When the 2017 GMC Acadia was making the rounds on the auto show circuit last winter, one of the main talking points was its reduced size compared to its predecessor – the vehicle has been ...
I’ll be completely honest here – I had no idea the Cadillac SRX had been around since 2003 and was in its second generation when it finally left the lineup of GM’s luxury division at the end of the ...
As is the case with many coupes, the Infiniti Q60’s appeal is largely an emotional one and for good reason – it is a damn good-looking car. From its flowing, muscular lines that bulge at the ...
The presence of the QX30 in Infiniti’s lineup is a reflection of two modern automotive realities: one, there are never enough SUV / crossovers in the showroom (especially in North America) and two, ...
As much economic sense as a Jaguar SUV makes in 2016, it’s still a bit hard to wrap one head’s around the notion of a sport utility in the lineup given the company’s history as a maker of exciting ...
The Ford Escape moniker has only been around for a short 16 years, but in that time the model has seen the changing of the times reflected in its own design, largely thanks to technological ...
During the last auto show season, Mercedes-Benz Cars chief Dieter Zetsche said the next 12 months would be the year of the ‘dream cars’ at the German automaker with several new and refreshed coupes ...
The 2017 Ford Fusion Sport is not what I was expecting – at all. To say that this car snuck up on me is an understatement, and I mean that in a good way. The Fusion – Ford’s best-selling car in ...
Hyundai is known for many things – practicality, affordability, value, fun-to-drive – but performance usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about the Korean auto giant. ...
GREENSBORO, GA – It would be hard to overstate the significance of the Rogue to the Nissan’s success in Canada – you can reasonably say that Nissan Canada’s fortunes are directly tied to the sales ...
When the 2017 GMC Acadia was making the rounds on the auto show circuit last winter, one of the main talking points was its reduced size compared to its predecessor – the vehicle has been ‘right-sized’ according to GM spokespeople. So what does that mean, exactly? They shrunk it – and not by a little, either. The ’17 Acadia is some seven inches (177.8 mm) shorter and 700 pounds (317.5 kg) lighter than the outgoing model. On the plus side, the Acadia is now a much easier vehicle to park and maneuver in crowded mall parking lots, and average fuel economy (for V6 models) is about 2 L / 100 km better. The downside is it is now smaller on the inside (cargo space has shrunk by about 1,000 litres), although third-row seating remains. So why make the Acadia smaller? Simple – the mid-size SUV / crossover category is white hot in both Canada and the U.S. at the moment (much to the detriment of mid-size sedans), and GM wants to take full advantage of it. The previous gen was built on the same platform as the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse, and while a lucrative market for large SUVs remains (particularly in the U.S.), it's not as big or as hot as the mid-size category. In 2015, for example, eight of the top 20 selling vehicles in Canada were mid-size SUVs and, through the end of November, it’s the same story in 2016. So far, the GMC Acadia isn’t among them, but given the smaller proportions of the ’17 model, it could climb further up the Canadian sales charts. Built in Saturn’s former home of Spring Hill, Tenn., the Acadia shares the new C1XX platform with the Cadillac XT5. In addition to a chassis and an assembly plant, the Acadia also shares a 3.6L DOHC V6 engine, which features active fuel management and cylinder deactivation. Power output is identical to the Caddy, rated at 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft. of torque. Unlike the Caddy, however, the Acadia is also available with a 2.5L 4-cylinder base engine, which puts out 193 horsepower and 188 lb-ft. of torque. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic, as opposed to the eight-speed found in the XT5. As was the case with the outgoing model, the Acadia is available in two basic model lineups: regular and Denali. The base FWD 2.5L trim starts at $34,995, while the Denali (like my tester) checks in at $54,695. While this spread might seem large, at least there are some mechanical differences as one moves up through the grades – the Denali comes with the 3.6L V6 and AWD standard. At any rate, the crimson red tintcoat tester I spent last week driving is one well-equipped ride. In addition to the standard kit, which includes a leather interior, heated and ventilated front seats, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation and satellite radio, dual 8-way power front seats and 20-inch aluminum wheels, GM piled on a bunch of other goodies. Among the extras is a technology package ($1,975), which adds adaptive cruise control, automatic front braking and surround vision, a dual-panel sunroof ($1,685), continuously variable damping suspension ($1,395), crimson red tintcoat ($595), and an engine block heater ($100). On the road, the Acadia Denali delivers a quiet and comfortable ride. The handling doesn’t seem especially sharp, but is acceptable for a mid-size SUV. The steering feels reasonably direct and responsive and, much like the XT5, acceleration and power delivery from the 3.6 is solid, if unspectacular. Truthfully, I spent so much of my time with it sliding around in slushy snow searching for traction and stuck in commuter traffic that I couldn’t push the limits much. But, again, it’s an SUV—how aggressively would you drive it, even in ideal weather conditions? Probably not much. Another thing worth mentioning, is despite being designed to be a primarily AWD vehicle, there is a knob on the centre console that allows the driver to toggle between FWD and AWD, in addition to sport and trailering modes. Being able to switch over to FWD during highway driving is a definite bonus from a fuel-saving perspective. Inside, the Acadia Denali is handsomely designed, very well-equipped (as mentioned) and quite comfortable. The design aesthetic is much heavier on pick-up truck, traditional SUV influences than the XT5, but the Denali trim does make the Acadia feel more luxurious. Call it near-luxury. Not a Cadillac, to be sure, but still pretty luxe for a GMC. And despite being a bit down on interior space compared to its cavernous predecessor, the Acadia is still spacious, and getting in and out of the third row is easy. Same goes for folding down the rear seats, which is accomplished via nylon straps. The seats themselves are still tiny, and best suited to small children, but they’re there if you need them. Overall, the Acadia Denali appears to present a pretty good value proposition. I drove the XT5 a couple weeks back, and while it did make a favourable impression, I think the Acadia makes more sense if you’re in search of value and aren’t as concerned about the badge on the front grille. It delivers the same performance, can be outfitted with similar equipment, has a third row and an infotainment interface that’s much easier to navigate than the Cadillac CUE system. The Caddy might be wrapped in more attractive sheet metal, but the Acadia Denali is handsome in its own right and has a starting MSRP that is almost $14,000 less than the XT5 Platinum. These factors should auger well for Acadia sales moving forward.     SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 GMC Acadia Denali AWD BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $54,695 / $62,245 (incl. $1,700 destination) ENGINE: 3.6L V6 HORSEPOWER: 310 hp @ 6,600 rpm TORQUE: 271 lb-ft. @ 5,000 rpm CURB WEIGHT: 1,794 kg (base Acadia) CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 13.3 / 9.5 / 11.6 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000 ALTERNATIVES: Cadillac XT5, Infiniti QX70, Lincoln MKX, Lexus RX Photography by Lee Bailie
I’ll be completely honest here – I had no idea the Cadillac SRX had been around since 2003 and was in its second generation when it finally left the lineup of GM’s luxury division at the end of the 2016 model year. Caddy’s mid-size SUV, despite being a historically strong seller in both Canada and the U.S. (and the bestselling Cadillac in both countries by a wide margin in 2015), often appeared to be just sort of there year after year, soldiering on seemingly unchanged. The second gen, for example, had been in the model lineup since the 2010 model year with little in the way of changes, aside from some engine juggling (the 2.8L turbo V6 was discontinued in 2011 and the 3.6L V6 replaced it in 2012), during its seven-year run. All that said, it was time for a change, although at first blush the vehicle that replaces it – the 2017 XT5 – looks a lot like an updated version of the same vehicle. That perception wouldn’t be accurate, however, as the XT5 is very much a new entry and not just a reskin of the SRX. It could be argued, in fact, that the XT5 doesn’t share anything in common its predecessor aside from occupying the same mid-size crossover spot in Cadillac’s lineup. To wit, the XT5 rides on a new platform (C1XX) that replaces the one that underpinned the SRX (Theta Premium), it wears new sheet metal and has a new powertrain. On the engine front, the Chinese market gets a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder, but for now, the only powerplant for North America is a 3.6L V6. Despite being the same displacement and having similar output numbers, it is not the same engine as the one from the SRX. The 3.6 in the XT5 is a new dual overhead cam (DOHC) unit which produces 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft. of torque, versus the 308 / 265 split in the ’16 SRX. The XT5 variant also gets new technologies such as stop / start and active fuel management (AFM), both of which are designed to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. Like the SRX, the XT5 will be available in FWD and AWD, but will utilize a new transmission. The 6-speed Aisin unit from the SRX has been swapped out in favour of an 8-speed automatic that comes with electronic precision shift, which is the first electronically-controlled transmission shifter to be put into a Cadillac. I'm used to it now, but found it to be completely befuddling when I first encountered it in the 2017 Buick LaCrosse a few months back- putting the car into reverse took a lot longer than it should have, but I digress.  Like a lot of Cadillacs these days, the XT5 has a broad range of trims and the resulting price scale is quite wide. The base FWD XT5 carries an MSRP of $45,200, with the top-range AWD model (like my tester) checking in at $68,595. Not to quibble too much here, but a $23,000 spread for what amounts to varying equipment levels without the benefit of a beefier powertrain might be a bit of a barrier for some consumers. It should be noted, however, that an AWD model can be had for a reasonable $52,120. At any rate, I spent time recently behind the wheel of an XT5 Platinum AWD, which checked in at $71,875 including destination. While the price might feel a bit high, Cadillac piles on a lot of content for the money. There are too many to list here, but among the included features are 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, head-up display, tri-zone climate controls, illuminate sill plates and door handles, heated front and rear seats (front seats are also ventilated) and a Bose surround sound audio system. These features are in addition to leather seating, navigation, Apple Car Play / Android Auto and GM’s 4G LTE Wi-Fi, which is available with OnStar. And that only scratches the surface – there’s a lot of car here. Not surprisingly, all of this makes the XT5 a very comfortable, if not terribly exciting, car to drive. My tester was finished in a tasteful crystal white tricoat ($575), with a tan interior. I’m not crazy about the fussy nature of Cadillac's CUE infotainment system, but the XT5 design team has done a fine job of finishing the car’s interior with an impressive combination of soft touch plastics, leathers and fabrics. The Alcantara insert in the dash felt especially pleasing to the touch, and gives the XT5’s interior a feeling of warmth. And the CUE system works fine – its capacitive-touch nature does take a bit of getting used to, but I had little trouble navigating its menus and it wasn’t too distracting. I still think some redundant hard keys wouldn’t be a bad idea, as other carmakers have done with their touchscreen systems, but I’m not holding my breath. On the road, the XT5 delivers a very comfortable, quiet and composed ride. A driving mode selector button on the centre console toggles between Tour, AWD and Sport, but I left it in Tour for most of my time with the test vehicle – it just doesn’t make a big difference, at least on dry roads. The Sport mode bumps the revs up and sharpens throttle response slightly, but less so than other systems. And that’s fine – the XT5 isn’t an M or an AMG, nor does it pretend to be. Most of the time, the default (Tour) setting is just fine. Same could be said of the 3.6L V6 – it gets the job done, but its performance doesn’t exude much excitement. Its character is one of solid proficiency rather than lusty power – put simply, it doesn’t quicken one’s pulse. These qualms are minor, however. The XT5 is a handsomely styled, well-equipped and smooth-riding vehicle with plenty of interior space, and you needn’t spend $70,000-plus to get AWD and slew of other goodies – the mid-range trims are the real sweet spot in the lineup. Lots to like here, in other words, and it would seem consumers agree. Through the end of November, it’s the second-best selling Cadillac in the U.S., and isn’t far behind the top-ranked Escalade. It appears the SRX legacy of sales success will live on in the XT5. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum AWD BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $68,595 / $71,875 (incl. $1,950 destination) ENGINE: 3.6L V6 HORSEPOWER: 310 hp @ 6,600 rpm TORQUE: 271 lb-ft. @ 5,000 rpm CURB WEIGHT: 1,976 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 12.9 / 8.9 / 11.1 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: BMW X4 M40i, Infiniti QX70, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz GLE Photography by Lee Bailie
