2017 Chrysler Pacifica

I figure it was the right thing to do when Chrysler reinvented the Pacifica for 2017.17Pacifica-9

Remember the previous incarnation? Big station-wagony vehicles from the mid-2000s, when that configuration was all the rage; kind of along the lines of Ford’s long-dead Freestyle (later briefly the rebranded as the Taurus X) that didn’t exactly revolutionize the market during its existence.17Pacifica-12

This new version, though, having morphed into a more ‘minivan’ configuration by the addition of proper, sliding rear side doors is at once more practical as the family-hauling all-purposer that anything like the Pacifica is intended to be.

The new Pacifica replaces the Town & Country, Chrysler’s former luxury family van (which is, basically, a prettied up Grand Caravan with more tech toys) and holds up the high-end ambitions of its predecessor while managing to be both better looking and more exciting to drive.17Pacifica-10

Three rows of seating – with a third row that is more accessible than what you find in most of the 3-row SUVs that a lot of buyers choose over minivans – inside a quiet and comfortable interior, quality upholstery and in-car Blu ray entertainment system for the denizens of the rear rows make the Pacifica a good pick for long trips.

It offers plenty of spots for passengers to store their cups and toys and sundry gear, and USB charging ports for phones and devices; and a panoramic moonroof overhead.17Pacifica-3

The best place to be in the Pacifica, though, is up front – preferably driving. The steering is, while not exciting, competent and controlled, with an ample feel of connection to the road through the (in the case of the one I test-drove) 20” wheels and tires.

‘It is a lot of money for a minivan, or a lot minivan for the money; depending on your perspective’.

A heated steering wheel and seats – which are also ventilated, a great feature in the summertime – were appreciated during my time in the Pacifica; along with the ability to set the car up to turn both functions on automatically when the vehicle was remote-started on cold days, so as to make the first sitdown in the morning more tolerable during Edmonton winter.

I like the suspension and I like the ride; the brakes performed fine and the powertrain is ample and refined. Employing a 9-speed automatic transmission coupled to a 3.6 litre engine capable of 287 horsepower, the Pacifica has enough get-up-and go to meet most reasonable demands for power; whether off the line or at highway speeds.

The console is kept uncluttered by doing away with a stick to operate the tranny – gear selection is done through a rotary knob – and most onboard functions accessed through the big touchscreen at the top of the console.

Overall, the Pacifica of 2017 is an improved, forward-looking exercise in style and practicality that I enjoyed in most respects.17Pacifica-2

The major drawback is obvious – check the sticker. The one pictured here, which included additional optional equipment like a metallic paint job, the aforementioned entertainment package and 20” wheels and tires, trailer equipment group and hands-free power liftgate, drove the pricetag to a jaw-dropping $62,340

We will see if the Pacifica fares better in its new shape than it did in the last outing – this is a lot of money for a minivan, or a lot minivan for the money; depending on your perspective.

 

 

 

2017 Tundra and Tacoma

A Tale of Two Toyota Trucks that Start With T

It is a misconception that the people of my bucolic Western province only drive pickup trucks, whether they be hard-workin’ roughnecks on their way to the oil patch or accountants clogging up the streets downtown as they search for a parking spot near the accounting office. A total falsie, I say, though a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that (the truth, of course, is that many also drive three-row sport utility vehicles. So there).

Anyway, my snide commentary aside, there is of course a reason for this, and I had the chance recently to remind myself that the higher ground clearance and four-wheel drive systems of such vehicles is, on many days out here, a really desirable thing.17Tacoma02

2015 Tacoma TRD Pro

I drove Toyota’s pickup pair, the popular Tacoma midsize and its larger sibling, the Tundra, nearly back-to-back during a couple of weeks of weird weather. Freeze and thaw, accompanied by ridiculous amounts of snow that in turn froze-and-thawed until every day provided exciting new challenges and conditions on the road.

Neither vehicle is especially radically changed for the new model year, You’ve seen the Tundra before, and can find a longer piece here about the Tacoma’s changes back in 2016

The 2017 Tacoma I used distinguished itself with its TRD Pro package – a $12,850 option that adds a number of features to boost the overall robustness, in addition to the many TRD badges you find all over the vehicle, inside and out (and there are a lot of them, on skidplate, mats, doors, tailgate; you won’t forget what you driving).17Tacoma04

The TRD Pro also gets a non-functional hood scoop, from the Sport trim of the Tacoma lineup, Bilstein shocks and TRD tuned front and rear suspension.

