AJAC EcoRun 2016

Kingston

photo by Jeff Wilson/AJAC

(Ottawa, ON) Alright, I knew going in I wouldn’t win the contest, lead-footed feller that I am. I am not a hyper-miler, my gentle friends, but I gave the EcoRun Challenge a fair go this year.

(You’ve heard of hypermiling, right? The practice of squeezing every last kilometer out of every drop of fuel, mostly by driving incredibly slowly and getting rid of every bit of extra weight and aerodynamic drag on a vehicle to reap some pretty astounding economy).

I’m not quite willing to go to those kinds of extremes – I didn’t fold down the side mirrors or shave off all my body hair to save the extra weight and dump my pocket change and empty my head of heavy thoughts – just simply drove a variety of vehicles according the best practices of economical driving habits, as outlined by Natural resources Canada.EcoRun7

The basics of it are pretty straightforward – keep your speed down (although I never drove dramatically under the limit, ‘cuz that’s just ignorant), avoid sudden bursts of acceleration, and above all: keep it smooth.

I didn’t win the coveted Green Jersey, of course, but I’ll tell you that by sticking to the spirit of the event I got better fuel economy than usual. In fact, everybody did; from every vehicle that was entered in this year’s Challenge.

Porsche

The lineup was as diverse as it gets at the 2016 EcoRun, running the gamut from hybrids and pure electric vehicles to a high-falutin sports car and a diesel pickup. Photos by Jeff Wilson/AJAC

It was a diverse field of entries this year, too, featuring not only what you may expect in a fuel economy contest (hybrids, plug-ins and pure electric vehicles Like Nissan’s Leaf), but straight-up gasoline powered vehicles as well – including a pickup truck and a full-on sports car.

Heck, I averaged 7.0L/100km in the Chevy Colorado Diesel pickup on my run in it, which is way less than the projected number from NRCan (10.3L/100 km), and the 2017 911 Carrera entered in the contest by Porsche achieved an overall score of 7.8L/100km, which is incredible.

Fact is, every entry in this year’s EcoRun got better economy numbers than their various manufacturers state on their window stickers; which shows you what a change in driving habits can do.ColoradoDiesel

Check it out for yourself – here is a link to the overall scores of all the cars in the group, 27 of them in total.

This is the fifth year that the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada has put on the EcoRun, and the first time I have participated in it. The event moves around the country, but this year came home to Ontario where we ran a rout from Toronto to Ottawa, driving different cars on different legs of a journey that rolled through Belleville, Coburg, and Kingston.

We drove on highways and backroads, we drove in cities and towns. We drove through Ottawa’s downtown during rush hour, which is something I don’t recommend; but is a great chance to operate in EV mode if your vehicle is equipped for it.Ottawa

I didn’t drive everything that was entered, of course, two days is actually a pretty short time, but in everything from Fiat’s cutie-pie 1957 edition 500 to Toyota’s RAV4 (hybrid) I beat the projected FE, and so did everybody else.

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Allie Marsh, the Event Coordinator of AJAC’s fifth annual EcoRun, demonstrates the connection of Hyundai’s Sonata plug-in hybrid.

And again, I didn’t do anything particularly special or scientific on any of my drives. Kept it within five of the limit, no fast passing or erratic maneuvering and above all smoothness, whether accelerating, braking or changing lanes. I didn’t run the A/C for the most part, and kept the windows up most of the time to reduce drag, but really nothing anyone couldn’t do.

Indeed, my only regret is that there wasn’t enough time for me to drive Toyota’s Mirai vehicle, the only hydrogen-powered auto entered in the EcoRun, but Lesley Wimbush of Postmedia did. (Disclosure: I know Wimbush, and I am totally using the massive popularity of my site to plug the fine work of a broski. Or sisterski as is the case here).

As said, I didn’t win the contest (wild-eyed hypermiler Jim Kenzie did. I suspect he may have shaved off his body hair, as his coefficient of drag felt abnormally low when I shook his hand).

What I did, though, was got an up-close look at what a difference driving style makes in any car, for anyone.

