And it amuses you too, admit it.
(Incidentally, here is a link to a brief Youtube video with the XLE Hybrid, holding its own on a frigid day here in Edmonton).
A Camry in XLE trim is practically a luxury car, perhaps lacking the brand cachet of Lexus, but consider that this one still comes in about 6K less than the ES300h, which is pretty much the equivalent of the Camry in size and configuration.
The major points of our test Camry are: it’s powered by a 2.5L four-cylinder gasoline engine, which on its own can produce 176 horsepower (and 163 lb.-ft. of torque), but as a hybrid it also adds an electric motor – branded by Toyota as their Hybrid Synergy Drive system – which brings the combined output to a potential 208 hp.
And of course, one of the things about electric power is that the torque comes on at very low rpm, putting the power to the wheels very quickly, especially when the Sport Mode of the Camry hybrid is activated.
I’m not trying to imply that it’s some sort of sports car here, it isn’t, but the vehicle provides ample power and a driving experience that won’t leave the daily driver feeling let down. It comes up to speed promptly and deals with everyday demands admirably whether on the highway or here on the streets of Edmonton.
But where the advantage lies with hybrid vehicles like this is with the increased fuel economy and savings at the pump over the life of the vehicle – Toyota states a combined consumption rating for the Camry Hybrid of 5.2L/100km, although I’ve gone a little over that (this one ended up with 6.0 after about 400 km of mostly city driving, but it has been my observation that cold weather affects the mileage of hybrids by forcing the cars to use the gas engine more).
Inside the 2018 XLE you find comfortable seating and decent headroom, a dash layout where all major controls are easy to find and understand, and a suite of new tech for 2018.
Now, if you watch our Youtube video you may notice that a lot of the apps on my test vehicle come up grayed out, as they aren’t activated for this press car, but regardless, you can see where the apps would be activated through the combination of touch-screen and interface buttons of the Entune 3.0 suite.
Entune is apparently an open source, Linux based system for the communication module – and the 2018 Camry is the first vehicle to get the system.
This Camry XLE also includes a comprehensive set of safety features, my favorites of which are blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic detection, and a backup camera that will display an overhead, bird’s eye view of the car.
And while less space-age and futuristic, another feature I like on the Camry XLE is the tire-pressure monitor (which can be displayed as a little graphic on the cluster behind the steering wheel if you cycle through the submenus with the steering-mounted controls) that shows the pressure in each individual tire. I like that so much better than lower-end systems that will only alert you that there is a low tire, but makes you get out and check each one to find it.
So ultimately, there isn’t much to dislike in the all-new Camry Hybrid (and it is ‘all-new’, Toyota says the 2018 shares almost no components with the previous generation).
You could pick on the price, I suppose, as the XLE does come in a little higher than competitive hybrids from Korea; and perhaps the appearance – although again, the car looks better in my opinion than the outgoing model.
I wouldn’t call it ugly – it isn’t – but rather what a number of people describe as ‘boring’, but that is of course in the eye of the beholder. (Although, do me a favor and check out that big plastic grille and see what you think).
Our test car here, a pretty complete package as is (there are no options listed for our tester) came with a sticker price of $42,832.50 CDN
Exactly the right vehicle, timing-wise and arriving at the right time (by which I mean, just as the weather turned wintry out here and the snow began to fall) the Crosstrek made itself instantly welcome.
Not just because it is the latest, 2018 Subaru Crosstrek, either, I’d have been equally glad to have the previous year’s model, or for that matter just about any Subaru product.
And here’s the thing, just as a piece of trivia: pretty much any mountain town I’ve ever visited, anywhere where they get a lot of snow, Subaru is the nameplate I see on most of the vehicles owned by the people who live there. Well, Subaru and Jeep.
Naturally, the all-wheel drive system (Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD) is what has made their lineup a hit among their fans in climate zones similar to mine, and the Crosstrek has been embraced as much for its ability to handle the adverse conditions as for its more car-like size.
