Use this time to live the dream, everyone – one day your grandkids will ask: “What did YOU do during the great virus panic of 2020, grampa?”
And you’ll need to come up with a heroic backstory.
Hey! New foodery on Whyte Ave!
I happened across the grand opening of the new location today (not quite by accident, I’d seen the signs they’d put up along some of the boulevards around the neighborhood).
I am always down for good pizza, so here you go: grand opening of Ripe Tomato
Their opening had a lineup out the door, obviously because of the tantalizing deal (two bucks for a nine-inch, choice of Calabrese or Margherita!), but check the menu and it doesn’t seem too bad even at regular prices.
Yes, it’s just some snow. I made it to play with iMovie and Keynote, and Youtube’s ‘cards’ function.
This is one of those vehicles that I never hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for a compact car, and Mazda has expanded the choices for 2019 with the introduction of an all-wheel drive option for their likeable sedan (or hatchback).
I love a mainstream family car with some curb-appeal on the outside, and enough attention to comfort and technology in the cabin that it never feels like the only reason for buying it is sheer value-for-money.
Indeed, the Mazda3 feels and looks and drives like a much more expensive car than it is, and is one of those marques that has moved the bar for all manufacturers by showing how well it can be done.
Having had the chance to get into a one of each earlier this summer, both in the top-line GT trim (so, you know, with more leather and a higher price tag than the entry-level) and came away impressed. In fact, picking a favourite mainly revolves around how much you feel you need the AWD drivetrain.
Otherwise, what you get in either package (the AWD is the red Sport hatchback in the photos, the grey sedan is the regular front-wheel drive) is a welcoming interior with comfortable seats and an array of controls that manage to remain easy-to-use while looking suitably high-tech and 21st century.
Here are the common stats for both these vehicles:
• 2.5L 4-cylinder engine (with cylinder deactivation)
• 186 horsepower, 186 lb.-ft. Torque
• 6-speed automatic transmission
• Heated seats, heads-up display, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and backup camera
• 8.8 inch information display
The Sport hatchback is about 65kg heavier, owing to the AWD system
Hopping into either model, I’m greeted by a heads-up display (or ‘Active driving Display’ as Mazda bills it), a little cooler hologram projected on the windshield just above the steering wheel. This is a great feature in any vehicle, for keeping important information – like the vehicle’s speed, for I live in the land of radar traps – right in front of you.
Firing the car up with the keyless start button, and the SkyActiv 4-cylinder engine shows off… well, let’s not call it a ‘sporty’ engine note, but a pleasant one; and also a quiet engine, which I like.
I didn’t find a big difference between the Sport AWD and the front-wheel drive sedans steering and handling (although the Sport is heavier), and frankly I doubt most drivers would, unless you jump from one model to the other back-to-back. For a mainstream family car, the steering feel is very good indeed, bringing a more tight and connected sensation with little ‘play’ in the wheel and just heavy enough that there’s enough feedback through the wheel to keep a driver engaged.
A lot of this is due to Mazda’s SkyActiv powertrain and the incorporation of the company’s G-vectoring Control system; which they tout as a grand enhancement to the car’s overall stability. Heck, I’ll just quote directly from their press kit, as I wouldn’t want to get the wording wrong:
“GVC maximizes tire performance by focusing on the vertical load
on the tires. The moment the driver starts to turn the steering wheel, GVC controls engine drive torque to generate a deceleration G-force, thereby shifting load to the front wheels. This increases front-wheel tire grip, enhancing the vehicle’s turn-in responsiveness”.
And, well, I have no reason to doubt them – the handling is very good, and twisting and cornering in the car is genuinely fun.
Inside the cabin, in either of the models I drove (both GT trim level) the driver gets the best seat in the cabin – a ten-way adjustable power affair with excellent lumbar support in my test cars, thanks to the inclusion of the Premium Package option (which also gave it the heads-up display). This $2500 package also includes rear crossing brake support and parking sensors, rear parking sensors and a traffic sign recognition system; all in all a pretty good addition to the car.
All the seats are quite good throughout, passengers aren’t punished by either the seating or the ride, and cabin quiet has been further bolstered by seals and damping, and sound insulation. All the better to listen to the Bose sound system, I suppose.
As for fuel efficiency, well it goes without saying that the AWD models consume more gas that the front-drive ones, but frankly not that much more.