AJAC’s EcoRun doesn’t declare a winner among the autos entered, as it would be somewhat contrary to the spirit and point of the event (and also difficult to categorized, as obviously pure electric cars would be the most efficient, not burning any gas and all, and how would you evaluate a fuel cell vehicle against a diesel pickup, for example), but among the gas-electric powertrains, as you no doubt expected, Toyota’s Prius, Hyundai’s Sonata plug-in and Ford’s C-Max Energi hybrid did the best.

The thing is: what the EcoRun proves is that with optimal driving habits, everyone’s a winner.

2016 Ford C-Max SE

2016CMax-11Still one of my favorite North American gas/electric autos – and the first from Ford to take to the roads when it was launched back in the early 2000s to challenge Toyota’s supremacy in the segment – the C-Max hasn’t changed much for the 2016 model year.

My test vehicle the past week has been an entry level C-Max Hybrid (not to be confused with the C-Max Energi, which is also a hybrid but is a ‘plug-in’, in that the battery pack can be recharged from an external source) and frankly I don’t know why I don’t see more of these on the streets; in proportion to the number of Prius variants.

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The C-Max meets, and in some parameters defeats, its Japanese rival when compared to the ‘regular’ Prius (notably front and rear headroom, horsepower and overall cargo volume) and provides a comfortable daily-drive car that suits a variety of purposes; and comes at a competitive price.

The SE trim is the entry model for the marque, and brings the trappings you’d expect of a ‘base’ trim: cloth seats, a lot of plastic and not a lot of high-tech creature-comfort toys and tech.

There is no blind-spot monitor on my SE, for example, or a backup camera, a couple of features that I like but I can’t get too worked up about it at this price; the way I would if, say, it were a Lexus IS that didn’t include them.

There’s no digital speedometer, either, but the C-Max cluster puts the analog display right in the center, where it is easy to acquire with a quick glance; and to either side are variable digital information displays; from compass and fuel economy graphics to odo/tripmeters, temperature gauge and Ford’s ‘leaf’ animation that rewards you for efficient driving practices.2016CMax-7

Visibility is good in all directions from within the cockpit, as is headroom, and the seats, though cloth-upholstered and extremely limited in adjustment, are comfortable enough for longer drives. You know what I find, also, is that the driver’s seat position actually feels a lot better than I find in Prius. The steering wheel doesn’t impede my entry/exit from the vehicle when I have it tilted to the point I like.

2016CMax-3The seats are heated, the C-max comes with cruise control and Ford’s hands-free rear hatch opening feature; and of course delivers sweet fuel economy and lower emissions that a conventional car. The company’s numbers state mileage of 5.6L/100 km in city driving, and I seem to be doing better than that thus far with 4.8

‘Hybrid’ powertrains are still my favorite way to travel, as far as environmentally friendlier, lower-emission cars go, rather than fully electric vehicles; simply because I like the security of having the gasoline engine available, should the battery run down.

C-Max boasts a potential output from the combination – a 2.0L gasoline engine and lithium-ion battery pack – of 188 horsepower and 129 lb.-ft (same as you’ll find in Ford’s larger Fusion Hybrid).2016CMax-15

All around, there isn’t much to dislike about the SE trim, or its price ($27,674 for this one, with $1600 worth of options), but I will point out that Consumer Reports hasn’t been fond of the car’s overall reliability, calling it “below average”.2016CMax-13

©2016 Wade Ozeroff

2016 Mercedes Metris

It isn’t the first cargo van from the luxury manufacturer – the Metris joins its larger brother the Sprinter in the Mercedes lineup this year.Metris4

Smaller and not as tall as the well-known Sprinter, Metris seeks to compete with similar working vehicles (Ford’s Transit 150 and the Nissan NV are the first ones that pop to mind) for the hearts and minds and fleets of people who need a versatile and customizable hauler for serious business. This is not your ‘family van’ right here.