Overall, it is a great truck, don’t get me wrong, certainly overkill for my purposes; and it shows off the highlights of the Tacoma platform, and brings the same detractions (my least favorite being the entry-and-exit through the front doors. It is just a weird combination of the door shape and the steering wheel position that makes it awkward to get in and out of, and not just for taller drivers).

Carrying a formidable reputation for reliability and resale value, and with full off-roading bona fides and equipment (I love the Crawl Control system Toyota has made available on the truck) the TRD is a great truck, on paper and on the road; its mostly a question of how much you want those TRD Pro badges, as it comes at a price. My test vehicle, which began life as a Tacoma 4×4 Doublecab (3.5 litre V6) at a starting point of $40,455 was pushed to a steep $55,183 with the TRD Pro package.17Tacoma05

I know if I were shopping for one, I’d consider that the truck already has everything I want (and the same engine and transmission, as well as the aforementioned crawl control and electronic and entertainment features) and opt to save myself the fifteen grand.

2017 Tundra 1794

My time in a Tundra is much the same story; that of a solid truck that has consistently demonstrated reliability and quality, bedecked with some special-label accoutrements that add to the bottom line.IMG_6634

This one was a 1794 edition – which in a nutshell is a Tundra 4×4 CrewMax-cab ‘Platinum’ trim (with 5.7 litre iForce V8 and a six-speed automatic) with a bunch of badges.

The 1794 option group gets you, basically, more wood-grain on the dash and leather on the wheel and seat inserts, a chromed bumper and grille, 1794 badges, and brand-emblazoned floor mats. That aside, what is underneath is basically the Crewmax Platinum.IMG_6635

You know what I found absent, though, is that for all that you still don’t get keyless start.

Now, you tell me if the price is acceptable, but the 1794 is still priced lower than a F150 King Ranch (but just between you and me, gentle reader, I like the interior of the King Ranch more) and the package doesn’t add greatly to the price.

The 1794 edition only ups the price of the regular ol’ Tundra Crewmax Platinum by a couple hundred bucks (unlike the TRD Pro package on the Tacoma). Before taxes and fees, a 2017 Tundra 1794 starts out at $58,790

2017 Lincoln Continental Reserve

17 Continental-8You know, if there is any fit contender from manufacturers on this side of the Atlantic to go up against the best of Germany as the global purveyor luxury/premium/status vehicles, it is this latest Lincoln.

This is just a wonderful car to drive, or be driven in. Plus, it sports the best-looking grille currently in the Lincoln lineup.

A North American rival to popular richmobiles like BMWs 7 Series (or the latest generation E-Class from the dominant player in the market, Mercedes) the 2017 Continental brings every accoutrement and high-end touch that rich people like you and I be expecting when shopping for our limos.17 Continental-7

This is the second opportunity I’ve had to experience the car, so I won’t rehash the whole schlemiel (here’s a longer piece here from the introduction of the Continental)

Suffice to say, it holds its own in terms of comfort, power and an overall fit and finish worthy of anything in the class.

My test car was a loaded Reserve trim sporting the optional 3.0L twin-turbo powerplant (the six-cylinder 3.0 adds $3000 to the bottom line) and the option packages that even cars playing the premium luxury game seem to require in order to truly deliver on their promise.

The truly excellent Revel Ultima audio system is a part of Luxury Package (as are premium LED headlamps), and I love it – this is top-flight audio reproduction right here; and the Technology Package is desirable for the active park assist and pre-collision safety suite.

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A couple submenus into the user settings, you’ll find the full range of configurations for the front row.

For my money, though, it is the seats that make the Continental as desirable as it is. The driver’s perch in particular offers highly adjustable tailoring of the setup and seat bolstering (and of course a massage feature – test drive a Continental Reserve just to experience this, I tell ya).

On a more pedestrian note, I also benefitted more from the AWD system this time around, driving as I was in Alberta winter instead of the California sun.

Regardless of the conditions, the reinvigorated Continental rides well, shows off responsive and quick steering (and powerful acceleration, though there wasn’t much chance to appreciate the 400 horses of the three-litre six).17 Continental-13

The upsides are pretty evident with the 2017 Continental: its comfort and overall roominess, the available tech and smooth drivetrain. This is just a wonderful car to drive, or be driven in. Plus, it sports the best-looking grille currently in the Lincoln lineup.

