride you’re considering? Budget for a full fluid change, replacing engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, transfer case and differential fluids. The owner’s manual lists fluid maintenance requirements; and, if it’s missing, a quick call to the appropriate dealer’s parts counter will set you straight. Fresh, quality fluids are absolutely vital to prolonged driveline component life and reliability. Checks for Safety’s Sake: Safety is of the utmost importance in any new vehicle – though the family-oriented nature of a luxury crossover makes it that much more vital. To ensure the model you’re considering is ready to tackle family travel safely, ask your favourite mechanic to give the brakes, steering, tires and suspension a once-over on his hoist. In about 30 minutes, he can assess and scrutinize the condition of all of the parts that ensure your ride steers and stops – adding confidence to your purchase. Computer Scan: Consider a scan of the brain of the luxury crossover you’re considering to be absolutely mandatory. Numerous networked computer systems run and control your potential ride’s powertrain – and any of these could be storing a trouble code waiting to be revealed with a peek inside the computer. Since not all trouble relating to engine sensors and control units will cause a warning message or CHECK ENGINE light, a computer system scan can provide maximum peace of mind that your new ride isn’t in need of a few thousand bucks worth of sensors and modules.
University of Detailing with Chemical Guys Canada I love my car. I really do. It has its quirks, sure, and they can be annoying to deal with at times but find me a car that isn’t like that. You have to take the good with the not so good. Because I love my car, I try to keep it as clean as I can. Living in Canada, doing so can be difficult. With long winters that leave our roads looking like impassable snow and slush-covered trails, there are times when many cars in this country share the same dirty shade of salt-stained white. Thankfully, we are now well into the season where keeping one’s car clean north of the 49th isn’t an exercise in futility. Because I don’t have a driveway,I often take my car to a coin-op wash booth (usually on the weekend) for a pressure wash bath and a good vacuuming. I’ve done so for years and my cars have been kept reasonably clean as a result. Recently, however, I discovered that there’s a lot more one can do in order to keep a car looking like new. The good folks at Chemical Guys Canada offer a one-day course called the University of Detailing, a program designed to educate car owners about the finer points of keeping their cars spick and span. I enrolled in the course on behalf of Ignition, offering up my 2010 Honda Civic Si Coupe for a thorough cleaning – and I do mean thorough. The Chemical Guys approach to car detailing is holistic, covering everything inside and out, including the engine bay (home to a lot of grime, in my case). First up, my car was thoroughly rinsed to get some of the surface dirt off and prepare it for washing. Because it hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned like this before (at least since I’ve owned it), the paint needed to be inspected, which is done by putting one’s hand in a plastic bag and running it over the car’s surface. If it feels rough to the touch, it should be cleaned with a clay bar. Chemical Guys recommend inspecting the paint at the beginning of the summer driving season in order to determine whether it needs to be cleaned with a clay bar. In most cases, the answer is yes, and it was in mine as well. A clay bar removes layers of dirt from the paint so the finish can be properly cleaned. The clay bar should never be used on a dry surface, hence the need for Clay Bar Lube, a Chemical Guys product that helps the clay bar pick up dirt. After using it, the surface of my car was noticeably smoother and ready to be washed. After a thorough rinsing from the use of the clay bar, it was time to get my hands wet and wash my car. Chemical Guys recommends using a two-bucket system – one bucket with soap and water (Chemical Guys’ Citrus Wash & Gloss, in this instance) and one with only water, which will be used for rinsing. The reason for doing so is simple: it keeps the dirty water (and the harsh abrasives it contains) from coming into contact with the car’s surface, which can damage the paint. After washing and rinsing the car a few times, including a couple that involved the use of a foam cannon hooked up to an air compressor (a first for me), my car was looking much, much cleaner than it had ever been before. Chemical Guys used a wheel dressing product (Black on Black Instant Shine) to make my rubber shine like new. A quick application of Orange Degreaser with a pressure washer removed a thick layer of greasy dirt that had built up on the engine cover and other components in the engine bay. With things looking better on the outside and under the hood, our attention shifted to the interior. Generally, my car’s interior is pretty clean, but the one area that needed some attention was the carpet and floor mat on the driver’s side. Stubborn salt stains had attached themselves to the mat and the carpet and, despite my best efforts, I hadn’t been able to get them out. Not a problem, Chemical Guys have just the tool for the job – a high-pressure rotating air tool called the Tornador (that’s its real name), which is remarkably good at blasting away dirt... and salt stains. I’m not sure what rpm the Torndaor spins at, but watching it blast through the accumulated dirt and grime was one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed. After only a few minutes, my floor mat, footwell and pedals were sparkling. Amazing! With the car thoroughly refreshed, the finishing touch was applied in the form of Black Frost Scent air freshener to give my ride a scent as clean as the car itself.Inevitably my car will get dirty again, but as the Chemical Guys point out, it should be easier to restore the shine thanks to the University of Detailing process.My car is indeed grateful. Want to restore your ride’s shine? To order Chemical Guys car care products or to register for University of Detailing classes go to ChemicalGuysCanada.ca
The Mustang of Crossovers 2.0 - On the mountainous, desert roads outside of Scottsdale (in and around the Tonto National Forest in particular) the Sport model demonstrated that you can have a sporty, dynamic handling crossover vehicle without having to shell out the big bucks for a German steed. When Ford entered the market with the Edge in 2006, the crossover utility segment was just starting to take shape. The automaker has gone on to sell 123,500 units in Canada since, and today, all utility segments account for roughly
33 percent of all new vehicle sales; with the outgoing Edge accounting for roughly 1,500 units a month.