I got the chance to tool around in a tester model last week – not quite the entry-level Metris, but pretty close to base; and it makes a case for itself as one to be considered for businesses and trades people, with solid underpinnings and voluminous cargo capacity inside a highly customizable space.

An interesting thing with the Metris is it is one of the few in its class to employ a small four-cylinder powerplant (and maybe the only one, the NV and Transit use V6 engines). Boasting a potential 208 horses, and 258 lb.-ft of torque that apparently comes on at a low 1300 rpm; the turbo two-litre lurks beneath the short hood of the Metris and dispenses its power with all the smoothness we expect from a Mercedes product.

The vehicle drives and handles well, of course, as it benefits from the same stability control systems that keep the much taller and top-heavy Sprinter stable and upright, and it corners superbly (for its size and shape) and holds up well on bumpy roads with a comfortable-yet-solid suspension.Metris12

The engine felt good and fully capable to me during my time in it, accelerating effortlessly and predictably; but I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t have a load in the vehicle, at least nothing that would put it to a torture test.

The company claims the Metris is capable of towing up to 2250 kilos, which may have led to different impressions; but I don’t have anything to tow, nor do I have 1135 kg of tools or toys to stress-test the stated cargo bed payload capacity.

No indeed, my test Metris was a stripped down two-seater with nothing in the back but a vast empty cube of 5270 cubic litres of highly configurable space.

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The front seats – the only seats – are comfortable (and heated) Benz-quality perches with drop-down armrests that face a dash that will be familiar to fans of the German manufacturer’s cars; ditto the steering wheel.

With my test model being near-entry level, there were lots of blanks where buttons would go (buttons that would operate things like a navigation module, for example), but there was a digital speed-display option among the choices on the information display.

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This is an interesting feature of the Metris – the filler door can’t be opened or closed without opening the driver’s side door.

Paddle shifts adorn the steering wheel, for use with the manual-shift mode the automatic transmission offers (there also comfort and eco modes), and while the steering column is tilt-able, it does not telescope.

Overall, there’s a lot of high points in the new-for2016 Metris, but let me offer a few of the more salient lows:

I know I keep saying my test-Metris was nearly a base model, unadorned as it was, but the thing is, it wasn’t completely the entry-level.

Building on the starting MSRP of $33,900, this one included nearly three grand worth of packages, and frankly still came up wanting in a couple of key areas.

Even with the Cold Weather package, Convenience package, Lighting package and Basic Window Package (and you really want this, trust me, without the side and rear windows, all-round visibility from the driver’s seat is not good, as you can imagine) and some stand-alone options; the van still lacked a couple of things I figure are must-haves in this modern age.

No backup camera, for example. No blind-spot monitors or parking sensors either. Seems like a stark omission to not include these extremely useful features at some level of the packaging that has already been added to the one pictured here; especially at a price of $40,485 (with freight and delivery charges).Metris3

©2016 Wade Ozeroff

 

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

2016Elantra-16 You know, before I found the digital speed display in my 2016 Elantra test vehicle, I was all set to say that only the lack of this (one of my favorite features in any car) kept it from being a serious challenger to Honda’s latest Civic.2016Elantra-4

But then I found that the car is, in fact, capable of showing a digital speed readout (in a big, easy-to-acquire location right between the dials, which means a driver need never take their eyes off a straight line).

You summon up the display by scrolling through the submenus with the wheel-mounted buttons until it appears on the information display between the gauges, dead center and easy and quick to read, just the way I likes it).

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Elantra side-by-side with Honda’s 2016 Civic sedan.

So anyway, the summary (if I may give away the ending prematurely) is that with that one final detail discovered, the 2017 Elantra is in fact a full on competitor to the current Car of the Year; at least when similarly equipped.

I recently had the chance to drive the two back-to-back, and after being wowed by the Honda (there’s good reason the latest generation Civic won the COTY title, in several different forums, from Motor Trend mag to our own Auto Journalists Association of Canada).

My test model was a not quite top of the line issue, a Limited trim. The only option above is the ‘Ultimate’ package, which is basically the Limited with some additional safety features (lane departure, HID headlamps, autonomous emergency braking among them).