As is the case with many coupes, the Infiniti Q60’s appeal is largely an emotional one and for good reason – it is a damn good-looking car. From its flowing, muscular lines that bulge at the haunches, to its large front grille, sleek headlights and tail lights, every detail of the Q60’s exterior is designed to entice and it’s difficult to not feel drawn to its handsome proportions from the moment you lay eyes on it. While it does bear some familial resemblance to its forebear, the gone but definitely not forgotten G37 coupe, the Q60 is much more closely related to the Q50 sedan with which it shares a platform and drivetrains. Like the Q50, the Q60 is available in Canada in three basic configurations, with three engines mated to a single seven-speed automatic transmission. The former is also available as a hybrid and has an extra mid-level trim, but the powertrain offerings for the non-hybrids are the same. The base Q60 (2.0t AWD) comes with a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (208 horsepower / 258 lb-ft.) mated to a seven-speed automatic. Next up is the 3.0t AWD, which gets a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 (300 / 295), and the range-topper is the Red Sport 400 AWD which gets more output (400 / 350) from the same engine. As you may have guessed, Canadian models are AWD-only but, like the Q50, RWD models are available in other markets (in the U.S. the Q60 is available in 10 different models). My tester, a mid-range 3.0t finished in electric indigo blue, is stocked full of standard content for its $52,990 MSRP. The only option box ticked here is for the driver assistance package ($2,000), which adds a suite of collision-mitigation tech (forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, predictive forward collision warning, blind spot warning, back-up collision intervention with rear cross-traffic alert, etc.), rain sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors and an around view monitor. Inside, the well-stocked and finished black interior features heated leather seats, a heated leather steering wheel with power tilting / telescoping, dual touchscreens (8-inch upper, 7-inch lower) that govern navigation, satellite radio and various climate functions, and an 11-speaker Bose audio system. There’s more, but you get the idea. The Q60 is filled with the amenities one would expect in a $50,000-plus car. While there is a lot to divert one’s attention from the road, Infiniti designers have included redundant hard keys (thank you!) and a rotary console knob to make the car’s systems less distracting and easier to navigate. The controls are, for the most part, easy to locate and easy to use with a little time spent behind the wheel. Same goes for the multitude of steering-wheel buttons, although fiddling with them while the car is parked to get a feel for what they do isn’t a bad idea. The snug cockpit offers a good degree of comfort and adjustability. The seats are quite comfortable and offer good support, which makes an ideal driving position easy to configure. On the road, the Q60 3.0t offers a reasonably engaging driving experience. The 3.0L VR-series V6 offers impressive off-the-line acceleration, with lots of useable torque at the low end (peak torque begins at just 1,600 rpm) and enough mid-range power to make short work of on ramp passing maneuvers. Once the turbos are fully engaged, the Q60 is a pretty fast car indeed. The drive mode selector has five different settings (standard, eco, sport, snow and customize) that enable the driver to tailor the Q60’s performance to his / her preference. During my time behind the wheel, I spent most of it toggling between standard and sport (eco kills performance, so I chose to skip it for the most part), and while throttle response and a rev bump made sport the most engaging mode, the Q60 is also reasonably pleasing to drive in standard. The steering receives the benefit of Infiniti’s not universally-loved Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS), an electronic system designed to improve road feel by boosting effort, thereby reducing required input for a more precise feel. The system is most noticeable in sport and sport plus (available only on the Red Sport 400), but to me it doesn’t feel a lot different in normal driving situations. Might it make a difference on a track or an autocross course? Perhaps. I drove a U.S.-market RWD Q50 on an autocross course during that car’s 2016 press launch and it did help the car turn and rotate through corners, although the RWD set-up was also a contributing factor. It's all rather moot anyhow because the Q60 isn’t a track car. It is, however, designed to appeal to those looking for a stylish, well-equipped near-luxury coupe that offers a quiet and comfortable ride with enough power yet doesn’t break the bank. As for the negatives, there's not much beyond the usual coupe trade-offs: large c-pillar blind spots, small back seat and long doors that can make parking a hassle. The joys of owning a coupe- I know them well. At any rate, I'd say Infiniti has solidly hit the mark with the Q60. The Q50 offers similar performance and content for less money, but it doesn't come close in terms of sex appeal. The Q60 is the clear winner there. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Infiniti Q60 3.0t AWD BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $52,990 / $56,985 (incl. $1,995 destination) ENGINE: 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 HORSEPOWER: 300 hp @ 6,400 rpm TORQUE: 295 lb-ft. @ 1,600 – 5,200 rpm CURB WEIGHT: 1,768 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 12.4 / 8.8 / 10.8 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 100,000 ALTERNATIVES: Audi S5, BMW 435i xDrive, Lexus RC 350 AWD, Mercedes-Benz C 43 4MATIC Photography by Lee Bailie