The whole lineup employs a 2.0 litre, four-cylinder engine that brings ample power to the platform (152 horses and 145 lb.-ft. of torque). In terms of power, it isn’t dominating its class with those numbers, but the Boxer engine delivers better fuel economy than many of its rivals – Subaru boasts a combined city/highway consumption of 8.1 L/100 km, which is pretty decent.
My test vehicle, a Limited trim with the company’s Eyesight package option, used a continuously variable transmission to put the power to the wheels (and, as a note of trivia, the Limited model is only available with the CVT as of 2018, previously a six-speed manual was offered).
Also new for the upcoming year is that all Crosstreks equipped with this transmission will be equipped with the company’s ‘X-Mode’.
X- mode is, basically, an automated system for managing tricky terrain at low speeds. Activated by the touch of a button on the center console, I think of it mainly as a hill-descent control – it works with the transmission and AWD to maintain torque distribution and engine power.
I’ve seen and experienced X-mode in demonstrations with Subaru’s Forester, crawling down a frighteningly steep and rocky path in mountainous terrain; and I’ll vouch that it works well.
But it was in mostly urban settings that I used this Crosstrek, and thus enjoyed the vehicle more for the general selling points that bring buyers into this segment.
The Crosstrek provides a car-sized footprint that its customers like, and the smooth ride they are looking for; and at the same time brings slightly higher sightlines and better ground clearance (which is a big deal for many in my neck of the woods, where the road surface can be pretty uneven, and nobody likes to hear their undercarriage or front bumper scrape).
Anecdotally, a comment I always hear when I show a car like this to any member of our um, ‘more aged’ population (you know, seniors, oldsters, the more fossilized generation) is the added height of crossover vehicles makes getting in and out of them easier. I am increasingly finding that I enjoy that as well.
I’ll warn you, though, that the Crosstrek has less overall headroom inside than many of its competitors, but in all fairness, this won’t trouble anyone under six feet tall, and has never been mentioned by any of the owners that I know.
The Crosstrek lineup starts at a really reasonable $23,695 for the base/entry-level model, and my test vehicle with its Limited badge and Eyesight package pushed that into the thirties.
Eyesight brings a collection safety technology to the vehicle: adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance (which is a new inclusion for 2018) and braking intervention that will aggressively step in and actually brake the car if it detects that the vehicle is backing into something.
All of which are good things to have, and overall the Crosstrek itself makes a case as a good thing to have, as an all-round capable light duty family-oriented everyday conveyor.
I love this place, and have been coming here since it was called ‘Shecky’s’ way back in the day.
It’s Pasta Brioni now, but the menu and format are still very much the same – really good Italian food in nice yet unpretentious setting.
I’ve mostly been there for the lunch session (they are open evenings as well, for a more ‘fine dining’ experience) and every time I go I have but one thing on my mind: Chicken Gigi!
They’ve got other selections too, of course, sandwiches, salads – all of it good – but I consider the chicken-in-a-vodka sauce (with penne noodles) the establishment’s signature dish; and highly recommend it.
Excellent buns, too.
A 5-door hatch is the most useful body style for a car, especially that can be the only vehicle for a family, or even an angry loner such as myself.
The utility of the big rear door for cargo and groceries speaks for itself, and seating for up to five people is a plus; but put that together in a sporty hot-hatch body with a direct-injection gasoline turbo engine and a six-speed manual gearbox and we have a car that is actually a lot of fun in addition to practical.
Such is the case with this one – and here: check out our Youtube video of the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, in Sport trim.
Hyundai is pretty proud of this latest iteration of their well-received compact, and they tout it as being “all-new” for 2018
The company credits their new focus on ‘European styling’ for the improvements, which is where the car was developed and tested, and they also state that it is built with 53% more Advanced High Strength Steel (from their own subsidiary, Hyundai Steel, which they are extremely proud of)
That’s double the high strength steel used in the outgoing model, adding extra rigidity to the new Elantra GT’s chassis which Hyundai says further enhances noise insulation, collision safety, and the car’s driving and handling performance.
