Look, I like avocados and all, but this trend of people paying big bux to have them smashed up and smeared on toast is just bizarre.
It’s also had some consequences.
Look, I like avocados and all, but this trend of people paying big bux to have them smashed up and smeared on toast is just bizarre.
It’s also had some consequences.
New profile and powertrains for the sixth generation
(Tofino, BC) I embrace any opportunity I get to visit beautiful BC, and it was a great chance when Buick rolled out to the Island for a road test in two of the company’s latest Regal sedan models.
The lineup was shy a couple of the trims this sixth generation offers – the FWD model wasn’t there, and as you may know, the wagon version of the global offering, the TourX, isn’t being sold in Canada.
What the event lacked in variety, though, it made up for in quality, as we got to finally drive the cream of the lineup, the Sportback and GS.
Two different powertrain combinations, both models rolling on Buick’s all-wheel drive platform; here’s a quick look at what was on hand:
You could consider this the slightly-above-entry level into Buick’s ‘attainable luxury’ world, a reasonably well equipped and appointed car that starts at an MSRP of just under 32K
Powered by a 2.0L inline-four cylinder engine capable of 250 horsepower and a sprightly 295 lb.-ft. of torque, which is put to the wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission in the AWD version I drove (the front-wheel drive models get a 9-speed auto)
Vancouver Island provides some wonderful driving roads, with a lot of twists and turns between Nanaimo and the west coast, and a good demonstration of the car’s pavement-handling abilities. Buick’s steering has improved dramatically from what you may be expecting if you haven’t been in one of their cars for a few years.
An electronic, variable-effort power setup, it keeps the impression of smooth and easy operation while maintaining the feel of being connected with the driving experience; without the ‘floaty’ sensation that characterized the company’s cars back in the bad old days.
Response is very good, and braking backs it up with four-wheel ABS
Overall, the Sportback doesn’t lack for power (and frankly, 250 horses is more than adequate for my needs), and I doubt a buyer will regret not moving up to the larger engine of GS trim; and fuel economy from the turbo two-litre makes a case for itself, aided as it is by an auto-stop function that turns the engine off when the Regal is waiting at a light.
Fuel frugality is a worthy consideration, too, especially out here where gas was closing in on $1.40 a litre when I visited.
The price goes up when a number of desirable options are added into the mix – the Sportback Essence I drove packed on an “Experience Buick” equipment group (which brings a power moonroof, infotainment system with HD radio, and 8-speaker Bose stereo) along with a Driver Confidence package and a red metallic paintjob.
The options brought the price up to $44,480 including destination charge.
This is the top-end for the Regal line, boasting the larger engine, sportier seats and a nine-speed automatic tranny.
(Pricing starts where my Sportback Essence tester left off, in the low forties).
The GS loads a six-cylinder engine into the platform, a 3.6L powerhouse with 310 horses and 282 lb.-ft. of torque on tap. The larger mill is noticeably more energetic than the four-cylinder of the Essence, especially with Sport mode engaged (there’s basically Sport and default modes, unlike a number of competitors there is no ‘Eco’ mode).
The twin-clutch nine-speed automatic makes the shifts incrementally smoother, and a more exclusive brake setup provide extra stopping power – the Regal GS gets Brembo brand front calipers on the four-wheel disk system.
It puts great seats inside the cabin, too; both driver and front seat passenger get a highly adjustable performance seat, with tailorable bolstering and seat length. Both seats are heated and ventilated, and equipped with one of my favorite features, a massage function.
(For an interesting trivia note, Buick states that these massage seats are the only ones in the industry certified by a German chiropractic organization called AGR).
As with the Essence trim, the GS improves with the available options, but the cost climbs.
The one I used was also ramped up with the Experience and Driver Confidence groups, and a block heater ($150), bringing the sticker price to $51,235 (dest. included)
All the new Regals available in Canada share the coupe-like bodystyle, the increased interior cargo space, which has been expanded dramatically for 2018. A maximum volume of 1,719 litres is available, thanks to the flat-folding rear seats (and is easier to reach with the wide-opening rear hatch lid), which blows away competitors like Toyota’s Avalon or Ford’s Fusion.