The thing is, though, that 2017’s Elantra – which is at dealerships as we speak – shows off an ever-improved ride and better sound-insulated interior on a platform that has been gathering accolades for years now.

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With a refinement of its exterior that has benefitted the car with improved aerodynamics (also improved styling for the curb-appeal that it needs to keep up with the restyled Civic, which is a thing of beauty), and the leather-upholstered interior of my Limited trim test car; the Elantra not only stands head-to-head against all comers in the ‘entry level’ market but outdoes a few pricier and more status-festooned marques.

The Korean compact*, for example, boasts more passenger and cargo volume than Audi’s A4 or the Acura ILX, and I can tell you from experience that my Hyundai sports a better package of technology and convenience features that Lexus’ IS300 F-Sport.

It may not have the horsepower numbers of those more rarefied vehicles, but things like park assist, a rear backup camera, blind-spot monitor and my beloved digital speedo elevate the Elantra into their league.

This one is no slouch, either, by the way, and while it isn’t designed or marketed to blow a driver away with raw acceleration and big engine noise; the new 2.0 litre, Atkinson cycle engine of my test car pushed out a respectable and more-than-adequate 147 hp (and 132 lb.-ft. of torque), and send it to the drive wheels through a fluid 6-speed automatic. It drives well; it handles smoothly and demonstrates very good steering and braking.2016Elantra-2

I don’t have a lot of criticism for the new Elantra, frankly (I’m not super-disposed to the color of the leather upholstery of the one I drove for this story, but check the photos and see what you think).

The price may be a factor, though, as Hyundai has gone upscale with its MSRPs and is now competing closely with Honda across all trims.

My test car, and pricing of the Elantra Limited was announced recently at $26,249 before freight and taxes.

©Wade Ozeroff 2016

*I only said ‘compact’ for alliterative purposes. Apparently with its expanded interior volume, the Elantra qualifies as a midsize car).

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD 4×4

Riding high in the redesigned Tacoma, the little truck makes a case for itself as a single-solution working pickup that brings an urban-friendly size and passenger environment to a compact pickup platform.2016Tacoma-26

(Not that I am doing any actual work in this one, mind you; my lily-white hands remain soft and unblemished – but I saw enough hard testing at the debut of the 2016 that I have confidence in the Tacoma’s ability)

‘Compact’ is a relative term, of course – what are considered small trucks today are roughly the same footprint as the full-size pickups of the past (if you find yourself test driving a Tacoma, pull up beside older model F-150s and Sierras and see what I mean).

My test vehicle is perhaps the best configuration of Toyota’s available powertrain and cab combinations; an access cab model with four wheel drive and the larger of two available engines (and a new engine at that, at least for Tacoma, with a 3.5L six-cylinder replacing the four-litre of the previous generation).

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The 2016 Tacoma beside one of its ancestors. Note that the hood scoop on Sport trim models is still available.

The Atkinson cycle 3.5L powerplant, which Toyota is a segment-first implementation, raises Tacoma’s horsepower to 278 (last year’s V6 was rated at 236 hp)

It’s a torque-y and willing engine – in fact maybe a little too torque-y and willing – one learns pretty quick to keep a hard step on the brake when shifting into reverse or else it will attempt to lurch into motion with its potential 268 lb-ft; but that may be largely because I am driving the truck with no load in it.

This is actually the third time I’ve driven the latest generation Tacoma, and have seen up close the proof of its ability as an off-roader (at the recent Canadian Car of the Year tests at Mosport I drove it back-to-back against GM’s Canyon Diesel pickup, and found I scored the Tacoma’s ride and handling better).

Crawl control is a great option that comes with my current test-truck’s TRD Offroad package (a $2,475 option), the system essentially automates the four-wheel drive for controlled descents on steep and treacherous terrain, and will also dig itself out of sand quite effectively using its computers to control the spin of each individual wheel.