And sure, I’ll go along with that. The Elantra GT is highly maneuverable and genuinely fun to drive. The one we’re looking at here, as I say, is the Sport model, which gets Hyundai’s 1.6L turbo powerplant.
The engine has an output of 201 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, which is actually more torque – available at lower rpms – than Honda’s Civic SI, but hey, we shouldn’t turn this into a horse-measuring contest here.
Sure you can get more get-up-and-go in Ford’s Focus ST or the VW Golf GTi, but really, we must stop and ask ourselves, how much power does the average driver require, for average daily use?
Now, you can get the GT with an automatic (a 7-speed dual clutch transmission), but for the purists, the six-speed manual is great. A short throw shifter that feels great to use, and helps bring the performance-oriented feel to daily driving.
So with a package that offers great flexibility for cargo an passenger handling, as much power the average driver is ever likely to need and a generally good looking vehicle body, its hard to pick at the 2018 GT Sport’s faults.
It isn’t even significantly expensive when compared to its major rivals (like the aforementioned Civic Si), and in fact comes in a lot lower than either the Golf or Focus hot-hatches; and I want to mention here that Hyundai has gained a lot of ground in terms or reliability and longevity; as demonstrated by the Consumer reports rating of not just this but all of their lineup.
If you love the looks and the layout, but don’t need the turbo, the Elantra GT is also available with a 2.0 litre non-turbo engine and starts in the low twenties.
Our GT Sport tester moves that up a bit, with this one coming in at a Canadian MSRP of a little over 28K
This is one those automobiles my neighbors all come out to see, and I’ve got pretty jaded neighbors. They’ve become used to seeing some quality sheetmetal parked in my drive, to the point where they barely blink at a Carrera or F150, but when a 2018 Lexus LC 500 (hey, click that – it’s a link to our Youtube video!) showed up I had more than a couple of people come out to say “Nice car! What is that?”
Meet the one Lexus that will rule them all. Strikingly good-looking and packed with Lexus’ cutting edge technology, the new flagship coupe is reminiscent of the discontinued SC430 (which I loved, in its day) but updated for the twenty first century.
It made its Canadian debut at the Edmonton Motor Show last year, after being shown as a concept at the Frankfurt motor show in 2015.
This low-and lovely two-door standout is powered by a 5.0 litre V8 engine, running through a 10-speed automatic transmission (which Lexus boasts is a first for a luxury car). It puts out a potential 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque.
I should mention, too, that the one we’re looking at here is the gasoline-only model, but there is also a hybrid version of the car available, the LC 500h; and while I’m pretty sure fuel economy won’t be a factor for people who are able to buy this car, you just know this isn’t a frugal gas sipper.
Lexus states combined, city & highway numbers of 12.2 L/100 km (or about 24 mpg) for the V8, but I went a bit over that – I think we ended up at about 16.0L per hundred k after a week in the LC, but we may have been using the car’s Sport Plus mode more than we should have, because here’s the thing – this beast is a hoot to drive.
A low center of gravity combined with variable-gear-ratio electric power steering and an adaptive variable suspension help the car eat up corners; and the model you see here added a Performance Package option.
The performance package (which adds $13,500 to the Canadian price) builds on that with a limited slip differential, 4-wheel active steering (which gives it a really tight turning circle) and that cool pop-up rear spoiler that we saw earlier.
The package also pumps up the interior’s posh environment with Alacantra and leather surfaces and upholstery, really comfortable and fully adjustable sport seats. The LC is as delightful just to sit in as it is to drive.
At least in the front seats anyway. It is a four-seat car, technically, but the rear row is pretty tight and small. No legroom.
Oh, and another thing – low ground clearance and a long front overhang. This is something a potential buyer should be aware of, as it would be very easy to scrape off your front air dam on a curb, or rub the underbody on, well, even a larger-than-normal speed bump.
