Kathleen Wynne’s New Year’s Resolution

I remember my father pulling into the Canadian Tire gas bar, and before he came to a stop, an attendant was at his window asking if he wanted ‘regular’ or ‘high-test’.  Without any more conversation, the windows of his car were cleaned and the oil level checked.  If memory serves, gas was about $0.35 a gallon, and a fill-up could cost about $2.50.

Today, we ask ourselves if we want to endure standing in the cold to pump our own fuel, and brave more of the nasty winter winds to clean our own windshield.  Cars don’t consume oil like they used to, even though we should still check the level at every fill-up.  Fuel, up until a few short weeks ago, was $1.30 per litre, and to fill the tank in my moderately sized sport utility cross-over vehicle, was $80.00 Continue reading

2014 Mazda 3 GX vs 2014 Toyota Corolla CE

Today is the battle of the light weights (low curb weight, excellent fuel economy, inexpensive to operate), while they’re heavy weights in the automotive world (biggest market segment), especially in Canada.  The compact arena is a smack-down, blow-out, take no prisoners fight, where customers often purchase their first brand new car. A manufacturer like Toyota needs these customers to be happy so they can put them into a Lexus in 30 years.

So let’s take a look at the lower end of the compact scale, which doesn’t mean low-end in terms of amenities and features.  What would a prospective purchaser look at, and likely buy? Continue reading

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It’s that time of year, when the Toronto Maple Leafs have been eliminated once again from the playoffs; where we rapidly transition from 100cm of snow on the ground to sunny days and temperatures in the low teens within a week; and we shift from snow covered roads to construction clogged detours.

Sounds like it’s time for the New York Auto Show. Continue reading

A Long Drive Alone Saved My Life – Road & Track

A Long Drive Alone Saved My Life – Highway K – Road & Track.

John Krewson wrote an excellent column on the solitude of driving in the April edition of Road & Track magazine.  Time was, we were tethered to the outside world by an AM radio; that was about as connected as we could get.  Sure, I like to be able to dictate (hands-free, of course and always) to Siri to create a reminder to, “Take in my son’s jacket to the dry cleaner at 10am tomorrow to be mended”.  She/He/It obediently records this to my calendar, syncs it across all of my devices, and will remind me at the appointed hour to get to the dry cleaner.

As Apple debuts ‘CarPlay’ (no ‘i’ in car, I suppose), Mr. Krewson writes about the therapeutic value of driving alone, and how the occupation of your mind with “constant, low-level thinking” while driving allows the rest of your brain to process other random thoughts. Continue reading

Category Busters

As a new year begins, and the automotive press works through its “best of” lists to close out 2013, I can’t help but wonder about the year that wasn’t.  We don’t have an affordable electric vehicle that will travel more than 200km on a single charge.  We don’t have a charging system that will top up that battery in the same time as it takes to fill up an internal combustion engine powered vehicle. Continue reading

The city that never sleeps

I love New York.  Go to New York to get lost in the crowd, or be found by 10,000,000 other souls.

Like Frank Sinatra, I like to wake up in the city that never sleeps, especially to go for a run around 7:30 in the morning. Sundays are particularly quiet on the roads, which I share mainly with taxis, black cars and police cars.  Dog walkers wrangle their charges around the various poles and obstacles.  Shop keepers scrub the sidewalks outside of their establishments. The city gradually awakens to a new day. Continue reading

Los Angeles 2013 Day 2

A calm settled over the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 21.  Much of the media had exited the building, and the vehicles and booth staff were far more accessible.  A few more vehicles from the hundreds on display:

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2015 Audi A3 Sedan

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2015 Audi A3 Convertible

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The oft-rumoured, but yet to be produced e-Tron, this time in A3 form.

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The revised 2014 Hyundai Elantra

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e-Golf EV

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado, due Fall 2014

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2015 Cadillac Escalade, debuting spring 2014

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2015 Porsche Macan, due Spring 2015

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2014 Kia Soul, arriving imminently.

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Fiat 500 1957 edition

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Nissan GT-R Nismo edition

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Nissan Sentra Nismo concept

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Infiniti Q30 crossover, due 2015

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And, just because, the Bentley Flying Spur

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Bentley Mulsanne

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Bentley Flying Spur

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Bentley Flying Spur

The press conferences were entertaining.  Audi is a brand on the move.  Their sales are increasing every month, for the past 35 consecutive months.  They’re targeting sales of 200,000 units by 2018, and the A3 will help them get there.  They can leverage technology and cost savings from the Volkswagen group, as does Bentley, Porsche, Lamborghini and the other marques under the Wolfsburg umbrella. Audi took a shot at Infiniti for re-booting their brand.  BMW took a shot at the early reviews of the Mercedes-Benz CLA for its quality not being at a premium level.  Porsche acknowledged the hue and cry by existing owners over the introduction of the Cayenne and the Panamera, as not being true “Porsches”.  It’s a reality that the 911 will never sell in the volumes that Porsche needs to be viable, and the Cayenne is its most successful model.  That position will be supplanted by the Macan.

Despite demonstrating fuel cell vehicles by many manufacturers over the years, Hyundai is introducing a hydrogen-powered Tucson in the spring of 2014.  It’s already on sale in the UK.  It holds all the promise of an electric vehicle, but refilling the powerplant will only take about 10 minutes and the only emission is water.  One can argue that it takes more energy to produce hydrogen than you’ll get out at the drive wheels, but we’ll leave the arguments about the energy equation of hydrogen for another day.

All-in-all, the show demonstrated optimism, and delivered an upbeat message.  The manufacturers think that the future is bright, and if car sales are any indication, so does the consumer.  I think the battle in the days ahead will not be so much the vehicles themselves, but the entire ownership experience; from the first contact with the dealership to how the customer interacts with the car.  The manufacturers that can convince their dealerships that the entire purchase life cycle must be carefully managed will be the ones that survive.