The Offroad Package is the only option on my test vehicle, and is pretty much the only package you need for a fully complete truck. Along with its addition to the drivetrain, it brings upgraded interior upholstery, heated seats, upgraded Bilstein shocks, all-terrain tires and keyless, push-button start.2016Tacoma-23

Of course, it also adds the cool TRD decal to the rear panels, as it does with the Sport package option, but what’s interesting is that with the Sport you get the (purely decorative) hood scoop; whereas my test Tacoma has a proper smooth/uninterrupted hood that I actually like better.2016Tacoma-21

Frankly, the Tacoma is mostly highlights for me; I don’t have a lot of complaints. It brings all the things expected in a light-duty work truck and can also play hard. It rides well on pavement and feels good inside the redesigned cabin. Especially with the TRD package, you’re treated as well as in the passenger compartment of most sedans.

The crushing lows, though, would be pretty straightforward, and most are typical of any truck (mostly owing to issues of size, turning circle, fuel economy), but a particular Tacoma trait is that getting in and out of the vehicle is difficult.2016Tacoma-25

This isn’t limited to Tacoma trucks, mind you, this is a Toyota thing with a few of their vehicles (I have the same problem with the Prius family, for example), but the positioning of the steering column and comparative tight doorway forces me to bend into yoga-shapes to get into the driver’s seat. Now, yes, the steering column is tiltable (and telescoping), and I could just lock it up out of the way when I exited the truck; but nevertheless I don’t like it. You’ll hear me make a similar complaint about the Lexus IS pretty soon, too.

That is about the extent of the downside, though, unless you don’t like the little fold-down seats in the back row of the Access cab, or the price.

This one I’m using though, this magnificent Inferno Orange sculpture, with six-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, and defined on the spec sheet as a Tacoma 4×4 Access Cab V6 TRD comes with a sticker price of $39,761 (and ninety seven cents).

On the Road: 2016 Toyota Avalon

Newly facelifted for 2016, sporting the family grille that defines Toyota’s lineup, my Avalon test car this week remains the rock solid flagship of the company.2016Avalon-34

Beneath the cosmetic appearance, the basics stay the same beneath the skin – engine, transmission, etc. carry over into the new model year, as does the borderline-luxury car feel of the passenger compartment inside the most full-sized of Toyota’s sedans.

My test vehicle, a top-line Avalon in Limited trim lacks very little in the cabin to separate it from true Premium segment cars; displaying comfortable and leathery seating surfaces, electronic creature comforts (and a suite of safety features).

2016Avalon-1It does lack a couple of things I would like to see though (specifically, my test car does not have a heated steering wheel, which makes me sad because it is freezing outside and I hate grabbing a cold wheel), but this brings me to a point:

I have this one friend who always points out that, as a spoiled media weasel, I may have become unrealistic in my expectations – I learned this when whining one day about some car that didn’t have keyless start (apparently, LOTS of people don’t have keyless start), so I don’t dare mention the lack of heated steering to him, for I will get no empathy.

That aside, my Avalon Limited (with no additional option packages) contains almost everything else one might want. Blind spot monitoring is one of the best warning and prevention systems that has come along in the recent past; a navigation app that displays both on the center console info screen and also in between the gauges over the wheel; where an animated arrow helps with turn-by-turn instructions.2016Avalon-18 2016Avalon-15

As with anything Toyota makes, all the controls are easy to understand and presented in a straightforward layout, from stereo to climate controls (and, conveniently, the climate controls are grouped separately on the center stack, so that they can be operated without going into sub-menus on the touch-screen interface).

The only feature on the vehicle that required a look at the manual was the inclusion of a wireless charger plate on the door of a center-console compartment – a clever bit of technology that will charge various phones and devices just by placing them on it, if the devices are compatible. (Incidentally, turns out none of my devices were compatible with the charger, and this is just one more thing that I can’t expect any pity from my friend over).

The Avalon rides beautifully and quietly, obviously a good highway cruiser, but thoroughly enjoyable in urban settings, too; and maintains its upscale feel with an engine that effortlessly handles acceleration with a potential 268 horsepower (and 248 lb.-ft of torque) behind the new grille; a 3.5 litre six-cylinder.