The NRCan numbers for the Sport are 8.2L/100 km (combined), and the Fwd sedan is rated at 8.0L, but here’s an interesting anecdote for you: when Mazda entered both models in this year’s EcoRun competition, each of them achieved some pretty astounding results (which you can see here, alongside a number of other entrants), with an incredible 5.4 and 5.7L/100km, respectively.
Styling is one of the key selling points for the entire Mazda lineup as well – the company has really got their game on (finally, after a few years of that odd ’smiley face’ grille they were doing). Front-to-back, the 2019 Mazda3s rule the segment, I like their looks better than most of the competition.
The only thing I’m going to bring up is the new, fattened C-pillar on the hatchback model, which I don’t especially care for, both aesthetically and from a rear visibility standpoint. Now obviously, things like the blindspot monitor and rear traffic detection help make up for the compromised sightlines, but I am one of those old people who still enjoys things like shoulder-checking and, y’know, looking around.
All in all, it comes down to whether you prefer a hatch or a sedan, and AWD or front-drive. Speaking for myself, I’ve always liked a five-door body, but there is a decent trunk on the sedan, so you tell me – which one?
As for pricing, both vehicles were loaded up with the Premium Package option, which added $2,500 to the sticker, but the GT sedan (in optional Machine Grey Metallic paint) came to $30,695, all in, and that fancy-lookin’ Soul Red Crystal Sport model with all-wheel drive showed up at $33,645
Like everyone in the city with a camera, I have made a short film about the smoke from the fires in the north of the province that covered Edmonton on May 30th. Enjoy!
It certainly made for a surreal look to the city, with everything being quite yellow-tinted and dark, and the air quality was… as good as it looks. I swear, you walk around outside for a minute and you could taste it for hours afterward.
We get a lot of rabbits around here, kind of in cycles that occur every couple of years or so.
I’ve always thought they were pretty neat, and ridiculously cute as babies (which, I just learned the other day, are called kittens. Weird, right?) and this leads me into another long tale of ‘how I met my neighbours’. Check this out:
So I am sitting around my palatial mansion last Friday; because my life is such a laugh-a-minute thrill ride, and I decide to go outside for a cigarette.
(The palatial mansion is a non-smoking building, you see).
Anyway, I go out back into the alley and right away notice that a couple of neighbours are out on their balcony, yelling at something. They spot me and start yelling down, and I’m all “Sup?”
They tell me that a couple of magpies have gotten ahold of a baby rabbit (or ‘kitten’, as we have learned) in the yard of the building next door, and are fixing to croak it.
I go round a small hedge that is the only barrier to the yard, sure enough, two magpies are dragging the little animal around by his legs, getting really pecky with the terrorized critter.
Frightening the birds off with the time-tested technique of waving my arms and yelling obscenities at them, I find myself alone with the rabbit as the magpies settle on the roof of a garage and sit there watching us.
So I can’t really leave, and the rabbit has compressed himself face-first into a curb around the house and is huddling there quaking.
It kinda reminded of that last scene in The Blair Witch Project, you know? With the guy standing in the corner? I loved that film.
At this point my neighbours from the balcony have come down, and now three of us stand around looking at the rabbit. One of them calls 311 and gets an opinion on what to do (and those options were: leave the animal there, as its parent may be around, or box it up and take it inside, but then you gotta whole ‘nother problem).
Of course, we then find the rest of the rabbitlings. Almost invisible, five more of them are huddled in a pile at the base of the weedy little hedge. They had probably escaped the notice of the magpies by not moving around; while the original rabbit was perhaps an ‘early hopper’.
Trouble is, the others are beginning to try to hop as well, but being as they were probably born, literally, yesterday, they weren’t very good at it and also didn’t exercise good judgement. The three of us keep gathering them up and returning them to the rabbit-pile.
Long story short: as the sun starts going down, the magpies leave and the kits become less active and remain in their huddle. And, fortunately, some adult rabbits (or maybe they’re hares, I don’t know to be honest) begin to show up on the perimeter. We all figure this is a good thing, and go back inside.
And thither, my friends, is how I met a couple of my neighbours, Josh and Sarah.
PS: I checked out the hedge the next morning and the whole group was gone, so it looks like they got on with wherever rabbits go when they aren’t hanging out with us.
