Carroll Shelby would be proud. No question. Were the Godfather of factory performance still here to take one of these out for a rip, he’d be impressed. Undoubtedly. Perhaps even in tears. They’re ...
 
 
Super-Spoiler Alert: I believe the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V is the best all-around performance car in the world right now. Now, a caveat that requires mentioning: While I haven’t driven all of the ...
 
 
Although its start is still months away, 2016 is shaping up to be a challenging season for the Verizon IndyCar Series. In addition to the Groundhog Day-like concerns that seem to cling to the ...
 
 
$41,950 AS TESTED Queue Gonzalez: The 2015 B 250 4MATIC received a facelift to fit with Mercedes-Benz’s present design language, not to mention the addition of the convenient all-wheel drive ...
 
 
$20,595 AS TESTED Alas, the era of the infamous 2.slow is over. The lethargic four-banger that took up residence in base Jettas of yore has been replaced with a newer, turbocharged 1.4L mill, and it ...
 
 
$105,290 AS TESTED The Porsche Cayman GT4 does not pretend to be something it isn’t. So,what is it then? The all-new GT4 is pure unadulterated fun for the enthusiast driver, and it is available ...
 
 
$51,680 AS TESTED Infinitis continue to surprise me even though they shouldn’t since I’ve driven so many of them over the years. Yet, their high levels of sophistication and refinement, plus their ...
 
 
$32,345 ESTIMATE ONLY Starting in January 2016, GM will finally make its all-electric Chevrolet Spark EV available to non-fleet buyers in Canada. Its 130 ponies are impressive for such a small, ...
 
 
$32,699 AS TESTED The Focus ST is a smaller car that really packs a punch, thanks to a 2.0L turbocharged four that puts 252 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque to the ground through a six-speed ...
 
 
$86,060 AS TESTED The new ATS-V has little more than half the displacement of the even newer CTS-V. It develops 464 turbocharged horses compared to its brethren’s 640 supercharged Detroit ponies (on ...
 
        
 
Carroll Shelby would be proud. No question. Were the Godfather of factory performance still here to take one of these out for a rip, he’d be impressed. Undoubtedly. Perhaps even in tears. They’re that good. The 2016 Mustang Shelby GT350 and GT350R are not only the most powerful naturally-aspirated ’Stangs Ford has ever built, they are the best. Full stop. Shelby, as you probably know, is infamous, and he’s been involved with some of America’s most famous muscle and performance cars since Shelby American was formed in 1962. Does the Cobra 427 S/C sound familiar? The AC Shelby Daytona Coupe? How about the Series 1? Shelby GT? GR1? Dodge Viper? The Super Snake? No!?! Go ahead and slither back under your rock, will you? The ex-racer turned factory tuner was 89 when he died on my birthday in 2012 – the same year I got my first taste of Shelby’s prodigious performance with track tests of the then-new 2012 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and Boss 302 at Calabogie Motorsports Park near Ottawa. The latter was considered a benchmark for these latest Shelby models. The new version pays homage to the original 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350, and not only builds on Shelby’s original idea of transforming a great every-day car into a dominant road racer, but takes it to even greater heights with the “R” version. Like the ’65 Shelby GT350 Competition Coupe, this thing is practically ready to race. To the uninitiated, these cars are not built by Shelby American, Inc. in Las Vegas, but rather Ford Performance in Flat Rock, Michigan. Shelby American (as well as Roush Performance) are both secondary manufacturers. They start with basically the complete Ford platform, modify and tune it extensively and then re-VIN the car before it can go on sale. The Fords, however, are fully designed, engineered and built to spec in house by Ford Performance. Both methods are turn-key, and both offer full warranties. The targets for this car were to have a lightweight engine with at least 500 horsepower, an 8,500 RPM redline and a broad, free-spinning powerband. Hence, the heart of the 2016 GT350 and GT350R is a modified version of Ford’s naturally-aspirated aluminum Coyote V8. It starts off as the same engine that goes into the Mustang GT, but the block is bored two over to 5.2 litres and fitted with a flat-plane crank to produce 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque that goes through a Tremec six-speed manual transmission. The engine is lighter than the one in the Ferrari 458, and the transmission is 4.5 kilos lighter than that in the Mustang GT. What’s so special about the flat-plane crank? Ford Performance engineer Eric Ladner explains: “The crank pins are arranged in a single plane, which sets up a different firing order. We get even firing, even pulses and better breathing, resulting in better performance. Its balance also allows us to use smaller counterweights, which reduces weight and rotational inertia, so it revs faster.” Other improvements include forged aluminum pistons with low-tension rings, forged steel connecting rods with a fracture split cap, a new cylinder head with larger valves, increased breathability and more oil capacity – the pan, baffle, pickup tube, windage try and gasket have been combined into a single composite assembly that can hold two more quarts than the pan in the 5.0, yet is about 20 per cent. “The piston dome has cutouts for the valve pockets and a pent roof, which gives us a 12:1 compression ratio.” Ladner continues, “But to really maximize this we moved them out, so the valve positions and sizes are completely new and unique. The cylinder heads are CNC-machined and the ports have been optimized using computation fluid dynamics. We’ve also machined off some unnecessary material to reduce weight.” Stronger, larger half shafts beef up the powertrain even more, and a brand new dual mass clutch and flywheel assembly were designed to withstand the high heat and stress of track use. The flywheel is a non-damp system, which works with the clutch to provide a smoother driving experience. The clutch feels perfectly weighted; and the two elements combine to provide a very responsive, low inertia system that helps get to the redline as fast as possible. As for the Torsen rear differential, it uses a unique internal differential gear set with a bias ratio, which helps transfer the most torque to the wheel with the best grip on the track. The GT350R wheels are truly special – the first carbon fibre wheels to be offered on a production car — and a huge performance enhancement for this car! They’re very light and very strong. “It isn’t only saving weight, but also inertia,” explains Brian Zorman, Ford Performance Engineer, citing 40 percent less inertia and 60 per cent reduction in unsprung weight. “When you’re accelerating these wheels, we save 22.7 kilograms (50 lbs.) versus the aluminum wheels. They’re also extremely reliable and robust.” They’re not cheap though, and cost roughly $3,500 per corner according to Jamal Hameedi, Ford Performance Chief Engineer, compared to roughly $1,800 per aluminum wheel, which come standard on the GT350. In either case, the wheels are fitted with a bespoke Brembo braking system comprised of two-piece, cross-drilled, directional vane rotors — sized 394 mm diameter in the front and 