 With V6 power and a FWD drivetrain only, the outgoing generation was a great option for suburbanites and city dwellers looking to stay away from large truck-based utility vehicles. 
With two rows of seating and plenty of driver-focused tech, the Edge has been well-received and well-liked by the masses from the get-go. However, 
Edge owners wanted more. More power, better driving dynamics, additional technology and uncompromising style to boot. Ford was listening, and has delivered the goods in all of those areas.
 The Edge family is now four strong and includes the SE, SEL, Titanium (replaces Limited) and Sport. All but the latter are being offered with a choice of front- and all-wheel-drive, and four- or six-cylinder engines. And all are being built at Ford’s Oakville Assembly Complex for global export to more than 100 countries. 
This new version has been totally redesigned from stem to stern, and the whole vehicle has been improved
with emphasis in three key areas: style, performance and technology.
 Three engines are available on the
2015 models, which start at $31,999. In Canada, the 2015 Edge Sport comes exclusively with a 315-horsepower
2.7-litre EcoBoost V6 and all-wheel-drive for $13,200 more to start. All other trims offer a choice between FWD or AWD, and an all-new twin-scroll two-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder with direct injection making 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, or
a 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated V6 that carries over from the previous generation with 280 horsepower and 250 lb-ft.
 The Sport will come to market as advertised – sporty – and the Edge’s full-time, on-demand AWD system is a big reason for it. It has the ability
to continually assess road conditions and driver inputs, and can transfer 100 percent of the available torque from
the front to the rear. Beefed-up brakes are used to control torque delivery from side-to-side. Combined with an all-new body structure that is more resistant
to bending and twisting, the results are very noticeable.
 On the mountainous, desert roads outside of Scottsdale (in and around the Tonto National Forest in particular)
the Sport model demonstrates that you can have a sporty, dynamic handling crossover vehicle without having to
shell out the big bucks for a German steed. The $41,999 base MSRP is nothing to sneeze at, but it is a good value. 