The presence of the QX30 in Infiniti’s lineup is a reflection of two modern automotive realities: one, there are never enough SUV / crossovers in the showroom (especially in North America) and two, it really doesn’t matter how they get there. The latter point is worth keeping in mind when discussing the QX30, a compact crossover that is the product of Renault-Nissan’s technical alliance with Daimler AG. The QX30 and its hatchback sibling, the Q30 (not sold in North America), are based on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class (W176) chassis and utilizes the same engine and transmission found in Mercedes cars built off that platform, including the GLA-Class, the smallest crossover sold by the German marque. While its mechanicals aren’t bespoke Infiniti, the styling is. All exterior body panels are unique to the QX30, and while the interior does carry rather obvious GLA items (switch gear, ignition port and graphics stand out), Infiniti designers have done a reasonably good job of separating it from its Mercedes counterpart with unique details that are in line with the brand’s design language. It should also be noted that all QX30s are built at a Nissan plant in Sunderland, England. For the Canadian market, three models are available: base, AWD and Sport. All are equipped with a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine (208 horsepower / 258 lb-ft. torque) mated to a 7-speed multi-clutch (MCT) automatic transmission. Although it starts at just under $36,000, the average transactional price is likely much higher because of a surfeit of attractive add-ons consumers will likely check off when ordering. To wit, I recently drove an AWD tester ($38,490 MSRP) that’s loaded with more than $8,000 worth of options. Now, there is a lot there for the money (10-speaker Bose audio, 7-inch navigation touchscreen, LED headlights and foglights and a suite of collision mitigation tech among others), but all this stuff will push the QX30 well past $50,000 once taxes are included. Could you find better value for your $50,000-plus? I think so and that could be a problem for the QX30. To my way of thinking, the $50,000-range is a bit too much for a compact crossover (even a luxury one) with very light off-road capability, average performance, a tight back seat and limited rearward visibility. Observed average fuel economy wasn’t awful (8.8 L/100 km) but it wasn’t great either, a reality that becomes more concerning considering the 2.0L turbo runs on premium fuel only. On the plus side, the QX30 offers a reasonably comfortable ride, a well-finished interior (washed-out orange backlighting notwithstanding) and handsome styling. And the performance? It’s okay, but not great – even in Sport mode, although in fairness to Infiniti, most buyers considering the QX30 probably aren’t looking for neck-snapping acceleration and great handling. And yes, I am aware that in comparison to other compact crossovers, the QX30 is competitive in terms of pricing, performance and value. Still, if it were my money and I wanted to stay in the Infiniti crossover family, I’d opt for the slightly larger QX50, which comes with more room, more power and standard AWD for $500 more than the QX30 AWD. Bottom line, the QX30 offers good value at the low end, but given consumer demand for premium content these days the base grade isn’t likely to hold much appeal for those wanting more features and better performance. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $38,490 / $48,635 (incl. $1,995 destination) ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. HORSEPOWER: 208 hp @ 5,500 rpm TORQUE: 258 lb-ft. @ 1,200 – 4,000 rpm CURB WEIGHT: 1,505 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 7-speed multi-clutch (MCT) automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY.): 10.6 / 8.0 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 100,000 ALTERNATIVES: Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA Photography by Lee Bailie
As much economic sense as a Jaguar SUV makes in 2016, it’s still a bit hard to wrap one head’s around the notion of a sport utility in the lineup given the company’s history as a maker of exciting saloons and roadsters, yet here we are. Based on the C-X17 concept first revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013, the F-Pace is built on Jaguar’s new modular Lightweight Aluminum Architecture shared with the compact XE sedan with which it also shares a basic platform, engines and transmissions. Like the XE, the F-Pace is mostly made of aluminum (80 percent of body structure). As of now, Jaguar claims it’s the only SUV in its segment to utilize an aluminum moncoque passenger compartment. Magnesium is also being used for some parts such as the cross-car beam. For the Canadian market, the F-Pace is offered with two engines, a 2.0-litre turbo diesel (180 hp /318 lb-ft.) and a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 (340 hp / 332 lb-ft.), both of which are mated to an 8-speed ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission. Available in four trims – Premium, Prestige, R-Sport and S – each equipped with a rear-biased all-wheel drive system with torque vectoring, the F-Pace ranges in price from $50,900 to $67,900, which puts it squarely in the middle of the luxury SUV market. The mid-range black R-Sport tester I got my mitts on recently starts at $59,900 but is loaded out with almost $8,000 worth of options, including a driver assist pack ($3,100), which adds a surround camera system, park assist, 360-degree parking aid, traffic sign recognition, adaptive speed limiter and adaptive cruise control. Other options include 20-inch blade 5-spoke grey wheels ($500), heated windshield ($400), and a comfort & convenience package ($1,900) that adds heated and cooled front seats, reclining rear seats, remote rear seat release and a gesture tailgate. As one might imagine, all this extra stuff makes for a very comfortable ride that can be tailored to suit just about any driving style with Eco, Normal and Dynamic modes available. Dynamic bumps the revs and sharpens throttle response – especially when the rotary gear selector is switched to S – the others less so, especially Eco, which trades dull performance for improved fuel economy. A snow mode is also available for deep snow and gravel. The drivetrain works marvelously, with the 3.0-litre supercharged six emitting a recognizable Jaguar snarl at start-up and under acceleration while the ZF eight-speed shifts gears seamlessly. Bumps were soaked up nicely by the double-wishbone / integral link suspension and the steering