Potential detractions are equally straightforward – this is a big car, with a big turning circle and overall footprint; and it is neither fuel-economical (the company rates it at 14.4L/100 km in the city with this engine, I got about mid-sixteens overall in winter conditions) – and while it competes, pricewise with similar vehicles from Audi, Merc and Lexus, I don’t think you’ll be shocked to learn that the final buy-in is correspondingly steep.

This one, starting from a jump-in point of $60,500 for the Reserve, rolled up to $75,050 with the addition of the aforementioned packages and engine, along with the standalone panoramic moonroof option.

An Alltrack for All Seasons

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Photos supplied by VW Canada

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack 4MOTION

A winner in its class at the recent Canadian Car of the Year event and now in the running for the overall title, Volkswagen’s 2017 Golf Alltrack is an all-round contender.

I’ve had the chance to take the car out a couple of times, most recently just as winter began to settle in out here on the lifeless tundra where I make my home; and also during last year’s Test Fest (I was one of the evaluators for the ‘large car’ class, the category the Alltrack was entered in).

The wagon-bodied Golf was up against some stiff competition in the group from notables like Toyota’s redesigned Prius, Kia Optima (both Hybrid and non) and Chevy’s Malibu (Chev also entered both a hybrid and a gas-only version).17Alltrack-4

I had the Alltrack ahead in most of the category scores, notably the more boring columns that boring guys like me care about – occupant environment, visibility, ride comfort, that type of thing – and also the cargo handling and access that a hatchback wagon offers.

The Alltrack didn’t let me down on its more dynamic aspects, though, posting the second-best 0-100 km/h times on the track (and more importantly, it nailed the shortest stopping distance in the group of contestants, going from 100 to zero in 40.4 meters.17Alltrack-3

The handling and general behavior of the Alltrack are very good, for a wagon-bodied family car, and what it loses in maneuverability on a cone-course on dry pavement it makes up for with VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive system when the weather turns and snow starts piling up on the roads.

It is a robust, all-season runabout that feels more surefooted and confidence inspiring, with ample power and traction.

ajacAlltrack

Photo supplied by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada

The major stats: a 1.8 litre, four-cylinder engine capable of 170horsepower (and 199 lb.-ft. of torque) combined with a six-speed transmission and the aforementioned AWD. The body sits atop 18” wheels and the 2017 Alltrack comes with a pretty long list of standard features (my favorites being keyless start and a 12-way power driver’s seat).

Mind you, at the MSRP that my Edmonton test car came with, it should be pretty loaded, but to really flesh the car out, a few more option packages were required (a Xenon headlight system, park assist, forward emergency braking and a Fender aud17Alltrack-5io system).

The Alltrack was the priciest vehicle in its class at the CCOTY tests (mind you, it was also the only all-wheel drive vehicle) at $38,215 (even the entry level is over 35K), and this, and fuel economy (10.6L/100 km and 9.4, city and highway respectively) were it s main detractions.

Nevertheless, the 2017 Golf Alltrack is the Best New Large Car of the year, and a top-three contender for the overall title (it is up against the BMW M2 and Hyundai Elantra). We’ll know the results on February 16, when the official announcement will be made at the Toronto auto show.

2017 Mercedes-Benz E 300 4MATIC

17E300-11This is the time of year that makes having AWD on you luxury car worthwhile. Up here in our delightful Edmonton home (the Paris of the Prairies™) the weather turned foul and a really eye-watering wind blew with it shifting snakes of snow, all over the gosh-darn place.

I had an E Class the week it all began, and right away appreciated it 4MOTION powertain as kept all four wheels under strict electronic management. The best thing about a well-nannied setup like the one in my test Benz is that its constant intervention keeps a driver from making a lot of the fool maneuvers we all mock when we see some lightweight who forgot how to drive in snow.17E300-9

Anyway, my point is, it kept me out of trouble during my time in the car, and allowed for a relaxed frame of mind to enjoy what Benz is all about: a really sweet interior.

My fine sedan, a 2017 E300 (and I should mention that there are two E sedans, the other is the E400, bigger engine) is the tenth generation of the marque, touted by Mercedes as being simultaneously the most technologically-saturated, highest tech yet.