Ride quality has been superbly refined. Enhanced damping provides the Edge Sport with improved road-holding capability, control, sharper steering
and greater driver confidence. There is very little body lean thanks to upgrades to the basic independent front strut and multilink rear suspension, including stiffer anti-roll bars in the front and rear, unique larger diameter rear monotube dampers and springs that are 10 percent stiffer than the previous generation's setup. Twenty-inch polished aluminum wheels are standard on the Sport. The 22s are no longer being offered, however, 21-inch premium wheels are available. The electromechanical steering has excellent, direct linear response with good weight and feedback. The steering wheel itself has all kinds of redundant controls for things such as audio, navigation, Ford MyTouch, etc. And there are paddle shifters for those seeking manual control over the excellent (read smooth, quiet and responsive) six-speed automatic gearbox. I also drove the topline Titanium model with the two-litre EcoBoost and found it to be more than adequate for people's day-to-day needs. It isn't until you get high up into the mountains where you notice its lack of power and laggy acceleration (not body-jolting lag, but it is a bit soggy when you are trying to pass slower traffic or maintain speed on long and/or steep inclines). And while it does have a tendency to kick down to a lower gear more often than one would like, it does so without being jerky. The AWD Sport and, presumably (because I didn't have a chance to drive it) the 3.5-litre V6-powered models, do not do this. Road and wind noise is down dramatically on all trims thanks to thicker laminated glass, wind strakes (deflectors on the side mirrors, rear hatch and elsewhere) and panels with acoustic properties (i.e. more porous). The Edge Sport, however, is also equipped with active noise cancellation technology to manage and enhance the sound of the engine. The system uses microphones strategically placed throughout the cabin to generate opposing sound waves, which are directed through the audio system practically imperceptibly to enhance overall cabin ambiance. The 2015 Edge Sport is also being touted as a style leader. To that end, Ford designers have done well at evolving a great design to be even more striking and powerful looking. Signature LED front lighting and sculpted taillamps punctuate the Sport's stronger, more athletic shape, which is available in new colours such as Electric Spice and Bronze Fire Metallic. A unique hood with power bulge-inspired wind deflectors and a Taurus-inspired front grille with aerofoil-shaped louvers and active grille shutters (which automatically close at highway speeds to reduce drag) help to increase fuel economy. The observed 11.1 L/100 km over 300 kilometres is pretty respectable; however, the fact the Sport is not available with a tow package (while all other trims are) is a bit of a downer. The interior features leather-trimmed sport seats with perforated suede inserts, aluminum brake and accelerator pedal covers, ambient lighting and metal-plated accents throughout. Other interior appointments include Ford SYNC with an eight-inch LCD touchscreen, two configurable LCD screens in the instrument cluster and a media hub containing two USB ports, SD card reader and an auxiliary input jack. A 12-speaker Sony audio system is standard and is a big improvement over the old touch sensitive version. Ensuring that the Edge Sport is a technology tour de force is a long list of driver assist features, including cross traffic alert, lane keeping with BLIS, AdvanceTrac with roll stability control and curve control. Even self parking - both parallel and perpendicular - is available on the new Edge along with a self-cleaning, forward-looking camera. The camera allows the driver to see into the lane before pulling out, however I would have liked to see this tech on the rear of the vehicle, too, where it would be even more useful to many drivers. Time will tell if owners embrace or forget that they paid extra for this luxury parking feature. As the outgoing Edge ends its life cycle after receiving a coveted 2014 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study award, the stage is set for the next generation to achieve even greater success. And by all accounts, that's exactly what's in store for this smart, sporty and stylish second-gen crossover. Specifications 2015 Ford Edge Sport AWD Base Price: $45,199 Engine: 2.7L EcoBoost V6 Horsepower: 315 hp @ 4,750 rpm TORQUE: 350 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm CONFIGURATION: FA Transmissions: 6-speed automatic Dry Weight: 1,841.5 kg Fuel Economy Ratings (NEDC cycle; City / Hwy.): 13.6 / 9.8 L/100 kmFuel Economy Ratings (Observed): 11.1 L/100 km after 303 kmWarranty (mos / km): 60 / 100,000 Options on test vehicle: EQUIPMENT GROUP 401A ($4,350) BLIS with cross-traffic alert, auto-dimming driver's side mirror, 110 V power outlet, lane keeping system, heated rear seats, heated / cooled front seats, enhanced park assist with side sensors, front 180-degree camera, hands-free liftgate, HID headlamps with auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers; CANADIAN TOURING PACKAGE ($2,000): Panoramic vista roof, voice-activated navigation; CARGO ACCESSORY PACKAGE ($400): Tonneau cover, cargo area protector, rear bumper protector; 21-inch premium alloy wheels ($750). BY THE NUMBERS $143.5/HP (calculated with base MSRP) 116.7 HP/L 155.17 HP/TON 11.1 L/100 KM   Oakville Assembly Transformation Ford's 5,464,000 square-foot Oakville Assembly Plant has undergone a massive upgrade to include new technology and robotics, new processes and new training for 1,700 new workers. More than 250 new robots have been added, with approximately 1,000 robots being upgraded with new software and vision systems that improve efficiency and precision to ensure repeatable, high-quality assembly. Among the upgrades are: *New robots to apply urethane to glass for consistent application every time, creating a perfect seal that reduces wind noise and improves quietness and comfort for the customer. *New robots to install panels, doors and hoods, reducing variability and offering more control in installation for a more durable build. *Laser brazing with new robotics to offer cleaner lines and higher strength and precision in the seaming of the roof for a higher-end design. *A "Vehicle on Wheels" visions system to ensure the flushness of doors, hood and lift gate through laser and optical images for a seamless fit. *3D dirt detection technology, which uses high-resolution cameras to detect and locate any paint imperfections not readily seen by the naked eye, and increased robotic automation in paint to employ a more durable paint application, resulting in best-in-class exterior appearance.  