The Regal trunk is an electronic-activated affair, operated by touching the Buick badge on the rear. Odd thing is there is no manual trunk release button inside the car.
That would be one of a couple of cautions I would offer about the vehicles – that and the entry/exit to the rear seats. If you have a couple of six-footers riding up front, I found the rear seat legroom gets tight. Overhead room is okay, but the shape of the rear door opening makes the Regal tricky to get in and out of.
Ultimately, though, Buick is indeed bringing forth the attainable luxury that the enlarged and re-imagined Regal promises. Designed and built in Germany, the sixth-gen sedan is on dealer lots across the country.
Hybridized and Urbanized
Winter’s never the greatest time for a hybrid vehicle to show off their superior fuel economy – everyday driving is harder work in snow, and running the heater (and heated seats and steering wheel, in this case) force the gasoline engine to be in use most of the time.
Nevertheless, I ended a week of driving with figures not too far off the stated FE (which is a combined city/highway consumption of 7.5L/100 km, I got 8.8 during a freezing cold week with a fair amount of snow) in our test subject – the 2018 NX300h.
Here’s a crossover that is riding the wave of popularity that buyers have bestowed on the small-ish utility vehicle segment, and bringing with it a Lexus level of premium build quality in addition to an economical low-emissions powertrain.
As you know, Lexus is the luxury arm of Toyota Motors, the company that has done more than anyone to bring hybrid vehicles to the masses (check back next week, when we’ll be looking at the latest version of their original marketplace gamechanger, the Prius), and in terms of size and configuration (and powertrain) you could think of the NX as being the more elite version of the company’s ultra popular RAV4.
Fitting into the Lexus utility lineup between the recently announced UX and the larger and better known RX models, the NX has been around for about four years now – long enough that it has received a bit of a refresh for the 2018 model year, though not a complete model change.
New front fascia and a sleekening of the grille and front bumpers have helped streamline its appearance on approach; and the love-it-or-hate-it ‘spindle’ grille that the vehicle shares with the rest of the Lexus lineup has been incorporated more seamlessly into the overall presentation.
The rear of the NX has had its taillights stretched a bit, the rear bumper has been lowered and widened, the exhaust tips are larger for this year and an underbody spoiler has been added.
Overall, I think the styling changes work in its favor, this is a good-looking machine that manages to stand out on the road without begging for attention in an undignified or gaudy fashion; unlike a number of ‘premium’ compact crossovers that have sprouted up in the expanding segment.
The NX is more about the occupant’s experience inside it than the overall curb appeal, although it does look sweet perched on those eighteen-inch alloy wheels.
Our test car showed off nice upholstery over comfortable seating (the leather even extended to the wrap on the steering wheel), and brought the newly enlarged information screen to the center-dash display (the display has grown three inches from previous models).
Comfort is always one of the strong points in virtually any Lexus, and our NX lived up to expectations with a fully adjustable driver’s seat, decent room overhead in the front row, power tilt-and-telescoping steering column and a heated steering wheel.
Everything is easy to reach and relatively intuitive to operate, but let us draw your attention once again to the interface, which is this touchpad thing here. I find it fiddly and imprecise, to be honest with you, and easy to overshoot the menu items I try to select.
I’ll warn you too, the NX isn’t a huge vehicle. I didn’t find the space bad, but it is noticeably tighter inside than the RX model, and likewise doesn’t offer as much cargo and second-row space.
From a driving perspective, the NX300h boasts a smooth ride and a quiet cabin (although, interestingly, the engine note is reproduced inside the cabin through the vehicle’s sound system speakers, in what the company calls ‘Active Sound Control’. Neat, eh?)
The all-wheel drive system offers a selection of preprogrammed drive modes (Sport, Eco and Normal, as with most of Lexus’ hybrids), and the electric power steering system makes the handling responsive and car-like, overall. Our test car also contained the Lexus Safety System, which brought lane-departure with steering assist.
The Hybrid gets its power from a combination of 2.5L gasoline engine mated to two electric motors, bringing enhanced fuel economy to the NX and a combined output of 194 horsepower and 152 lb.-ft. of torque.