Back in the day, the guy whose job it was to use the pole with the suction cup on it to rearrange the numbers on gas station’s signs would have been frantically working overtime to keep up with the rapidly changing cost of fuel.
Good thing we live in the future now, and those signs are electronic and can be revised with the touch of a button, making the numbers easy to change as gas prices rocket skyward; fluctuating wildly all the way.
It is times like these that hybrids and pure-electric vehicles attract attention anew, and Honda’s Clarity has been one of my favorites this year.
The car is a plug-in electric vehicle, with the gasoline engine combined with electric motor setup everyone is by now familiar with, but the deal with PHEV vehicles is that the hybrid battery can be recharged by – yes, plugging it in.
Here’s the thing with pluggable hybrids like the Clarity, they can be charged with household current (although that takes a long time, but if you can leave it overnight that will top up the battery), or more quickly with high-voltage Level 2 or Level 3 charging stations. Not everybody has 240v available at their home, of course, but an infrastructure is beginning to develop making the fast chargers available.
These can be few and far between, though, depending on where you live. I think there are a grand total of three such stations in my area (I found one at an Ikea store, and two more at branches of the Edmonton Public Library).
And here’s the salient point: I ended up with an overall fuel economy rating of 1.9L per hundred kilometers driven after putting on about 340 km in mostly city driving, when I was able to keep the Clarity fully charged. That’s insane.
Of course, that number changes when the battery gets low and the car uses the gasoline engine more; you’ll especially notice it on the highway – although even driving from Edmonton to Calgary under mostly gas power, the vehicle still came in at just over 6L/100 km.
A Clarity featured in the recent AJAC EcoRun event won a lot of hearts and minds with this kind of economy, and kudos for remaining an all-round ‘real’ car as well.
Honda touts the model as a ‘no compromise’ vehicle, citing the reassuring presence of the gasoline engine as a counter to range anxiety (which is a real thing, btw. I have driven purely battery-operated vehicles and experienced first hand the lump in the throat that starts when the juice gets low and you still have a fair distance to go).
The one in the photos here is a Touring trim (so, top of the Clarity line), which showed off good people- space inside (along with overall cargo volume), and a comfortable array of surfaces and supports for passengers.
Clarity doesn’t compromise the driving experience, with more-than-ample power and torque (it outdoes a number of competitors, like Hyundai’s Sonata or the Kia Optima PHEVs, and Ford’s soon-departing Fusion Energi) with the combined output from the system rated at 212 hp.
Three major drive modes are selectable, the usual Normal, Eco and Sport choices (and a driver really can feel the difference in response when put into Sport) as well as what Honda has named ‘HV Mode’ – designed for use at highway speeds when the gasoline engine can be used to recharge the hybrid battery.
The price is where potential buyers may get balky, but in areas where rebates are available for purchasing efficient cars (I’ve read that it can be up $14K in some regions, but that doesn’t apply in Alberta), that may be something people can justify. Especially with the fuel saving factored in.
The 2018 Clarity starts at $39,900 for a base model; but the Touring trim test car I used pushes that to $43,900
Pretty neat stuff any way you approach it, and I must admit it’s kind of cool living in the future. Despite the loss of those gas station sign-changer jobs.
Pretty much the whole rest of the country is faring as bad (or worse) this summer, and many of the other people enduring the heat wave don’t have the advantage of ventilated seats in a luxury car, like I do this week with BMW’s M550i.
A hot car for a hot day.
There’s nothing like a seat that helps cool you down, working in conjunction with the rest of the 2018 5 Series’ climate control system; it’s a feature which is fast becoming a must-have in any car that wants to compete in the high-end market.
I consider it especially important when your interior is decked out in black-on-brown Nappa leather, sitting outside in a sun baked parking lot.
My beloved driver’s seat is part of the Premium Package option included on this test car (and I want to add, the front seat passenger is treated equally well). Boasting a full range of adjustability with tailorable leg-length extension, properly aggressive lumbar support and side bolstering, it is easy to add my setup to the seat memory and end up with a configuration I could sit behind the wheel in for hours at a time. And I did!
Ah, but look at me, leading with the cabin comfort when I should be talking about performance – this is a Beemer, after all.