380 mm in the rear – that are specific to the left and right sides of the car, and solid aluminum calipers to maximize feedback as well as stopping. The wheels are paired with Ford’s MagneRide suspension (standard on GT350R and available on GT350) that monitors and automatically adjusts itself thousands of times per second to provide a reasonable street ride and ultimate racetrack performance. “The fluid contains metallic particles and we can change its viscosity by adjusting the [electric] current into the damper unit,” says Brent Clark, yet another Ford Performance Engineer. “This adjusts the ride, and we can also tune it to help manage the vehicle’s roll and pitch under braking and acceleration. "Our attention to detail drove us all the way down to which way the springs coiled; therefore, requiring new lower control arms. This racer was designed, engineered and built so the springs, sway bars and dampers work together as one finely tuned system. We also added new lightweight chassis components and a set of Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.” Cooling is of paramount importance on a vehicle such as this. “The only way to get rid of [the heat],” Zorman chimes in, “is with miniature coolers. On the front of the vehicle we have a transmission cooler. We’ve mounted the rear differential cooler and pump in the rear, which saves on weight of coolant, routing and hoses. It has a special diff user that pushes air underneath the vehicle through the radiator and out the back of the rear fascia so we don’t have to worry about debris getting caught in the radiator in the front.” The bespoke nature of this car continues. In fact, every component and shape has been optimized to perform on the world’s best race tracks. The aerodynamics package drives this point home, and is as aggressive-looking as it is functional “The underbody belly pan is the foundation for our front downforce,” says John Pfeiffer, Ford Performance Engineer. “It’s nice and flat to create that negative pressure so it sucks the car to the road... [and] we made this R splitter a little larger to create a bit more downforce.” An aluminum front bumper bar (traditionally it is steel) also helps shift the weight to the rear where the keen observer will notice the spoiler is actually an airfoil. “We needed to balance out the greater downforce from the larger splitter in the front,” Pfeiffer elaborates. “[It’s] like an upside-down airplane wing. Instead of lifting off the ground it brings the car down. That creates a good balance and a bias. So at speed the back end just sticks through the turns.” Every component is has been painstakingly designed to work in total harmony. The wide aluminum front fenders, the unique and more aggressively raked aluminum hood, front and rear fascias, splitter, rockers and rear valance with integrated diffuser all function as a team – an all-star team if there ever was one. Other small but important aero features, for example, include front and rear kick-ups that aim air at the front brakes and the tunnel where the drive shaft and exhaust pipes are to cool them. Following its week in the spotlight during Monterey Car Week where the GT350 enjoyed its 50th anniversary, Ford chose the nearby Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca raceway for its media launch event. Though I have turned thousands of virtual laps in the Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo and iRacing, this is my first time at Mazda Raceway in real life. And before long I find myself buckling into a the GT350R for a couple hot laps. Upon firing the ignition, the rumble of the exhaust hits me in the chest like a stampede of wild mustangs as I slowly exit pit lane. After rejoining the track just before turn three’s right-hander, it’s on like Donkey Kong! The car takes off like a shot and, after just a few corners, I’m feeling comfortable and even more confident. The chassis feels well-planted and fast with virtually no understeer in any of the 11 corners. There’s also no lift because it has actual downforce, and the brakes are powerful, very consistent and maintain reliable pedal feel under hard braking. It pulls hard heading up the hill on the Rahal Straight, and it doesn’t wiggle or squirm under braking when setting up for the world famous Corkscrew. Perhaps even more impressive with respect to the brakes is that they didn’t fade or show any signs of warping at all despite a heavy workload throughout the day. From the well-bolstered Recaro bucket seat you can tell the MagneRide suspension is on point, the 11.5-inch wide Michelins helping provide an astonishing amount of grip on the track. The EPAS steering is accurate and provides good feedback, but I still prefer the hydraulic power steering setup in the Subaru WRX STI for its sensitivity. According to my stopwatch, my fastest lap, and my second of just two flying laps on the 3.6-kilometre (2.24 miles) long Mazda Raceway blacktop, clocked in at 1:44.5 seconds. To put this into perspective, I would have qualified for the 2015 IMSA Continental sports car race in Laguna Seca, albeit at the back of the grid. Consider though that the second fastest qualifier was a GS-class Boss 302R, which ran a 1:36 in full race configuration, and you can see there’s plenty left of time on the table. That said, the Multimatic-backed GT350R-C didn’t