So it isn’t exactly a sports car, but frankly I didn’t feel under-powered during my time in the NX. The transmission is a CVT, as seamless as any in the company’s lineup does a great job of everyday driving (and includes paddle shifters as well).
There’s little to dislike here, as I find with most of the company’s products, and if you find the price a bit on the ‘high’ side (which it is, let’s not lie to each other here, gentle reader),I am going to suggest cross-shopping the NX against the Toyota RAV4 hybrid (coincidentally the 2019 model was just unveiled in New York), which sports virtually the same powertrain in a more budget-conscious machine but at roughly ten grand less.
Here’s the sheet (pdf): NXh 963 – BXWV 682 EN
This one here, though, a 2018 NX300h, came to $55,300 (and that’s before freight and taxes, the full sticker was $57,471.25 CDN)
Don’t forget to check out our video of the NX on Youtube!
We took in Redbull’s Crashed Ice event on its Edmonton stop this past weekend, the last stop on a globe spanning tour that has seen this Ice Cross Downhill World Championships stop in cities from Finland to France to the US and Canada – in fact, the race was in La Sarre Quebec before bring the action to Edmonton, the final stop on the tour.
I confess I wasn’t familiar with the sport before we attended the Edmonton; but it isn’t too hard to get your brain around the concept, it’s a downhill skate race over a course that looks pretty extreme.
The skaters go off in heats of up to four, and rocket down an elaborate elevated course with a heavily iced surface, first one to the finish line wins. Sounds straightforward enough, right? But its easier said than done when you’re traveling at speeds of up to 80km/h.
No question this qualifies as an extreme sport, my friends, and I have nothing but respect for all the athletes who made it to the Edmonton final round.
(Incidentally, the overall winners were crowned here Saturday night, and American Amanda Trunzo took the honors in the women’s division, and Canada’s Scott Croxall won the men’s.
The full results can be seen here on Redbull’s Crashed Ice page
But it wasn’t just about the races themselves, this was a full-on, get-out-and-enjoy the spectacle in downtown E-town, where the streets around the Shaw center were closed off and people marched down Grierson hill to a site filled with a really decent crowd around the ice-cross track.
Adding another level of interest, this is the first year that Hyundai Motors has partnered with Redbull for the Crashed Ice show, the Korean manufacturer is using the extreme sport to showcase a couple of their more extreme vehicles – the newest generation of pumped-up Velosters.
The three door hatchbacks are being groomed for rally sport with the introductions of the 2019 Veloster Turbo and their halo hatch, the Veloster N
This one boasts 201hp 195 lb.-ft. of torque (and I’m told it will be available with a manual transmission as well), but the monster Veloster, the N, was strictly on display at Crashed Ice.
Here it is up on a pedestal in front of one of the first drops on the ice course, looking sporty; and when it hits the streets and showrooms this car will really be bringing the performance.
A 2.0L turbocharged engine pushing 275 horses and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, riding on an electronically controlled suspension and offering a selection of driving modes tuned for track performance; with distinctive body sculpting and detailing to differentiate this top of the line model from the Turbo and other members of the Veloster lineup.
The N won’t be available until later in the year, so this is our first look at it, but we’ll be hoping to take a drive in this little monster when it arrives.
Now if you’re like me, gentle reader, you probably realize that while you may want the Veloster, the Kona is the one that makes a better case for purchase as all-round everyday vehicle for all seasons.
And that’s about it. Having seen this year’s Crashed Ice competition, I’m a fan; and having seen Edmonton’s support for the event and the good time had by everyone I met there I’d bet the event’s sponsors and promoters are fans of us too.
Check out the Youtube here:
I’m a big fan of hatchbacks, so it stands to reason that a wagon-bodied car is equally appealing to me; what with them bringing the convenience of a five-door vehicle, just, you know, longer.
This bodystyle seems to make an appearance from time to time in cars from a number of manufacturers, hangs around for a product cycle or two and then fades away. I’m thinking of a few that I have liked over the years – Mazda’s Protege5 (and later the Mazda6 wagon from the mid-aughts, Subaru’s Legacy wagon, heck even the Dodge Magnum, I’ll count that too.
But this German family-friendly conveyance is a bit different. More of an upper-class status machine, more executive caliber, fancier all around, and with more bells and whistles.