A six-speed automatic transmission is the only choice for Avalons, and handles itself well in any of the selectable drive modes (Sport, Eco or normal, depending on your preference). The car isn’t sluggish in any mode, and Sport peps it up noticeably in terms of accelerator response. It handles well in general daily operation, and brakes very well; the only real detraction, for me, is the rather ‘light’ feel calibrated into the steering.

That’s just me though, the steering is tuned to be appealing and comfortable for the broadest range of drivers (and remember: spoiled media weasel. Why, if it was up to me, everything would be as tight and instantaneously unforgiving as a high-end German sports sedan, and would of course also be heated. Don’t tell my friend).

With a cabin rivaling big-car competitors like Taurus or Impala for spaciousness (and naturally, Avalon provides the best rear-seat environment of any of Toyota’s car lineup), it is a car to be considered if you have a need for something this size; and don’t blanch at the price.

While it doesn’t push its sticker price into the big-bucks territory of the ‘true’ premium sedans of similar size, the Avalon isn’t a bargain buy, either, especially in the Limited trim of my test car.

This one, without options and before taxes, comes to $43,770 but check out your choices at Toyota.ca

Fact file
Trim level: Limited
Price as tested (before taxes): $43,770
Options on test vehicle: none
Freight: $1,660
Configuration: front-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5L 6-cylinder / 6-spd automatic
Power/torque: 268 hp/ 248 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (64L)
Fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 11.4 city, 7.6 hwy
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 12.8 over 231 km
Warranties: 3 years/60,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Chevy Impala, Ford Taurus, Lexus ES350, Nissan Maxima

Strengths: styling, quiet interior, smooth ride

Weaknesses: expensive, needs a couple more features

Report Card (out of 10):
Fuel Economy: 5 – I was using it in some punishing temperatures, so this is not the best I could have wrung from the V6
Equipment level: 8 – all the desirable stuff, some of the more esoteric flourishes of Premium cars.
Price: 7 – pricey, especially the Limited
Styling: 8 – Great new face and pleasing lines
Comfort (front): 8 – Good seats and lateral room.
Comfort (rear): 8 – the most spacious of any Toyota sedan
Handling: 7 – light steering feel, secure braking
Performance: 7 – plenty of power from the V6
Storage: 7 – similar to most full-size sedans
Overall: 7 – A solid, big-car offering from the top of Toyota’s lineup.

 

 

2016 Nissan Sentra

Editor’s note: Since my former publication, Autonet has been shuttered, and its archive gone dark and its former links unlinked, I’ma repost some of my favorite stuff here, lest history (and, yes, the world) be deprived of some valuable Wade Ozeroffin’.

Tell you what though, you can really appreciate the contribution of my former Powerful & Cruel Editors, as they would have caught most of the grammatical errors and removed all instances of foul language, blasphemy or weird humor that didn’t work from the raw copy.

I present you now: the first drive of the 2016 Nissan Sentra

2016 Sentra-3(Orange County, CA) – and also, did you know there is also a Tomato County, CA? Cool, huh?

Well, from the look of the neighborhood around me, everyone here makes a lot more money than I do.

Bolting out of Newport Beach in the mid-model refreshed Sentra, amid a slew of luxury sleds (from, literally, everywhere – I saw some Teslas, one i8, all the 911 family and innumerable Bentleys), the bread-and-butter mainstay of Nissan’s grip on the compact segment held its own on the roads, literally as well as figuratively.

It has been a renaissance for the company over the past couple of years, with the introduction of the in-house design language they’ve branded “Energetic Flow” showing up in the flagship Maxima and the latest gen Murano; with upgraded interiors and electronics beneath distinctive exterior styling; and the Sentra carries that forward.2016 Sentra-17

The changes are many and profound, though many of my favorite ones are less visible – the CVT transmission (Xtronic, in Nissan parlance) is now into its third generation and boasts a better-still cooperation with the 1.8 litre engine in terms of smoothness of shifts and projected fuel economy – and tweaks to the suspension and steering feel have made the 2016 version a must-drive tester for anyone shopping compacts.2016 Sentra-27

(Having said that, though, let’s not cheerlead for the continuously-variable autobox too much here – I did find the CVT response a little sluggish at low speeds, most noticeably on hills; and while I didn’t get to try the Sentra’s available six-speed manual transmission, I’ll wager I would prefer it. You can choose the stickshift with S and SV trims).