And that, like pretty much any of the criticism I could make about the LC could be applied to virtually any of its competitors. The rear seats are small, the trunk is small, the car’s low profile make it a challenge getting in and out of, blab bla bla, you probably already figured all of that out just by looking at it.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but even the price isn’t over the top when you stand it up beside the other luxury/performance cars it is competing with. The LC 500 starts at 101K, this one here with its Performance Package pushes that up to $117,271 (and twenty five cents) which is actually quite competitive with similar offerings from Porsche or Audi, and a good deal less than any of the Italian supercars – and the Italian supercars can’t boast Lexus’ rep for quality.
You know you’re getting into a high-end sports machine when, after you take your position in the driver’s chair and start ‘er up, a little mechanical arm pushes out the shoulder strap of your seatbelt so it can be easily reached.
BMW offers one of the most comfortable seats I have found in any similarly high-end luxury/performance machine, with a full range of adjustment – which is great if you are a tall-and-skinny type such as myself, who enjoys the aggressive lumbar support and ability to lengthen the thigh support portion of the driver’s perch.
In fact, I would call it my favorite seat in the segment, except I think it may be tied for first place with the one found in one of the 440i’s closest home-country competitors, Mercedes’ E 400 Coupe.
(Incidentally, while the two are very similar in dimensions, the 440i is about 70mm shorter overall than the E400, but the wheelbase is longer by 50 mm).
My test vehicle is one of three of the available models under the 4-series umbrella – there is the Coupe, Cabriolet and Grand Coupé (which is a four-door, so yeah, I know, not technically a ‘coupe’, but what can I say).
A buyer can further make the choice between all-wheel drive (xDrive, in BMW parlance) and rear-wheel powertrains; and so it is that the full name of my test vehicle is 440i xDrive Coupe. Simple, no?
Additionally, this particular one is further enhanced by the addition of several option packages (which is why it tops out at over 70K).
Notably, the M performance package group, which adds not only a generous sprinkling of M-badging throughout the car, from kick plates to tailpipes, but boosts the horsepower of the 440i’s inline six-cylinder powerplant from its base rating of 320 ponies (and 330 lb.-ft. of torque) up to 355hp and 369 lb.-ft.
The takeaway here is that the 4 doesn’t lack power. Acceleration in any of the vehicle’s driving modes is quick – and I mean speeding-ticket quick; you’ll want to keep an eye on the digital speed readout on your heads up display – and incredibly smooth, as one might expect from BMW.
Handling is superb, the car’s ride is excellent, if decidedly tuned to the ‘sporty’ end of the spectrum (BMW boasts of a newly stiffened suspension in all the 4 series models, particularly the M Sport suspension) and an eight speed automatic transmission manages the power masterfully in my test car; but driving purists need not worry, the 440i can also be had with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Inside – in the front row, anyway – an occupant finds good headroom, tight everything else, but that is how it is supposed to be. The car is intended to hold you firmly (but comfortably) in place with all the necessary controls close at hand; provided you don’t mind BMW’s user-interface module (now called iDrive 6.0, which has also been made easier to work with for this latest generation).
Wrap all that up in BMW’s ever-evolving styling and you have one of the best looking two door coupes on the road. The 440i exterior is rolling sculpture from any angle, helped out by a reworked rear tail light treatment for 2018.
The interior is a coherent collection of high-end materials and a console-and-cluster layout that fans of the brand will love, but here’s the thing: you have to be a fan of the company’s design language.
That is pretty much the only major detraction for anyone considering the 440i (well, that and the price, but we’ll get to that). I showed my test car to a couple of owners of current Benz and Audi products, and their reaction was that the Beemer was a bit too austere for their tastes.
The sticker for a base 440i xDrive Coupe starts at $57,550, which is already more than I make in a week, but that won’t be the one I want.
No indeed, to get the vehicle up to the high level of comfort/ luxury/ premium-ness that I figure a buyer in this segment would require, a potential customer would have to consider the packages tacked onto this one, in order to feel like a bigshot like me.
By the time you add the enhanced Premium Package, the Driver assistance and Connectivity packages, the M Performance group and three standalone options, the car whistles past seventy grand and pulls up at $73,190
Well, before we go any further, let us address the most obvious aspect of this vehicle: yes, it does look a lot like a BMW X6. Like, quite a lot. It kind of reminds me of when Honda reintroduced the Insight after a lengthy absence, and it looked startlingly like its main competitor, Toyota’s Prius.
There are a few fundamental differences, though, particularly in the dimensions – the X6 is longer, slightly taller and over 200 kg heavier than my test vehicle this time out – between Mercedes’ GLC Coupe and it’s fellow countryman.
The GLC Coupe is a relatively new addition to Benz’s expanding fleet of light-duty premium crossovers, and brings everything you expect from a luxury car with its catchy combination of visual appeal and capable underpinnings.
This one especially, may I add, for my test vehicle is the apex of the model, a loaded and tricked-out trim sporting AMG trappings and a suite of option packages that push the price and the power to levels befitting its segment.
Properly described as the AMG 43 GLC 4MATIC Coupe in the company product info, this is one frisky package of horsepower and sport-oriented tuning, riding on an all-wheel drive platform.
(That’s what ‘4MATIC’ means in Mercedes-talk, for those of you who may not know, sort of like VW’s designation for awd is ‘4MOTION’. Both companies enjoy capitalizing their terms as well, for whatever reason).
The key mechanical specs boast a potential output of 362 hp and 384 lb-ft. of torque, strapped to a 9-speed transmission (which they also spell in all-caps as the 9G-TRONIC).
The power comes on strong when you hit the pedal, the twin-turbo 3.0 litre never left me feeling let down or underwhelmed, regardless of the drive mode I was in. Which was mostly eco-mode, mind you, as the GLC 43 is not a fuel sipper (as you might deduce) and putting it into Sport Plus will have it gulping a hefty amount of the premium gasoline it demands.
Of course, as a Mercedes the GLC is as much about the interior as the performance; and it brings a cockpit worthy to stand alongside the company’s sedans.
Heated front (and rear) seats are upholstered in leather, as is the dash make the vehicle a nice place to just sit and take in the ambience in the cabin. An optional Burmester stereo system provides studio-quality sound, as good as any I’ve heard in any vehicle in this class; and the acoustic glass windows make the GLC a great environment to spend time; whether in city traffic or on a highway drive.
Ride comfort should be a given in a vehicle like this, and my 43 coupe didn’t disappoint. In any of the drive modes, including Sport Plus (which stiffens things up appreciably), the air-suspension system absorbed bumps and pavement flaws much more ably, and less jarringly, than many vehicles I driven in similar conditions.
Partially contributing to the GLC’s terrain-friendliness may be the twenty-inch wheels that this one came with; a great looking set of two-tone, spoked rims that are part of the basic package when you start shopping for this particular model.
However, it is the options and packages that compete the experience with this high-end crossover. Sure, it drives the price up; but hey, we’re all millionaires here, right Gentle Reader?
Anyway, a brief rundown of the packages goes like this:
The AMG Night Package, Intelligent Drive package, Premium Package and Premium Plus package, combined with standalone options (a great looking blue metallic paint job, red-stitched leather upholstery and AMG carbon fibre trim) added the better part of ten grand to the bottom line.
So the takeaway here is, buyers in this particular market probably won’t be left wanting, and they probably won’t be gobsmacked by the MSRP (let’s face it, you can easily get a similar Audi, Range Rover or Porsche product up to this price), and if they are already owners of any of the rest of the Mercedes-Benz sedan family, the esoteric controls and touch-pad user interface won’t require any new learning on their part either.
My tested model, a AMG 43 GLC 4MATIC Coupe comes in at 79,830 as driven.