By Jordan Lenssen | Photos by Nick Busato, Richard Prince, & Jordan Lenssen Stepping into the world’s largest GT arena is a daunting and intimidating task, yet when the Chrysler brass decided to put the Viper GTS into competition as the GTS-R in 1996, there was no hesitation. As part of a limited program run by Canaska Southwind Motorsport in the IMSA GT championship’s GTS-1 class, the 8.0-litre dual overhead V10 finished in 29th in its maiden race at the 24 Hours of Daytona, but followed that up with a strong 12th place finish overall at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Overseas, established French operation Oreca entered the GTS-R in the Asian BPR Global Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, against some of the top GT cars of all-time in the McLaren F1 GTR and Porsche 991 GT1. In its first appearance at the pinnacle 24 Hour race, the Canaska GTS-R managed an astounding 10th overall, beaten only by these ultra-exotics and the Porsche WSC-95 and Courage C36 prototypes. It was a matter of time before the Viper name would etch its name into the record books. For 1997, with Canaska out of the picture, Team Oreca took over factory-backed Viper operations and set out to make their mark. Amidst stark competition from the Porsche, McLaren and Mercedes-Benz GT1 dominating the field, Oreca opted to move the white, blue and red-liveried GTS-Rs to the GT2 class against competitors like the Porsche 911, Chevrolet Corvette and bespoke racers such as the Saleen Mustang RRR and Marcos Mantara LM600. In a full-fledged FIA GT Championship effort, the Viper would capture an astounding seven of 11 races for the GT2-class team and driver titles in its first full season of competition. Those results would be bested in 1998 with nine out of 10 wins, a repeat of the driver and team championships, and the team’s first class title at Le Mans, finishing one-two, and nearly 30 laps ahead of the third-place finisher. The Viper team proved its performance was no fluke in 1999. For the inaugural American Le Mans Series race, Oreca switched to the red and white striped livery that would carry them through two ALMS GTS team titles and entrench them as one of motorsport’s most recognized and respected racers of all time. At Le Mans, the traditional tri-coloured Orecas captured their second-straight one-two finish and the Viper locked out the first six positions in the GTS class to complement an FIA GT team and driver title for a third-straight year. The Viper wore the red and white exclusively in a sole ALMS and Le Mans campaign in 2000. The Oreca GTS-R started the season by being the first American production car to capture the overall victory at Daytona, and followed that with nine-straight wins to run away with the ALMS title over the Corvette. That domination carried over to Le Mans, where the GTS-Rs finished one-two ahead of their American counterparts once again. But just as the program seemed at its peak and the Viper invincible, Chrysler pulled the plug to focus its efforts on a new prototype venture. The Viper was left as a customer racer, but failed to capture any of the success as the factory program. In the meantime, Dodge continued to produce Viper race cars such as the ACR (and subsequent ACR-X) and GT3-spec Competition Coupe for customer and one-make series. The factory race program had gone quiet, but those four years of GT domination allowed Viper engineers to take that experience and translate it into the street snake of the future. “The street car has benefited a lot on the engine performance side,” says Matt Bejnarowicz, former SRT Viper Lead Racing Engineer. “Developments in intake and cylinder head design were started in early race programs [and brought over]. The street car transmission evolved due to improvements made during the original GTS-R race program, which were required to complete 24-hour endurance races.” Even the later ACR and Competition Coupe served to benefit the current Viper’s oil sump system. The aerodynamics of the previous GTS-R also served as a basis for the fifth-gen SRT Viper and GTS-R design, notably in the hood extractors. Riley Technologies played a large role in developing the race car and, when it debuted alongside the production model at the 2012 New York Auto Show, the technology sharing between the two was obvious. “The same engineers who have worked on the race programs for many years have also developed the street car… so the technology sharing goes both ways,” Bejnarowicz says. The new, silver-clad Viper GTS-R returned to factory racing just months later for a partial 2012 season (largely a development year), fielding two cars and a team that included Tommy Kendall, Marc