Its a good time of year to flail about in the C Wagon, for as you see it is a pretty cold day out there; with repeated dumpings of snow over the past few days. The Benz tester sport Mercedes awd system (called 4MATIC by the company) and has been handling itself admirably.
Notice, too, that the C isn’t a crossover, so it doesn’t have quite the ground clearance that you would get in models like the GLC, but I haven’t got the car stuck yet and it grips the road competently and handles well in these conditions.
It has power enough, although the C 300s 2.0 litre turbo engine isn’t at the top of the class, but 241 horses and 273 lb.-ft of torque haul it around with ample to spare. Acceleration is good, in any of the drive modes (I ran it mostly in Eco, just for the fuel economy benefits, but the C comes alive with Sport and Sport+ modes that tailor the combination of engine response and transmission behavior to a more active driving style.
A 9-speed automatic transmission marshals the engine power (and there are steering mounted paddle shifters if you like to get involved in changing your own gears, but really, I found the C’s 9G-TRONIC just fine making its own decisions).
Outwardly, this is a good-looking wagon – more so than it looks in the photos, as it is covered in ice – and easily recognizable as being part of the Benz family.
It is a piece of art inside as well, very comfortable (in a ‘cozy’ sort of way, as the C class is smaller overall than Mercedes’ E or S class vehicles. The seats are upholstered Artico leather (or ‘leatherlike substance’, if you will) comfortable in both rows and favoring the driver with a cockpit-like feel.
I loved the Burmester sound system in the test model, and the additional (and optional) technology included in this one fleshed out the space age appeal of the C with a 360-degree bird’s eye view simulation displayed on the center console monitor.
The car rides beautifully, of course, and that is the company’s main claim to fame. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Benz – and I mean any of the models – that anyone I had out for a ride didn’t remark on the incredible smoothness and quiet that almost leaves a passenger disconnected from the road. It’s actually a pretty relaxing way to be ferried around.
Through and through, the 2018 C 300 wagon is quite a machine, certainly more practical and versatile than the sedan version of the C, and this one here is very well equipped; but there’s a ‘but’ attached to this statement my friends.
For you see, to make it this well equipped, many an option package was included with the car, and as you might imagine it all comes at a price.
Starting at an initial buy-in of $46,000, the wagon got a $5000 Premium package, Premium Plus package, Selenite grey paintjob, heated steering wheel, satellite radio and the upgraded sound system, all at additional expense, in addition to the ‘dark ash wood trim. Here’s a breakdown: C 300 Wagon_2018_WDDWH4KB7JF579954
And this is a thing that always kind of bugs me, when an already pricey car requires a suite of add-ons to bring it to the level of desirability that attracted you to the brand in the first place.
Nevertheless, that’s just me.
Feel free to check out a quick video of the C Wagon on our Youtube channel!
Okay, this here is one of my favourite places in the city for quality diner fare – Burger Baron!
It’s a chain (albeit, a small one) and you can find several locations here in town; but my go-to stop has always been the landmark 82 ave spot, just a little east of 75th street, in its iconic A-frame building.
I can remember my dad taking the family there starting back in… well, since just about as far back as I can remember (I was born in ’64, and apparently the first BB opened up in 1963). It was always a real treat, and I swear ta gawd, it still is!
So when you inevitably find yourself in Edmonton, seriously, go out of your way to get to the BB, and order the Double Mushroom with cheese. They’ve got other ones too, of course – you won’t go wrong with a Rudy’s special for example, but if you want my two bits worth, double mushroom avec cheese.
The ‘shrooms are fried on the spot, the beef is good quality and the bun is the crowning touch – a nice, fresh one toasted to perfection!
Just look at this and you’ll know right away you want one.
I want another one right now; and here’s the thing: you patronize the Baron and you’re doing business with a really good, likeable hometown team that deserves your dollars and earns it, one burger at a time!
Can’t recommend them highly enough! Eat here. Check out their Yelp reviews.
Like all good, decent people, I’m a big pizza fan, and here’s place that deserves some word of mouth. Nice people, a good location with free parking in the strip-mall lot (which is a real plus the downtown area), and most importantly, very good pizza made well and with quality ingredients. Prices are reasonable as well.