feels direct and responsive. The AWD system is a torque-on-demand set-up first introduced for the F-Type. Designed in-house, the system features Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD), which is rear-biased yet can transfer torque to the front wheels seamlessly depending on road and weather conditions. The system is designed to maintain a rear-wheel drive performance character, yet can also adapt on the fly as driving conditions change. Based on my experience – mostly dry conditions – the F-Pace felt like a high-performance sedan, albeit one with higher ground clearance and extra cargo capacity. Inside, the F-Pace feels like a Jaguar – modern and well-stocked, with pleasing detail touches that don’t feel trendy or over-designed. Clean and classy, in other words. Hard keys are in abundance if, like myself, you’d rather not cover the infotainment touchscreen in greasy fingerprints. Seat and steering wheel adjustment controls are where you expect them to be and aren’t fussy to use. Navigation telematics aren’t the most dazzling, but they work fine and the abundance of steering-wheel mounted functions are fairly easy to navigate. The F-Pace is quite roomy front and back, and my tester came with a foot-swiping gesture tailgate (handy if your arms are full) and remote rear seatback releases (also quite handy) to improve accessibility. Overall, the F-Pace feels like a well-designed, well-engineered and well-built SUV that establishes a new beachhead in a category Jaguar needs to be in if it wants to really expand its footprint in the luxury segment. And, in North America at least, the market is warming to it. Despite only being on sale since May, the F-Pace is already the bestselling Jaguar in both Canada and the U.S. With so much success under its belt already, it’s not hard to imagine more SUVs being added to the Jaguar portfolio. Soon. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Jaguar F-Pace BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $59,900 / $69,325 (incl. $1,375 destination) ENGINE: 3.0L supercharged V6 HORSEPOWER: 340 hp @ 6,500 rpm TORQUE: 332 lb-ft. @ 3,500 – 5,000 rpm CURB WEIGHT: 1,821 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 8-speed ZF automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 13.3 / 10.0 / 11.8 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: Audi SQ5, BMW X4 M40i, Lexus RX 350 F Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 4MATIC Photography by Lee Bailie
The Ford Escape moniker has only been around for a short 16 years, but in that time the model has seen the changing of the times reflected in its own design, largely thanks to technological advances in Ford’s corner. Up until the 2017 model, the third generation Escape was available with a base 2.5L naturally aspirated inline-four engine and two EcoBoost options: a 1.6L and a 2.0L. In 2017, the 1.6L was replaced by the 1.5L EcoBoost found in the test car seen here. While some SUV/CUV owners might scoff at the idea of an engine with less than two liters of displacement, one would be foolish to discount the prowess of the Escape’s tiny EcoBoost. Admittedly I was skeptical at first, but a short drive from pick-up location to the office proved that this little engine had ample power. Having maximum torque (177 lb-ft.) at 2,500 rpm certainly lends to the peppiness of the platform. The Ford Escape has become Ford’s second-best selling model in North America, and even the best-selling SUV / CUV in Canada in 2015 for good reason. The Sync 3 infotainment system combined with Sync Connect, offers drivers a level of creature comforts and amenities that at one time were exclusive to luxury brands, all accessible via an optional voice-command system if you so desire. The interior is comfortable, and as a year-round CUV driver myself, it feels oddly familiar for a car so different than my own. Should you choose not to opt for the voice-command function, every control for driver comfort is easily reachable and user-friendly. The touchscreen infotainment hub is easy to navigate, and allows driver and passenger alike to view navigation and audio output information simultaneously.  Exterior aesthetics have been upgraded as well, thanks to reshaped LED taillights and a new hexagonal front grille, like the Ford Edge. The face-lift isn’t purely for looks, either. Improved aerodynamics, coupled with insulated doors and B-pillar, make for a smooth ride free of excess wind and road noise. If I was in the market to upgrade my current CUV to a newer model, it would be foolish of me to leave the Ford Escape off my list. After spending a week with the car, it’s hard to imagine anything else in the category proving more practical, efficient, and fun all at the same time. The Escape has certainly proven to be an enticing option for any potential CUV buyer. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Ford Escape SE 4WD BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $29,399 / $38,139 (incl. 1,690 destination)ENGINE: 1.5L EcoBoost I4HORSEPOWER: 179 @ 6,000 rpm TORQUE: 177 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpmCURB WEIGHT: 1,668.3 kgCONFIGURATION: Front engine, 4-wheel driveTRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic w/ SelectShiftFUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM – CITY / HWY / COMB.): 10.7 / 8.3 / 9.6WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000ALTERNATIVES: Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4 Photography by Adam Gordon
During the last auto show season, Mercedes-Benz Cars chief Dieter Zetsche said the next 12 months would be the year of the ‘dream cars’ at the German automaker with several new and refreshed coupes and cabriolets due to be rolled out. Now, I’m not here to suggest that the SLC (formerly the SLK) roadster can’t be an exciting car of one’s dreams, but I think the real dream car Zetsche was talking about is the AMG S 63 4MATIC Cabriolet. And rightly so – from its sleek profile, to its plush interior and overabundance of amenities to its AMG performance and stratospheric price tag, the S 63 Cabriolet is the embodiment of a dream car. With a base MSRP of $193,600, the S 63 Cabriolet is truly in rarified air. My tester even more so, as Mercedes-Benz Canada elected to pile on more than $8,000 worth of options. In short, if exclusivity is your thing, this is your car. Through Oct. 31 Mercedes-Benz Canada has sold only 878 S-Class cars total. Individual numbers for each model aren’t available, but the S 63 Cabriolet likely accounts for less than five percent of that figure – you can probably count each Canadian sale with your fingers and toes. The S 63 Cabriolet is true feast for the senses – it’s almost sensory overload, to be honest. Power is derived from a hand-built AMG 5.5L biturbo V8 that produces 577 horsepower and 664 lb-ft. of torque and drives all four wheels through a 7-speed multi-clutch (MCT) automatic transmission. Although not designed for track days, with that much power under your right foot the S 63 Cabriolet is blindingly fast if you mash the gas pedal: 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds with an estimated top speed of 300 km/h. It’s as fast as you want it to be, but the AMG-ness of this car isn’t the story – the sumptuous luxury is. The S 63 Cabriolet is designed to cater to your every whim, whether you wish to change the ambient interior lighting or turn on the AIRSCARF to warm the back of your neck when the top is down, or see 3D renderings of your surroundings on the 12.3-inch navigation screen, this car is here to serve. Just as a dream car should. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Mercedes-AMG S 63 4MATIC Cabriolet BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $193,600 / $209,050 ENGINE: 5.5L biturbo V8 HORSEPOWER: 577 hp @ 5,500 rpm TORQUE: 664 lb-ft. @ 2,250 – 3,750 rpm CURB WEIGHT: 2,185 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 7-speed multi-clutch (MCT) automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 16.4 / 10.6 / 13.8 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: Audi R8 Spyder, BMW M6 Cabriolet, Jaguar F-Type SVR, Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS Photography by Lee Bailie
The 2017 Ford Fusion Sport is not what I was expecting – at all. To say that this car snuck up on me is an understatement, and I mean that in a good way. The Fusion – Ford’s best-selling car in the U.S. and second best-selling car in Canada – received a mild design refresh for ’17 and the Sport is part and parcel of that update as a new trim option. Slotting in near the top of the model range – only the Fusion Energi Platinum plug-in hybrid has a higher MSRP – the Sport comes with a long list of standard equipment and an emphasis on performance. Speaking of, the Sport is the only Fusion equipped with a 2.7L EcoBoost V6. Power output is rated at an impressive 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft. of torque (asterisk – those numbers are achieved with 93 octane or better fuel). Mated to the EcoBoost V6 is a six-speed automatic transmission that drives all four wheels. The Fusion Sport also receives a suspension upgrade with antiroll bars, stiffer springs and continuously controlled damping that varies from soft to stiff depending on set-up and road conditions. The system is capable of detecting potholes to the point where sensors can adjust damping rates in milliseconds to lessen the jarring impact. As one might expect, the Fusion Sport also gets wider P235/40R19 Continental ContiProContact performance rubber wrapped around 19-inch tarnished dark alloy wheels. A rear deck lid spoiler and quad exhaust outlets complete the sporty look. Inside, the Sport offers a comfortable interior loaded with amenities, among them supportive leather seats with Miko suede inserts, SYNC 3 infotainment system, leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters and carbon fibre appearance trim inserts. On the road, the Fusion Sport has plenty of performance. A sport mode button in the middle of the rotary gear selector (which reminds me so much of current Jaguar products) bumps the revs, sharpens the throttle response and produces a pleasing exhaust growl. The ride is firm, but not uncomfortable which makes it quite a pleasant cruiser in everyday driving conditions. In short, the Fusion Sport is an enticing option for those looking for a good balance of comfort, style and performance. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Ford Fusion Sport BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $42,288 / $44,488 (incl. $1,650 destination) ENGINE: 2.7L EcoBoost V6 HORSEPOWER: 325 hp @ 5,500 rpm TORQUE: 380 lb-ft. @ 3,500 rpmCURB WEIGHT: 1,558 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 13.5 / 9.0 / 11.5 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000 ALTERNATIVES: Honda Accord Touring V6, Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited, Toyota Camry XSE V6 Photography by Lee Bailie
Hyundai is known for many things – practicality, affordability, value, fun-to-drive – but performance usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about the Korean auto giant. Well, as we learned earlier this year at the North American International Auto Show with the reveal of the company’s forthcoming N performance brand, that perception is likely to change in the coming years. I’m not here to suggest that the soon-to-arrive 2017 Elantra Sport is in any way connected to what we’ll eventually see from N, but the car does make me wonder about what’s to come because the Elantra Sport is a pretty impressive performance car. To me it’s a small performance car done right, and what convinced me of that is not solely its performance profile, which has solid credentials, but rather the manner in which Hyundai is packaging it. What I mean by packaging is the Sport has lots of bespoke content that isn’t available on other Elantras, and it starts under the hood where Hyundai has removed the 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle four-banger used across the rest of the range in favour of a 1.6-litre, direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque. Same goes for the available gearboxes, where the 6-speed manual available on the base car is joined by a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). The latter is unique to the Sport. The Sport is also loaded with unique design details that separate it from other Elantras including, among other things, a unique black chrome front grille, standard HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, dual chrome exhaust outlets, and 18-inch wheels wrapped in Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2 high performance tires. The inside is similarly treated with several unique design cues including a heated, flat-bottomed steering wheel, Sport embroidered leather and heated front seats with extra side bolstering, sport instrument cluster and alloy pedals, among other details. Earlier this week, Hyundai Canada made two pre-production copies (one manual, one DCT) available to a small group of auto journalists for the purposes of thrashing them around a parking lot autocross course in suburban Toronto. Because my total seat time was less than 15 minutes and didn’t include any on-road driving, my impressions are somewhat limited, but here are a few takeaways from my brief encounter. First, the