The company has done its job keeping up with the ever-increasing level of consumer expectation in the compact segment (hey, remember when a anyone expected from and entry level car was a steering wheel and maybe a radio?) and equipped the Sentra with a flight of features even at the base trim.

Speaking of which, Sentras will come in three basic trims when they arrive at Canadian dealers in early spring; SL, SR and SV all of which will include leather seating surfaces, Bose audio and very good driver’s seat (six-way adjustable, with lumbar support, I might add), a radar-based blind spot information system and the company’s NissanConnect telematics system, for external device interface and connections (one of the best functions of NissanConnect is its emergency preparedness function with an automatic collision notification feature stolen vehicle locator and automatic roadside assistance notification.

Externally, you’ll still recognize the vehicle from the outside, of course, there have been tweaks to the rear end but where Nissan is especially proud is the prow – the hood, grille and fenders are new, with an emphasis on aerodynamics via the V-Motion arrangement we’ve seen on the latest Maxima and Murano (and hey, tell me if you don’t see it in the upcoming Titan pickup).

2016 Sentra-23

Front row environment in the SL trim Sentra

The cabin’s environment has been enhanced with additional sound-dampening materials and a laminated glass in the windows that brings new levels of quiet to the cockpit; especially when you roll up the windows to block out the sound of the snooty luxury cars rolling up and down the drives and highways in Orange County.

The big takeaway from this, though, is that as carbuyers on a budget are offered an ever-expanding array of up-to-date technology (and I won’t even get into the driver assistance technologies here, but by all means get yerself a test drive in one when the latest Sentra hits dealers in the spring) this car is a major contender; and is poised for conquest in a hotly competitive market.

Pricing was recently announced for the models, and runs the range of econocar affordability; with an entry level S model (with that 6-speed manual trans) starting at $15,898 and most of the lineup staying under the promised 20K; although you can work it up to $25, 998 for the full-load SL with Xtronic.

Truth is, this car isn’t actually out of place in this neighborhood at all, and could be as at home in tony Newport Beach as it could in the brutal slums of Edmonton (er, for example, heh heh, nothing against my fine town) really should be experienced.

First Drive: 2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4 Spyder

Editor’s note: So you know what happened, eh?

The dang publication I wrote for, Autonet, folded up, and that makes me sad – mostly because all the links to their online presence have gone dead, but also because the shutdown came just days after I submitted what would turn out to be my last story for them – a Lamborghini launch!

Only time I’ve ever driven one, or sat in one outside of an auto show for that matter. I republish it here now for the enjoyment of you, my three readers, in the Auto Section at www.wozeroff.com

Huracan-9(South Beach, FLA) Well, ‘scuse me while I pwn the sky.

You know, I have always hoped that one day I would get to attend a launch of a true Supercar; and Lamborghini’s newest, the Huracan Spyder fits the bill.

A V10-powered combination of extreme styling and lightning quickness; eye-catching and track-ready with its light and low-slung body; cruising the streets of Dade County in the Italian masterpiece seems like the just the right farewell blowout for my final assignment with Autonet.

A sort of ‘last Hura’, if you can tolerate a final, delicious pun.

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CEO Stephan Winkelmann introduces the Huracan Spyder at the worldwide launch in Miami, 2016

Now, I don’t know if you are a supercar driving person in real life (heck, I’m certainly not), but the long and short of the experience is this:

610 horsepower running to all four wheels (that is what the 610-4 part of the nomenclature means, and Spyder of course indicates it is a drop-top convertible) through a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission; a fast-shifting dynamo of acceleration and high-performance steering, braking and handling that turns heads at any speed, even in the tonier neighborhoods of Miami.

I can tell you that it is as fast as you expect, exceedingly so (the company proudly states that the new Huracan will hit 100 km/h in 3.4 seconds, and I believe ‘em; and equally importantly, the car will brake from 100 to zero in 32 meters).

An exhaust note that changes noticeably as it blasts from the four tailpipes (along with the responsiveness of the 5.2 litre engine, and the feeling of weight in the steering) serenades me when I scroll through the three drive modes – ‘Strada’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Corsa’ which disables the traction and stability controls, which is scary and don’t do that – it sounds like the prestige powerhouse that it is.

It borrows a fair bit it from it family member from Audi, the R8, particularly the steering wheel layout (where the mode selector switch resides at the bottom of the wheel, and signal light switch mounted as a thumb-button) and cluster information display.

Where the Huracan (which I learned was named after a famous fighting bull, as are most of Lambo’s legendary cars) stands alone is with its unmistakable styling; which turns wind management and optimized coefficient of drag into art-gallery sculpture from nose to tail lamps.

Huracan-39You won’t confuse it for anything else, and the responses from casual observers and passersby were almost always positive. It is the kind of car that seems to make people happy just for seeing it  – primarily adolescent and arrested-adolescent boys, of course – and also elucidates a streak of competitiveness from confused people in Mustangs (for some reason Florida seems to be Mustang country, they’re everywhere here) who would rev their engines at me in an attempt to provoke a futile challenge they have no hope of winning.

An interesting feature of the Huracan is how well it rides on rough pavement. The suspension, while all about the sporty handling, deals with road surfaces with aplomb, soaking up what I know from experience would be  teeth-chattering bumps and asphalt cracks were I driving any of the 911 family.

Huracan_Spyder_Interior

Photo courtesy of Lamborghini. No way I’d get nice interior shots like this.

The two-seat cabin is a cross between ‘aircraft cockpit’ and ‘spaceship’, and a bit on the tight side, especially if you put the top up (and interestingly, the top opens-or-stows in 17 seconds, and Lamborghini states that can be operated at speeds up to 50 km/h, which is a first for convertibles I have been in.

Huracan_Spyder_Interior_DriverNow, you can get faster cars, and you can get more expensive cars (the mere $289,242 pricetag of the new Bull is actually competitive against a number the Huracan’s supercompetitors, including Ford’s GT) but this one is all about the cachet – buy one of these and people will automatically assume you’re One Percent.

And incidentally, if you want to feel like a real jerk, parade your Huracan through the poor neighborhoods of Miami where people are sleeping in the streets in front of shuttered buildings; which is what I did by accident when I tried to take a shortcut around some blocked roads.

The drawbacks of the Huracan are what you’d expect – really poor visibility in all directions (especially with the top up, though even down I found the windshield header was about eye level for me) and really uncomfortable seats. I drove both seat configurations and found that after about an hour I had to stop and walk around for a while.

So there you have it; but on a personal note (and at the risk of greatly exceeding my column length and pissing off my beloved editor, Angry Angry Dan just one final time) I just want to thank the excellent Autonet team I have worked with here for the past… oh, jeez, is it fifteen years?

But most of all you, Gentle Reader, especially the (few) who enjoyed my prose; and even more so those who took the time to write – especially the ones who corrected my grammar and word use. That’s the only way I learn, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me…Huracan-27

Wade Ozeroff 2016

Icketty Blumpkin

jackLook everybody: it is unpleasant musical footnote Jack White!

They actually let this guy be in a documentary with The Edge and Jimmy Page. Its on Netflix right now.

It turns out I am so disinterested I couldn’t even bother to research what he looks like, but it’s pretty much like this, right? Kinda mime-like?

Look, I’ll level with you, I only drew this because I am liking the drawing tools in the Adobe Ideas app on my iPod (which must take the place of my beloved ‘Artrage’ app, which for some reason won’t load anymore. Seems to have died after the last iOS update)