BMW touts the M550i as being all-new for 2018, and the fastest 5 Series to date. Now, by way of explanation of the lineup, the M550 is the latest edition to a lineup of 5’s, coming in above the 530, the 530e hybrid and 540. And while the vehicle we’re looking at here wears the M badge, and gets many of the M-specific tuning and trim accoutrements, this is not the same car as the company’s M5 (which further pumps up the power to 600 ponies and 553 lb.-ft. of torque).
A twin-turbo 4.4L, eight-cylinder engine pushing 455 horses and 480 lb.-ft. of torque to the wheels (all the wheels, mind you, AWD is what xDrive stands for, though the power is biased toward the rear).
The big 8 exhibits a sweet exhaust note that gets the right kind of attention from fans of the brand, and one of the things I like about the 550i is that the engineers don’t confuse ‘performance’ with ‘stupidly loud’ – the car sounds good without ostentatious, blasting noise.
The company claims acceleration of 0-100km/h in just four frightening seconds, and while I don’t have personal stopwatch verification of that, I’ll take them at their word – the M550i is a rocket, particularly when the Sport or Sport+ drive modes are engaged.
My test car put the power to the road via an 8-speed Steptronic transmission (with wheel-mounted paddle shifters) and backed that up with the sort of enhanced stopping power a driver needs to get this monster back under control with an M Sport brake package with its big, blue calipers.
M550i also gets a tweaked suspension – branded as you might imagine as the Adaptive M Sport suspension – which lowers the ride height by 10 millimeters versus other members of the 5 Series lineup, and further enhances the handling and cornering abilities of the car.
Steering and handling is a real joy all ‘round in this package, feel –and-feedback through the wheel is engaging and tight, highly responsive without being heavy or difficult; and while that makes a driver look forward to the twists and turns, the M550i is also an excellent highway car.
I took it 300km down the QE2 to Calgary (using mostly the car’s Eco mode, for as you may imagine, fuel economy isn’t one of the car’s strongest selling points), and the cabin showed off its quiet and NVH-free environment.
The outward styling is more of the evolution of BMW. Still easily recognizable, with its stance and overall silhouette, and further sculptural refinement behind the twin-kidney grille (with its active air vents), it is, as with every generation of every model from the Bavarian brand, better looking than the last.
Detractions for the M550i are the predictable series of complaints. I won’t even dwell on the fuel economy (as I figure if you’re shopping for eight-cylinder sports/prestige vehicles, it probably won’t be a factor in your purchase, but the M550i states FE of 14.3L/100 km in the city and 9.4 on the highway).
Its also a big car with a big turning circle (at over 6 meters) and interior cargo volume is not huge, at 530 litres.
Instead, I will say, as I always do, that in order to get the car you want, when envisioning the perfect 5 Series package, is that to get it up to its fully realized potential, many an option group is required.
Here’s a breakdown of this particular test car, which came with a $6,500 Premium Package (which is how it got those seats I like so much), an Advanced Driver Assistance package ($1,500, and it includes desirable safety features like evasion assist, cross traffic alert and lane-keeping function), Smartphone package ($750) and the Nappa leather upholstery for another $1,500
The car’s is at its best with those additions, but it kicks up the buy-in from a starting base of a cool $83,000 to a sticker price of $93,250 before freight ‘n’ taxes.
The price of prestige, I suppose. Here, please check out the video of the M550i on our Youtube channel!
Here’s another of Edmonton’s A-list eateries – Cafe Linnea!
Located once again in an area I don’t normally associate with fine dining (much as we found with Range Road) they’re in a strip mall in a fairly industrial-looking district over on 119st and 109ave)
I was there with Toyota Canada a few weeks back, and Linnea brought on a great experience for roughly a dozen of us.
While not as well-known locally as some (they have only been in business a couple of years now), I wish them nothing but good things going forward!
Here’s a link to a fun blog on their website; where the restaurant’s contact info can also be found
Okay, I admit its a bit higher end than a gentleman like myself usually patronizes (I keep to more of a Burger Baron budget), but how have I never heard of Range Road before?
Consistently rating on virtually every Edmonton foodie’s top-ten lists for years now, this establishment is a gem tucked away in an unassuming downtown neighborhood where you might not expect to find fine dining.
I went to RR with a group from Cadillac after the Edmonton Motorshow back in April, and was blown away by the food (and the staff!) as well as the concept – they use the Butchery (a room separated from the main dining area) for special event bookings.
Great atmosphere and a good time, highly recommended for special occasions and gatherings. Check them out here for bookings and a more complete rundown: