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.

17 Continental-2

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

17Alltrack-2

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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AJAC EcoRun 2016

Kingston

photo by Jeff Wilson/AJAC

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

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

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

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

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

Porsche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EcoRun10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Road: 2016 Toyota Avalon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strengths: styling, quiet interior, smooth ride

Weaknesses: expensive, needs a couple more features

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

 

 

2016 Nissan Sentra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Sentra-23

Front row environment in the SL trim Sentra

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

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

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

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

First Drive: 2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4 Spyder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huracan-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huracan_Spyder_Interior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, if you’ll excuse me…Huracan-27

Wade Ozeroff 2016