And seriously, the company provided a .pdf that, if printed out and laid end-to-end, would stretch from here to the surface of the Sun; so rather than put us both through that, dear Reader, I’ll just abbreviate my favorites.

The keyless start (or KeylessGo, as the company calls it), along with engine stop/start are a couple of features I like in any car, the large screen atop the center console has variable display modes for every onboard function, and Benz claims to have simplified the operation of their central-command pad. And you know, that may be 17E300-7true, but I still find the mouselike, large-knob-and-palm-pad arrangement to be, uh, not super intuitive; and certainly not less distracting.

17E300-5

Seriously, I love the lighted accent along the lower dash in the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E 300 sedan

It is a beautiful looking controller, though, as is everything inside the E300 cabin. The speaker grilles, the buttons, the layout and lighting are ready for any museum of modern art display. An illuminated strip rings the dash and door panels in a wonderfully understated piece of cabin accenting that makes the car an even more atmospheric drive at night.Comfortable seats and driver’s position I take for granted in any Mercedes product, and the adjustment range should accommodate most anyone. The ride is also typically Benz, seamless and smoothly quiet in any of the drive modes.

The E 300 runs the smaller of the engine options, with a 2.0L powerplant that certainly didn’t disappoint or leave me wanting more. Of course, I didn’t get too ‘dynamic’ with the car in my time in it (because of the snow o the roads, you will recall) but really, the potential output (241 horse, 273 lb.-ft. torque) can’t be called underpowered.

17E300-3

The main controller takes some getting used to, like many similar premium-car systems. I wouldn’t say I like it better than Lexus’ Remote Touch, but I wouldn’t say I like it less.

Overall, though, the E sedan is all about looking good and dropping hints of status. Fitting into the Benz family between the C Class and stratospheric S, the car brings the feel of a luxury lifestyle; despite any esoteric eccentricities (or maybe because of them – perhaps it makes the car seem all the more exotic).

 

Now, enjoy the specs on the specific vehicle I drove, go ahead and check out the (very) long list of standard features.E_300_4MATIC_Sedan_2017-WDDZF4KBXHA033918 (1)

Bottom line on this particular collection of premium build quality and options:Screen shot 2017-01-25 at 2.33.15 PM

 

 

2016 Rear-view Review

… and just like that, a new  year is upon us! That went by fast, eh?

And while the newest vehicles are all the rage, let’s not forget that 2016 offered some great advances (and in may cases, minor tweaks) to virtually all manufacturer lineups.

Not everything featured here are 2016 models (a lot of 2017 product came early this year), but this can often be the best time to shop them; hoping for some tasty year-end discounts as dealers clear their lots to make room for new stock.

Here, then, are a few models I had the good fortune to try out in the past year (in no special order, I am not necessarily ranking them in this list):

2016 Honda Pilot

pilot1Redesigned and prettied up for 2016, Honda’s big family hauler boasts improved fuel economy, better diving dynamics and a Top Safety Pick rating from IIHS.

My Touring trim test model showed off cavernous interior space, 3-row seating and a smooth engine/transmission pairing. Oh, and a rear-seat widescreen Blu Ray entertainment system for the kids.

My major critique is the same as with the company new Civics, namely that I am not fond of the touch-screen interface that dominates the center console.

2016 Mustang GT Convertible

I feel conflicted about including the GT in this piece, as I am normally moved toward more economical vehicles with a more affordable buy-in; but I had the cloth-domed drop-top Mustang for a week of nearly perfect weather.GT-3

As a real-life, year-round ride it wouldn’t make sense for me (I come from the land of ice and snow, you see), but as a guilty pleasure two-season fun machine, the manual transmission and heavy-horse 5.0 litre engine may help justify the test vehicle’s sixty-thousand dollar pricetag.GT-6

Faster than any reasonable street car needs to be, boasting extra flash with its (optional) triple-yellow tricoat paint, complemented by ‘yellowjacket’ upholstery and with what must be every option-box checked on the order form, this car makes its statement.

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Night at the Museum

zinc

Ford research engineer Mica DeBolt (r), and executive chef David Omar of Zinc restaurant pose for a photo in the back of a C-Max Energi vehicle; surrounded by many of the ingredients of the Sustainability Feast held in October.