Goossens, Jonathan Bomarito, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Viper vets Dominik Farnbacher and Canadian Kuno Wittmer. Farnbacher’s had previously set a world record in 2011 for production cars at the Nürburgring, driving an ACR around the circuit in just 7:12.13. Wittmer’s relationship with the Viper was solely competition-based. “The first time I drove a Viper [Competition Coupe] was 2009 at Road America for a World Challenge event,” Wittmer says. “We ended up taking pole and leading until a suspension failure, but that really launched everything with SRT.” Impressing SRT and finishing second in the standings the following year, he stayed on to test in 2011 and prepare for the SRT’s return to ALMS sportscar racing in 2012. Debuting at Mid-Ohio, the hulking 8.4-litre factory V10 was immediately restricted by series officials who de-stroked and dropped displacement to 8.0-litres. It forced engineers to extract every bit of aero and mechanical grip out of the vehicle to make up for the balance of performance (BoP), but largely handcuffed the team in its return season. “It wasn’t until mid-2013 that we started to get competitive,” Wittmer says. The team returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in 13 years at Road America, but their hope to rekindle Le Mans glory fell short. The no. 53 car of Goossens, Farnbacher and Ryan Dalziel finished ninth in class, while Wittmer, Tommy Kendall and Jonathan Bomarito finished 10th in the no. 93. Back in North America, the team had gained traction however, finishing the season in third behind Corvette and BMW. For the 2014 unified United SportsCar Championship (USCC), Wittmer and Bomarito returned to the no. 93, and Farnbacher and Goosens to the no. 91. Both cars started the season strong, with third- and second-place finishes in the first two races. The off-season allowed engineers to dissect the ultra-stiff and infinitely-adjustable GTS-R chassis, and team management made sure every aspect of the operation was cohesive, to create a potent entry for every track. In the GTLM class, you have to be the best at everything,” Bejnarowicz says. “The race car is only one part of that equation – preparation needs to be perfect, the setup needs to be perfect, pit stops need to be perfect and the drivers need to be amazing.” Part of that perfection, the team attributes, came at the cost of forgoing Le Mans. “That was completely up to us,” Wittmer says matter-of-factly. Trading the top spot with the no. 3 Corvette throughout the season, Bomarito and Wittmer went into the final race as leaders in both the driver and team standings, but under heavy threat from the Corvette and Antonio Garcia. Hedging their bets and doubling their odds, SRT opted to place Wittmer into the no. 91 and keep Bomarito in the 93 car to double their chances of capturing the driver’s title. In the end, Bomarito’s sixth-place finish secured the team title for the 93 car, but put him second in the driver standings, while Wittmer’s third place finish was enough to award him the championship. But he admits, it was a bittersweet decision to make at the final race. “The championship was won by the both of us,” Wittmer says. “It’s one of those decisions that’s tough to live with, but it really could have gone either way.” Before the team could let their sophomore victory sink in, and in a turn of events vaguely similar to the team in 2000, two days SRT announced that it would be ending the Viper factory program, effective immediately. It was a move that stunned the sportscar world, and left the drivers and team members scrambling for jobs. Bomarito quickly signed with Mazda’s USCC prototype program while Wittmer, Farnbacher and Goossens accepted a one-off race at this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona in two Riley Motorsport Viper GT3-R GTD entries. Wittmer, Farnbacher, Cameron Lawrence, Al Carter and Ben Keating (the world’s largest Viper dealer) took victory by just seven seconds. For Wittmer and Farnbacher, the victory is an affirmation – and hopefully, a motivation for teams looking for top-tier drivers this season. Wittmer has been actively searching for a full-time ride since October and, while it’s hard to imagine a GT champion without a ride, it’s only a matter of time before he’s scooped up and onto the next. He took GTLM, he captured a one-off in a GT3-R during the Toronto Indy weekend, he won one of sportscar’s most prestigious 24 Hour races in the world. He’s won them all in arguably the toughest GT car to drive, and all within a 12 month span. Where will he go? Who knows, but it’ll be good, and if it’s in a Viper, the competition better be shaking in their boots.
Spoiler Alert: Every time I think about the Corvette Z06, my mind wanders to the scene in Pulp Fiction where boxer-turned-fugitive Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) and lover Trudi (Bronagh Gallagher) flee town on a stolen motorcycle on the advice of mob boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), who lost a lot of money on Butch after he threw his last fight. An hour away from all the lights and action of Las Vegas Boulevard, on the way to Death Valley National Park along highway 160, you’ll come across the Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club nestled into the foothills of the Pahrump Valley. An automotive enthusiast's utopia if there ever was one, the motorsport ranch has been home of the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School since 2008. Launching the 2015 Corvette Z06 flagship at the official high performance driving school of Corvette, on the school’s new 2.41-kilometre (1.5-mile) circuit was an easy decision for Chevrolet. The Mayor of Mosport’s team of excellent, experienced instructors regularly teach students how to drive the Corvette Stingray to their – and its – fullest potential. There is no place I’d rather be. And quite frankly, better places to be are few and far between. Built around the same lightweight aluminum frame structure and sharing much of its machismo with the current Corvette Racing C7.R GTLM race car (including chassis, aerodynamics and tire technologies), the Z06 offers supercar levels of performance for a fraction of the price of traditional supercars. A fully-loaded Z06 3LZ with the Z07 performance package and all the trimmings tops out at $121,000 in Canuck bucks. Consider the as-tested ticket of the 2015 Porsche 991 Turbo S I drove last October is $216,500, and the 2015 McLaren 650S Spider ran up to $383,000 (and could’ve easily gone higher). Math isn’t my strongest suit, but it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to see where this is going. The new Z06 is the fastest production car GM has ever made – even faster than the 2014 C6 ZR1 – and it is right up there with some of the fastest cars I’ve driven, including the 650S and all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo S, both of which do 0-100 km/h in three seconds even. The Z06 accelerates from 0-97 km/h (60 mph) in 2.95 seconds, and it does the quarter-mile in 10.95 @ 204.4 km/h (127 mph) when equipped with an all-new 8L90 eight-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission with torque converter that launches the Z06 with 1.2 g forces. The Z06 is also the fastest production car ever tested at GM’s 4.66-kilometre Milford Road Course, beating the Corvette ZR1 by a full second. At VIR, that difference grows to 4.3 seconds per lap, and a blistering lap time of 2:41.3 by the Z06. It all adds up to killer looks and killer performance. The LT4 supercharged 6.2-litre engine is a beefed-up and blown version of the LT1 V8 found in the Stingray. A dry sump oil system, forged pistons, titanium valves and rods, and the supercharger/intercooler assembly that is nefariously mounted in the valley between the cylinder heads helps deliver 37 and 40 percent more horsepower and torque, respectively. That power is accessed via a truly excellent seven-speed manual transmission – or the available automatic, which is arguably the best transmission GM has ever put into a production car. Developed entirely in-house, Chevrolet claims it shifts faster at wide-open throttle than the uber-quick seven-speed DCT PDK transmission that the Porsche 911 uses. On the track it sure feels close. With the manual transmission, shifts are crisp, precise and happen as fast as you can make them, thanks to GM’s no-lift upshift algorithm (refer to page 53). The improved active rev-matching feature comes in handy in urban and traffic situations, too. Or, it can be turned off when you want to heel-and-toe downshift the old-school way on your favourite twisty and technical stretch of road, for example. It’s a wonderful piece of kit, but you do lose precious fractions of a second with every gear change compared to the automatic. That is a big deal for track day regulars and weekend racers. The standard two-piece, slotted cast iron Brembos (371 mm and 365 mm, front and rear) with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers are more than enough for day-to-day and light track use. However, the larger, carbon ceramic-matrix upgrade (394 mm front and 388 mm rear) is needed to decelerate the car from 97-0 km/h in 30.34 metres – the best braking performance of any production car GM has ever measured. Functional upgrades to the C7’s shape give the Z06 a lower, more aggressive silhouette with more downforce. Longer, flared fenders accommodate larger, wider wheels and bespoke Michelin Pilot Super Sport or Sport Cup 2 rubber add more grip. Dedicated ducts cool the brakes, and larger vents/extractors provide better cooling for the engine, transmission and differential for heightened track capability. Carbon fibre body panels reduce weight and keep the centre of gravity low. The standard Z06 aero package includes a front splitter and a short, three-piece rear spoiler. The stage two CFZ package adds a carbon fibre front splitter with small end plates, rocker splitters and a high three-piece spoiler. For stage three, the Z07 aero package adds larger front end plates and an adjustable see-through centre section for the spoiler to maximize rear downforce. For advanced chassis control, the standard drive mode selector allows the driver to tailor a dozen different attributes of the car via preset Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track modes. These attributes include the electronic limited-slip (eLSD), steering, throttle progression, transmission shift mode, active fuel management, exhaust mode, magnetic selective ride, launch control, traction control, stability control, performance traction and cluster display.  