Sport’s handling feels very tight and dialed in while being driven hard. Body roll is well-controlled with minimal understeer. Good news for any front-driving car. Once again, credit Hyundai for swapping out the stock suspension in favour of a sturdier set-up with an independent multi-link rear suspension and thicker front and rear stabilizer bars. The steering gear ratio has also been adjusted for shorter lock-to-lock and a more direct feel. Second, the six-speed manual (I didn’t have time to drive the DCT) works beautifully with the 1.6L turbo. The clutch is smooth and easy, shifts are quick and precise and acceleration is quite responsive. As I said, the autocross course gave me only a pinhole perspective of the car. It’s lots of fun to whip around cones in second gear, but how it performs in normal (and less spirited) driving circumstances is something I have yet to experience. That said, the Elantra Sport feels like a winner to me. As one of the Hyundai public relations reps said to our group, it’s not designed to be a Civic Type R or Focus RS challenger. Fair enough, but it is an intriguing option for those who are in the market for a compact car but want more performance. For those buyers, the Elantra Sport is well worth considering, especially when Hyundai’s high-content, affordable price strategy is taken into account. As I said at the outset, in order to be successful special models need to be clearly separated from the rest of the line and Hyundai has achieved that with the Elantra Sport. I look forward to driving it again once it arrives on the press fleet later this fall for a more thorough evaluation, but in the meantime I can say there’s a lot of car here for the money. That value proposition, combined with its performance, ought to please potential buyers and worry the competition. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport BASE PRICE: $24,999 / 26,499 (DCT) ENGINE: 1.6L Turbo GDI 4-cylinder HORSEPOWER: 201 hp @ 6,000 rpm (est.) TORQUE: 195 lb-ft. @ 1,500 – 4,500 rpm (est.) CURB WEIGHT: 1,380 – 1,390 kg (manual), 1,410 –1,420 kg (DCT) CONFIGURATION: front engine, front-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual, 7-speed DCT FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY.): 10.7 / 7.8 (manual), 8.9 / 7.0 (DCT) WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000 ALTERNATIVES: Honda Civic Touring, Nissan Sentra SR Turbo, Volkswagen Golf GTI Photography by Lee Bailie
GREENSBORO, GA – It would be hard to overstate the significance of the Rogue to the Nissan’s success in Canada – you can reasonably say that Nissan Canada’s fortunes are directly tied to the sales of this compact crossover. With more than 29,000 units sold through Sept. 30, the Rogue is Nissan’s best selling car in Canada by a wide margin and now accounts for roughly one third of the company’s sales north of the 49th parallel. With a strong sales history firmly established, Nissan is making a number of changes to the Rogue for 2017, but the one thing that will soldier on unchanged, at least for now, is the powertrain. This means the 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder engine continues to produce 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft. of torque, and is mated to Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). What has changed rather significantly, however, is the Rogue’s styling. Among the exterior highlights is a new front fascia with integrated fog lamps, bumper and, Nissan’s prominent front design cue, the V-motion grille. New headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED boomerang signature tail lights are also standard issue across the model range, and the topline SL Platinum trim gets new 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels as standard equipment. Inside, Nissan ups the ante with a new D-shaped steering wheel, leather-wrapped gear shifter and new door and instrument panel materials that have a more upmarket look and feel. New features that are bound to find favour with Canadians include standard heated seats across the range, available remote engine start and an available heated steering wheel, the latter being a first for the Rogue. On the people-moving front, the ’17 Rogue offers available three-row, seven-passenger seating on SV models equipped with the Family Package, which also includes run flat tires (on 17-inch alloy wheels). Nissan’s clever Divide ‘N Hide cargo system designed to separate wet and dirty cargo from the clean and dry is also standard across the range. On a recent press event in rural Georgia, I had the pleasure of driving a range-topping SL Platinum AWD version, which comes loaded with plenty of premium content. Among its many standard features are leather-appointed seats, NissanConnect navi with a 7-inch touchscreen, Bose audio with nine speakers, memory seats and mirrors, 19-inch alloy wheels and a motion-activate power lift gate (optional on the SV). A full suite of safety / collision mitigation tech is also standard kit on the SL Platinum, including intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning and forward collision braking with pedestrian detection. All of these are new-for-’17 features. As one might imagine with this much premium content, the SL Platinum is a very comfortable crossover to cruise around in, both in city and highway traffic conditions. The ride strikes a nice balance between comfort and handling and the acceleration, while not neck-snapping, is certainly more than adequate for normal driving situations. Cabin noise is also generally well suppressed, with engine noise only intruding during hard acceleration. In, all the 2017 Rogue brings a refreshed look and plenty of new content to the table that should ensure it remains one of the best selling crossovers in Canada. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $25,248 / $36,598 ENGINE: 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder HORSEPOWER: 170 hp @ 6,000 rpm TORQUE: 175 lb-ft. @ 4,400 rpm CURB WEIGHT: 1,635 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: Xtronic CTV FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 9.6 / 7.4 / 8.6 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000 ALTERNATIVES: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 Photography courtesy of Nissan Canada  
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Who holds the world’s closed course record? A.J. Foyt

On May 13, Bill Elliot got behind the wheel of a hopped up Mustang in an attempt to set some kind of lap record speed at Talladega. The publicity surrounding this stunt was just another chapter in the sad history of unwarranted claims surrounding “closed course” speed records.

This car had already been taken to Bonneville in an attempt to record an official speed there. Apparently, the car ran one way at over 252 mph but it failed to make the mandatory return run and, hence no official speed was established for the car at Bonneville.

Now the car was reconfigured so that it could run at speed at the Talladega Superspeedway. The press release said that they “would attempt to break the 22-year-old NASCAR speed record held by Bill Elliott. Elliott himself will pilot Hajek’s E-85 Mustang FR500C, which has been reconfigured to NASCAR specs, at Talladega in an attempt to break his 212.089 mph qualifying lap from 1987 at the same track. FIA officials will be on site to verify the attempt and to validate the record.”

The claim that Elliott was going to set some new “NASCAR speed record” has to ber patent nonsense. The only way Elliott could set a new NASCAR record would be if he were to run a NASCAR-legal race car in an official NASCAR event – like he did back in 1987. This Mustang running in a private test session met none of these criteria. What the FIA officials were going to validate is a mystery to me – they wold be limited to verifying the speed that was recorded – since there seems to be no kind of FIA record that Elliott could set.

Already, Elliott’s NASCAR record had been bettered here by a NASCAR driver in a NASCAR race car. On June 10, 2004 Rusty Wallace, driving a Penske Dodge race car without the NASCAR-mandated restrictor plate, set a 216 mph lap. Faster than Elliott’s record but it did not meet the requirements to make it a NASCAR lap – even though NASCAR officials were there and they certified the lap speed..

Anyway, this latest publicity stunt ended badly. Elliott went out for a few practice laps and a tire failed sending the car into the wall. Any thoughts of setting speed records are now on hold.

Is there such a thing as an official “closed course record”. Actually the FIA rules has such a category in its regulations but I can’t find any reference to a closed course record in their lists of world speed records. I think any claims to “closed course records’ have to be considered as unofficial – even if the speed has been recorded by an FIA approved authority. (Since I am making the point here that many “closed course record” speed claims are erroneous in some way or other – I should acknowledge that my assertions may be flawed as well even though I believe they are correct.)

Back in the late ‘90s a number of very fast qualifying records were set in the CART series, first at Michigan International Speedway and later at the California Speedway at Fontana. The fastest of these lap records – 241.428 mph – was set by Gil de Ferran at Fontana in 2000. Sloppy journalists and publicists tend to refer to these speed records as “closed course records” without qualification. Actually higher closed course lap speeds had been recorded long before this. These CART speeds stand as record race qualifying lap speeds – and, as such, de Ferran’s lap speed is remarkable.

Going back to Talladega, in 1975, Mark Donahue drove the Can-Am Porsche 917/30 to a lap speed of 221.160 – a true “closed course record”. That’s faster than Wallace’s speed and I believe it still stands as the fastest lap recorded at Talladega. If Elliott wants to set some kind of record with his Mustang, that’s what he should be shooting for.

Mercedes-Benz had an experimental sports car project called the C-III with which they preformed many high speed runs at Nardo, a 7.8-mile circuit in southern Italy. The CIII-IV version was built to beat Donahue’s record and it succeeded, setting a new record lap speed of 250.918 mph in May 1979. Note that this was twenty years before de Ferran set his 241 mph qualifying lap record at Fontana.

But a four-cylinder Olds engine mounted in the rear of a streamlined Indy car chassis went even faster; propelling A.J. Foyt to the current closed course record. Running on the 7.7-mile Firestone test track at Fort Stockton, Texas, he recorded a 257.123 mph lap speed. To the best of my knowledge this still stands as the fastest ever lap run on a closed course. I suspect that this “record” is unofficial for lack of the required FIA supervision of the record run.

Good luck to Bill Elliott. I hope that he betters his old 212 mph at Talladega. I even hope that he beats Donahue’s 221 mph Talladega lap record. But, please, no more talk of him setting some kind of “closed course record” NASCAR-style or not.

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