Ford Motor Co often gets overlooked when people are naming carmakers who put a focus on recycling and environmental concerns; but the company has been a leader in the field since long before it became a topic of everyday conversation.ff3

I’ve visited the Rouge Plant in Michigan, and surprised at the level of recovery and ‘green’ technology they have made a central part of the operation; I’ve attended presentations about their extensive use of recycled materials for insulation and filler and seat upholstery (back in 2008 the company put out the first Mustang that incorporated soybean oil-based foam in the seat padding, you may recall).

Research continues constantly, and Ford occasionally takes its PR out into communities to spread the word – which is what they did this October in a clever event here in Edmonton (and several other cities across the country) billed as the Sustainability Feast.ff1

Hosted by up-and-coming research engineer Mica DeBolt, and catered by local food impresario David Omar (the executive chef at the Zinc restaurant downtown), the event showcased not only the latest ideas from the Blue Oval, from the use of organic materials throughout the company’s lineup to forward-looking partnerships in the future.

I didn’t know, for example, that Ford is exploring partnerships with Jose Cuervo (for re-use of material from the agave plants that tequila is made from) and Heinz in Ontario (for tomato plant material recovery, obviously).

Hosted at the new Art Gallery of Alberta (while it has actually been around for a few years now, I still think of it as the “new” gallery, because I am way behind in my cultural experience), the event presented the attendees with food as well as information.ff2

All of the dishes featured ingredients that can also be found in Ford’s vehicles – soy, rice, wheat, edamame, corn, and various derivatives thereof.

 

 

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2016 Toyota Prius

Like a lot of car writers from across the nation, I am looking forward to the Auto Journalists Association of Canada’s annual Test Fest next week; where the entrants will be pared down into their respective class winners (and from the pool of survivors, one will go on to become the Canadian Car of the Year).

I haven’t driven all the contenders in every class prior to the AJAC event, but I have driven a few. Here is a look at some of my favorites, prior to the upcoming Test Festprius-ajac-photo

The new look Prius is a solid competitor in the Full-Size Car group this year, where it is up against Malibu (hybrid), Optima HEV and Volkswagen’s Golf Alltrack.

Prius brings its natural Toyota advantage to the contest – the proven hybrid powertrain that revolutionized the world since its introduction nearly twenty years ago.

There’s a reason it is the best-selling hybrid of all time, but with the redesigned body and enhanced balance and aerodynamics, Prius now makes a case for itself as a really good-looking car as well (‘cuz let’s face, one of the most common arguments against the vehicle in the past has been its appearance – “ugly” was a word I often heard applied).

I loved the car before, because I am a fuel-economy freak; but when I first saw the latest generation unveiled in Frankfurt last year I loved it even harder.

Here’s a gallery of one I drove this summer – which differs slightly from the model entered in the CCOTY contest in that this one is equipped with Toyota’s ‘Upgrade Package’, whereas the formal entrant will be one with Technology Package.

This one, with upgrade package, came with a sticker price of $28,661 including freight charges; but that doesn’t include any hybrid-rebates that may be available, depending on your area.

Soon We Will Be Ever So Safe

teslapostHear me out here – is this an actual problem? People leaving kids in their cars to the point where more children are being done-in this way than by sharks and marbles combined?

It all began innocently enough yesterday morning, when my broski Gary Grant posted on the Book of Faces™  a link to a story on some website, all about how Tesla has promised a forthcoming, all-new-strata of safety nanny systems.

(gonna make us all Safe again, at least according to a cryptic tweet from Elon himself cited in the story) – a super intelligent system that actually runs the A/C while the vehicle is turned off, if it thinks you may have left your kids in the car.

My response was:

“Or! Or!

Mofos could try not forgetting their children in the car.

Perhaps employing some sort of sophisticated ‘counting’ algorithm, or maybe an old fashioned roll call like:

“Hey, li’l Bobby (or whatever), are you ready for dinner, or are you slowly suffocating in the car?”

I mean seriously, mang, how in the shit does that even happen. How is this a thing that has grown so far out of control that it that requires the f**king carmakers to intervene?

Totally makes sense to me, right? And I obviously thought that was the end of that, my friends – but no!

A bunch of rational people joined in, and tried to make it *not* about going off on some internet rant; but I refuse to play dat.

You down with me on this one, fellow citizens? You feel?

Now, let’s take this to its logical extreme, so I can get on with my life:

teslapost2©Wade Ozeroff 2016