Customers can watch their pie being assembled at the order counter, and run through the nifty transport oven; then have it boxed up for takeaway or eat it on site – which is what I recommend. Nice ambience during the lunchtime rush, and bottles of olive oil on the table (both regular and spicy).
Relatively new to the Edmonton scene, Love Pizza now has two locations in our fine town. I’ve eaten at the downtown location a couple of times now (10196 109st in the Canterra strip plaza), and highly recommend them.
I can’t think of any sort of rhyming punditry for the restaurant’s name (I almost went with ‘Viphalay A-OK’, but then I remembered the sophisticated audience I serve, here on the world’s finest website and realized no way would my readers tolerate that), so instead just have a look at this over on the right:
This is a lunch I had at Viphalay (the downtown one, they have two locations) with my classmates from MicroBusiness Training Center. It’s a wildly popular lunch spot downtown, specializing in Laotian/Thai influenced food, and it rocks!
I recommend the Pad Thai, but the selection of curries that a number of my Microbusiness alumni ordered also looked and smelled worthy of consideration.
The fare isn’t cheap, but it isn’t wildly high-priced, either (everybody’s entree came in at under $20, not including tip).
BMW’s X5 utility vehicle lineup expanded back in the 2015 model year to include a fourth choice when they added the 40e to the family (there are three other X5 choices, two gasoline engine models and a diesel), and the 40e was the first of the company’s more mainstream vehicles to inherit the technology they developed for their more futuristic-looking i3 and i8 cars.
There aren’t a lot of PHEV vehicles in the premium/luxury segment, yet, but there a lot in the pipeline as everyone rushes into hybrid and fully electric automobiles – but Porsche’s Cayenne is already available with a similar drivetrain, for example.
Looking at it from the outside – and the inside, for that matter – the plugin X5 isn’t greatly different than the rest of the lineup, the readily identifiable grille and headlamps, and side-and-rear profile of the eDrive model are near identical, its mostly the badge and distinctive cover of the chargepoint on the driver’s side front panel that give it away.
All around, it retains the appearance, and that’s a good thing; as the X5 in general has been one of the company’s best sellers, and certainly their most practical offering for this time of year, out here in majestic Edmonton; the Paris of the Canadian prairies. I’mma apologize that the car is dirty in the test drive photos and Youtube vid, but you know, it’s hard to keep anything clean right now.
As a hybrid, the 40e is powered by a combination of electric motor and gasoline engine, in this case a 351v lithium ion battery mates with a 2.0L inline four-cylinder, aiming to optimize fuel economy with the electric assist, as well as lowering emissions. It can be run in strictly electric mode, as well, BMW claims for a distance up to 40km. So in theory, if you lived very close to where you work, you might scarcely ever have to fill up the tank. In theory, that is. In reality the cold conditions had me running on gasoline power for most of the week.
The gas engine on its own peaks at 241 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque, and combined output with the electric motor shoots up to 313 horses. The hybrid X5, like all X5s, has EcoPro, Comfort (default) and Sport modes, which change the vehicles behavior by changing the shift point and throttle response.
Now, where a PHEV differs from a regular hybrid is that the battery can be recharged by – you guessed it – plugging the vehicle in. The 40e can be recharged on household current, although I’ll level with you, that takes a long time; but will also accept charging with level 2 or level 3 high-voltage fast chargers.
The problem with this, though, is that not a lot of people have an extra 220v panel at their homes, and at least there I live there aren’t a lot of Level 2 chargers available. Check this out, though, my test vehicle is equipped, through it navigation module, to find and locate charging stations. Pretty cool, eh? I found one at an Ikea store, and a row of three of them at one of Edmonton’s public libraries.
But, prepare to gasp in horror and dismay, my friends, ‘cuz look what happened when I tried to use the library ones. Yeah. Do any of those look like plugin/electric vehicles to you?
Driving experience the X5 is very much like any of it’s linemates – it displays tight and responsive steering, great performance and acceleration in all of its drive modes, and does a good job of holding the road in corners; but I want to tell you, the hybrid is a heavy vehicle and you’ll feel that in the handling. It is almost 200kg heavier than the 35i gasoline only model, and actually weighs more than a Toyota Tacoma, for example. So, um, stopping distances are affected, as I learned in my first day in the car on icy roads.