Furthermore, the performance traction management (PTM) settings that affect chassis response are accessible by pressing the traction control button twice in five seconds with the drive mode selector in “Track” mode. Had I not lost my GM-supplied 8 GB memory card, I would have been able to analyze my own lapping experience in-depth thanks to Cosworth, Corvette Racing’s data acquisition and telemetry electronics partner. Fortunately, Ignition contributor Brian Makse was happy to share his so I could nerd-out on the wide variety of captured data you can access via the Cosworth Toolbox software. This is exactly the kind of feature Corvette customers have been asking for, along with a technologically-solid and higher-quality interior. The PDR can also be used to record your daily commute with or without overlays, and/or see how honest the valet parking people are. Further to the infotainment and convenience technology side of things, OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity provides a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot to connect to the Internet. Chevrolet’s MyLink audio system with navigation, Bluetooth and more means this Corvette is the most-technologically advanced to date in addition to being the most potent. Driving ImpressionsWhen you first get into the car, it’s basically the same as the Stingray. A flat-bottom Z06 steering wheel and signature badge on the centre console touting the car’s 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque are the only distinguishable differences. Even the form-fitting competition seats can be had in the standard ’Vette. But, upon firing up the feisty V8 and making the tires bark, it’s clear the Z06 is in a different league. On the Spring Mountain track, the rotors felt true and showed minimal signs of abuse after multiple waves of drivers. The staggered 19- by 10-inch front and 20- by 12-inch wide track provides a huge contact patch for the Michelins to work their magic (Michelin is Corvette Racing’s technical tire partner), and the car’s near 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution gives the 1,598-kilogram Z06 coupe a well-balanced ride on the road or on the track. In general, the handling is very neutral with little to no body roll, but there is some mild understeer when you’re really on the razor’s edge at the track. It adds up to a whole lot of speed and, with more than 1,525 kilometres of development driving on the Nürburgring and well over 19,000 in Autobahn testing, reliability and durability, too. I run every one of my two dozen or so laps in PTM Sport 1 mode – traction control is set to sport, stability control set to competition, magnetic ride (MR) dampers and steering are in track mode, the eLSD is also in PTM mode and launch control set to standard. My best lap is 1:11.5, driving the automatic. According to the built-in performance data recorder (PDR), which integrates 720 HD video, in-car audio, GPS data and allows recording and transferring of real-time vehicle data via a SD card slot in the glove box, that’s not too shabby. The instructors manage flat 1:08s in the warm desert afternoon, and even run a few tenths quicker first thing in the morning. As for Makse, he clocks a really quick 1:10.8 with very little seat time. The Z06 drives really nicely at slower speeds away from the track, too. The regular exhaust note is sharp and yet very natural – it fits the car’s aggressive appearance at idle or at speed. On the road, you can hear and feel the difference between touring, sport and track modes as the tone of the exhaust gets angrier and the suspension firms up for maximum carving. It gets even better on the track where Z06 feedback actually inspires confidence rather than making you want to grip the steering wheel tighter. The variable ratio electric-assisted steering wheel is tuned just right, and the MR dampers aren’t too jarring on the street, unlike the Turbo S or the McLaren. On the track, the competition seats hold me firmly and comfortably in place, and the seat cooling function is certainly a welcome feature when turning laps on a hot day. If the transmissions had been given names, they’d be Smackjaw and Razorshift. The former refers to the manual because it is gobsmackingly good, and the latter is the auto because it is so freaking fast. Conclusion and the Future of Corvette With a base price of $85,000, the new Z06 doesn’t bother sticking its nose up at other supercars. It doesn’t need to, as those supercars might as well be talking to the hand. The Z06’s racing counterpart just won and placed third in the GTLM class at the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona – a race that saw Jan Magnussen’s no. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R and Nick Tandy’s no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR fighting tooth and nail under the Florida moonlight before a friendly-fire incident in the factory Porsche camp took it and its no. 912 sister car out of contention. Regardless of the outcomes on the racetrack, it has become abundantly clear that the world’s top automakers are fully engaged in horsepower wars in the production car arena all over again. Let’s hope the economy and oil/gas markets don’t tank now because, in this new era where high-performance has become the new fuel economy, the future of the automobile advances by leaps and bounds. If rumours of the next-gen C8 going to a mid-mounted engine, rear-wheel-drive configuration persist, one can only wonder (and dream about) what other wonders will be in store for the next super ’Vette. There has been significant collaboration with Pratt & Miller, and the development that led to the 2015 Corvette Daytona prototype points in that direction. Until any rumours are put to rest, the new Z06 with the Z07 package will have to do. It more than does. You could even have a fleet of them for a relative bargain price. It also comes in a convertible. That’s Zed, baby! That’s Zed. ESSENTIALS2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06Base Price: $85,095Engine: 6.2L supercharged V8 (LT4)Horsepower: 650 hp @ 6,500 rpmTorque: 650 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpmDry Weight: 1,598 kgConfiguration: FRTransmission: 7-speed manual or 8-speed automaticTires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat (Z06); Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 (Z07) (P285/30 ZR19 front, P335/25ZR20 rear)Fuel Economy Ratings L/100 km (city / hwy. / combined): 15.7 / 10.6 / 13.4 (manual); 17.7 / 10.2 / 14.3 (automatic)Warranty (mos / km): 36 / unlimitedBy the Numbers$130.91/hp (base MSRP)104.8 hp/L (engine displacement)406.75 hp/ton (horsepower to weight)14.3 L 100/km (auto – combined)13.7 L 100/km (manual – combined)
As the new Director for CASC-OR Ontario Time Attack, I am excited to announce the 2015 season! I have much to thank our previous Director Chuck Atkins for. He served for eight years and saw to it that the Ontario Time-Attack continually evolved and moved forward. In fact, the schedule for the coming season is due to the hard work that Chuck put into organizing it. I hope to carry on with that hard work see that our series continues as the best, most competitive and exciting time attack series out there. It is my intention to also make OTA the safest time attack series for our participants, and I have been working on improvements the series can benefit from, and how to implement those changes. This year we have two schools, nine competition events and the final “Championship Shoot-Out” to determine the overall season champ. It will require commitment and skill as drivers will have to compete in at least six of the nine regular season events to qualify for the shoot-out, and then survive the tense atmosphere of the final elimination-round shoot-out event. It is a blast. I took part last year and I can tell you from experience, nobody wants to be eliminated in the first round or two. If you are still in it after the initial rounds and your nerves have steadied, the competition becomes very tight indeed. But that’s at the end of the season. In the meantime, we have a fantastic schedule throughout the year: May 2-3: The first school event of the year will be held at the newly-designed Driver Development Track (DDT) at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP). It’s perfect if you’re new to track events or need to clean off the rust from the off-season. June 6 and 7: Events 1 and 2 are also held at the DDT at CTMP. The all-new, longer layout is challenging and technical, with several corners and elevation changes throughout. June 20: Event 3 will be held at Toronto Motorsports Park. CASC-OR returns there after a short absence and we’re excited to offer something a little different. The event will begin around noon and go until the sun sets. We’ll see how well received this is; it may lead to an evening event under the lights next season! June 5: For Event 4 we will return to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, where we will be at the large Grand Prix track. This happens to be my favourite track, testing the limits of the car and driver. There is a school at the same location the previous day (July 4), so if you don’t have experience at “the big track,” you can enrol in that and get prepared. August 2: For Event 5 we travel to the Ottawa Valley area to experience Calabogie Motorsports Park, a new track for our series. I have heard only good things about this track. There will also be instruction available the previous day (August 1) to bring drivers up to speed if they are new to the circuit. August 15-16: Events 6 and 7 are held at Shannonville Motorsport Park. Here we’ll run the two large track configurations (known as the pro track and the long track). It’s a popular and well-known destination for many of our participants. August 29: Events 8 and 9 will be our last two regular events of the season, and they will be held at the Grand Bend Motorplex. The configuration we use is fast and fun; it’s a great summertime destination with the beautiful beaches of Lake Huron nearby. September 26: This is the final event of the season: the “Championship Shoot-out.” For this, we return to the DDT at CTMP for the big showdown.
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