The price jump for selecting the 40e may also influence your decision here, with a rather hefty premium coming with this power train. Here’s a breakdown of the pricing, if you’re interested: MY17 X5 40e Price
Consider that a 35i model starts at $68,500, and that jumps to $74,950 for the 40e plugin, but the test vehicle we are looking at here powered that to a frightening $88,500 when loaded up with option packages that take it to the level that I figure a premium-brand buyer would want.
I always like to start stories about this type of vehicle by restating the point that if you need a minivan, you should buy a minivan. Don’t try to weasel out and get an SUV with third-row seats because they look cooler, you’re a grownup now.
The vehicles make the most sense for many situations, and needn’t reek of soccer-dad mediocrity, particularly with some of the models available today, like this one here: a 2018 Honda Odyssey.
One of the more highly regarded minivans out there, and offering a nearly complete collection of practical function and usefulness (and seating for up to seven passengers in the case of my test van here), Odyssey brings more than family-friendliness, particularly in the Touring trim.
Spoiler: it also becomes one of the more expensive family vans you can buy if you select the Touring model, although not the most expensive well-equipped van I’ve seen for 2018 (that award would go to Chrysler’s latest Pacifica – you can find a look at it here).
The whole lineup gets the same engine, a redesigned 3.5 litre six-cylinder (built in Alabama) for this fifth-generation van, which has received a power boost for 2018 that pumps up the output to a pretty robust 280hp and 262 lb.-ft. of torque.
It’s a FWD drivetrain that handles well for a vehicle of its type, with steering that is likewise appropriate for this shape and size. Definitely a lighter feel than what you’d find in an Accord, but I wouldn’t want it to be overly ‘sporty’ anyway, for fear of throwing around the passengers in the rear seats.
The styling of the Odyssey hasn’t received the radical reworking of the sheetmetal that Honda’s Civic and latest Accord received; it’s still recognizable when parked side by side with the outgoing generation.
The body has been lightened, cabin sound insulation and overall ride improved, and two new transmissions added to the lineup; including a Honda’s ten-speed automatic (the company is awfully proud of the ten-speed, and offering it in a number of their vehicles in the upper trim levels, notably the latest Accord).
The 10-speed is one of only a few features that a buyer needs to move up to the Touring trim to get, though – if you can get by with only nine cogs, well, the rest of the lineup may do you just fine.
A couple of other exclusives for the Touring trim are worth noting, and mostly fall into the additional bells-and-whistles category, but my favorites are:
An upgraded, 11-speaker sound system (and rear seat entertainment package with Blu Ray player), ventilated front seats, a wi-fi hotspot app and additional ambient lighting; and perhaps most notable is the rear cross-traffic sensor – probably my favorite part of the modern safety suites being added to a lot of vehicles these days.
Also, an interesting techno-bit for parents (I am figuring that parents are the number one buyer of a van like the Odyssey) is the Cabin Watch and Cabin Talk components of Honda’s in-vehicle. It pulls up a wideangle view of the rear seats, and allows you to keep an eye on the kids in the back rows, and verbally admonish them if they’re, like, eating laundry pods or whatever back there. No more need to raise your voice as you threaten to turn this car around and drop them off at military camp.
The first two rows are the best seats in the Odyssey (the second rows captain’s chairs also slide, for easy access to the back, and space all ‘round is very good, as is outward visibility from the driver’s position).
In terms of the value case, well, as stated way back at the beginning, the Odyssey in Touring trim is one of the pricier family vans, but a buyer may not find it necessary to go all the way to the top-end to get a satisfying package – here’s a bit of trim walk through the lineup: 2018 Specs_Odyssey_EN
As for criticism of the ’18 Odyssey, well, the info interface isn’t as evolved as what I found in the latest Accord – there’s a volume button for the sound system, but most everything else is still touchscreen. Also a few people I showed the Touring to didn’t care for the unusual strip-of-buttons gear selector (very much like what you find in a number of vehicles from Acura).
This 2018 Touring level test van cam with an MSRP of $50,290 CDN, before freight and taxes.
Check out the Youtube video here!