make its debut until the following race at Watkins Glen, but has been on pole in all three of its appearances since, and is poised to be the car to be the car to beat in 2016. I am pretty pleased with my unofficial for-real Laguna Seca lap time. Make no mistake, the 2016 Shelby GT350R is faster than me. Faster than its predecessors too. Of all the street-legal wannabe racers I’ve driven, this is the most serious. Probably because it’s not a pretender. It’s pretty good on the road, too. Steering, braking, accelerating (sounds amazing!) and shifting are all superb, and that clutch feels perfect! Sport mode adds more grrr, and the car actually feels quicker than base GT350 with same power – carbon fibre wheels do make a difference. The ride is a bit bumpy, but not to the point of annoyance or discomfort. Feedback through the chassis and steering wheel is excellent. Considering what it can do on the track, it’s almost hard to believe this is a street car. Sure the interior is a bit cheapish (it is a Mustang and not an R8) but the driving dynamics and actual performance more than make up for it. No smoke and mirrors here. The 2016 Mustang Shelby GT350 will be built to demand, but Ford is expecting numbers similar to those of the last-gen Shelby GT500, which is between 4,000 and 5,000 units per year. The racier GT350R will be available in a more limited quantity, comparable in numbers to the Boss 302 Laguna Seca. The lesser model starts at CAD $62,599 with a track package available for $8,100, or the technology pack for $9,400. The GT350R is already equipped with everything needed for the track, and starts at $79,499 with an electronics pack available for $3,800. The GT350 will be sold in North America only, and the Shelby GT350R will be sold only in the U.S. and Canada. Between the two models, Canada expects to sell at least 700 units starting, well, in the fall. So, if you want one, you better get out your snowshoes and waddle on down to your local Ford store to see if there are any left. BY THE NUMBERS$141.6/HP (CALCULATED W/ BASE MSRP) 101.1 HP/L 287.8 HP/TON 3.15 KG/HP SPECIFICATIONS 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R BASE PRICE: $79,499 (plus $1,650 destination and delivery) ENGINE: 5.2L flat-plane V8 HORSEPOWER: 526 hp @ 7,500 rpm TORQUE: 429 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm CONFIGURATION: Front engine / rear-wheel-drive TRANSMISSION: 6-speed Tremec 3160 manual transmission DRY WEIGHT: 1,658 kg FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY.): 16.3 / 10.7 L/100 km NOTABLE OPTIONS:ELECTRONICS PACKAGE ($3,800) — 7-speaker audio system, SYNC 3 system, SiriusXM Radio, dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control (DEATC), universal garage door opener (UGDO), turn signal mirrors; black roof ($850); stripes ($600).
Super-Spoiler Alert: I believe the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V is the best all-around performance car in the world right now. Now, a caveat that requires mentioning: While I haven’t driven all of the current crop of performance cars, I’ve driven my fair share and then some. But there are a few new entries I haven’t sampled, the Cadillac ATS-V being a notable miss. I hear the ATS-V is a tremendous performance car; having sampled its big brother, this would not surprise me at all. But let’s turn our attention to the CTS-V exclusively and pick up on our theme. The supercharged 6.2-litre V8 engine under the bulging hood of the Cadillac is shared with the current Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Due to differences to the intake and exhaust systems, the version in the ’Vette makes slightly more horsepower (+10 Shetlands) and torque (+50 lb-ft). Nevertheless, the V8 puts a full 640 horsepower at the driver’s disposal, along with 630 lb-ft of torque. In other words, plenty. To put this into greater perspective, the first-generation CTS-V boasted 400 horsepower and the second-generation iteration made do with 565 Clydesdales. Horsepower figures above the magic 600 mark ventures into some pretty serious territory occupied by the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. The CTS-V develops more power and torque than its two main rivals, the BMW M5 and the Mercedes E 63 AMG. The Cadillac can rocket from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds and has a top speed of 322 km/h. This is a level of performance normally reserved for honest-to-goodness supercars – and this is just part of the reason why the Cadillac is so damn good. The car features five different drive modes from the modest to the outrageous. A performance data recorder (PDR) with lap timer and video camera is an option. Take a lap of your closest track and the CTS-V will save all the evidence, including top speed achieved and g-forces generated, for posterity. The Cadillac features Brembo brakes (the largest set fitted to any current production sedan brand) and 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (with three different compounds for street, track and wet-weather driving). Yes, this thing is the real deal. Further proof: The CTS-V also boasts the latest-generation of Magnetic Ride Control, now with 40 percent quicker damping response. When driven on a less than super-smooth surface, the Cadillac shows far greater ability to create a consistently smooth ride than its direct rivals with their stiffly sprung suspensions and punishing run-flat tires. Back on track, though, the CTS-V reveals its true worth. Of course, it’s wicked fast in a straight line. At the end of the long front straight at the diabolically fast Road America, the Caddy hits 249 km/h (155 mph) on the dial before the anchors have to be deployed. (Cripes, this is fast when you stop to think about it.) But the real surprise is how well the car carves corners. The steering is remarkably precise, the handling incredibly neutral and, despite being a true mid-size sedan with room for five, the CTS-V feels very light on its feet. Even when entering some of the tighter turns with too much speed and all the driver aids switched off , the car proves itself to be predictable and easy to control, the back end breaking away just when expected. (The electronic limited slip rear differential, no doubt, deserves some of the credit here.) After about 20 laps at exceedingly high speed, the Cadillac proved that it was the very best mid-size performance sedan in the world. There was no need to drive the other competitors in this class because the others would not be able to keep pace – especially when it comes to braking performance. Lap after lap, time after time, the CTS-V could be sent hurtling into the track’s notoriously challenging braking zones and come out of them looking like a superstar. During the development of the car, Cadillac engineers came to Road America to verify the performance of the brakes. It’s no surprise, then, that the results have been so spectacular. (Truth be told, certain modern supercars would be unable to attain this same level of performance; they would’ve been secreted away to the garage area for maintenance in half the laps.) In fact, here’s a great measure of just how good the new CTS-V is – the launch event included virtually unlimited laps of one of the more challenging tracks in North America. Other manufacturers have a way of controlling the level of attack at such events: a pace driver, a co-driver, a set number of laps, a trip through the pits every time out. There was none of that here. Clearly, Cadillac knew it had a winner on its hands before planning for the launch event had even begun. They were right to be confident. Cadillac has been knocking on the Germans’ (four) doors for years now; with the CTS-V, they have broken through to other side. To top it all off , the American take on performance sedans costs less than its direct rivals. Yes, this could very well be the best all-around performance car in the world. No. It is. BY THE NUMBERS$141.3/HP (CALCULATED W/ BASE MSRP) 103.2 HP/L 308.83 HP/TON 2.94 KG/HP14.1 L/100 KM (AUTO – COMBINED) SPECIFICATIONSVEHICLE: 2016 Cadillac CTS-VBASE PRICE: $91,685 ENGINE: Supercharged 6.2L V8 HORSEPOWER: 640 hp @ 6,400 rpm TORQUE: 630 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm DRY WEIGHT: 1,880 kg CONFIGURATION: Front engine / rear-wheel-drive TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic TIRES: Michelin Pilot Super Sport (265/35 ZR19 front, 295/30 ZR19 rear) FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 16.6 / 11.1 / 14.1 L/100 km WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: Audi RS7, BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG, Volvo S60 Polestar NOTABLE OPTIONS: ADVANCED SECURITY PACKAGE ($685) Shielded theft deterrent system, vehicle tilt sensor, steering column lock, locking wheel package, laminated rear door glass; Carbon Fibre Package ($6,330) – Carbon fibre front splitter, hood vent, spoiler and rear diffuser; Recaro Performance front seats ($2,645); Luxury Package ($1,635) – Automatic tri-zone climate control with air filtration, heated seats (outboard positions), split folding rear seat, rear window power sunshade, manual rear side window sunshades, 110V AC power outlet; Brembo Red Calipers ($625); Crystal White Tricoat ($575); Performance Data Recorder ($1,430). PERFORMANCE DATA RECORDEROver the years, many cars have featured lap timers, but no car has featured a factory-supplied performance recording system like that available on the new CTS-V. Controlled via the CUE system touchscreen, the Performance Data Recorder (PDR) captures real-time video, cabin audio and 30 channels of data, literally while on-the-fly. The video recording can then be reviewed by the user on the screen when the Cadillac is parked. While some might think of the PDR as a gimmick, it’s yet another clue that this is a serious performance car. For more information on the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V, go HERE.
Although its start is still months away, 2016 is shaping up to be a challenging season for the Verizon IndyCar Series. In addition to the Groundhog Day-like concerns that seem to cling to the Series like a stubborn toe fungus, the Series is still dealing with the loss of one of its most popular and well-respected drivers, Justin Wilson, who died after being involved in an on-track incident at Pocono Raceway last August. With Wilson’s untimely passing still hanging over it, IndyCar, led by President Mark Miles, forges ahead and change appears to be the order of the day. Here are three key storylines to watch as the season progresses. 1. SCHEDULE SHUFFLE As is customary with IndyCar schedule building, the 2016 calendar has been revealed in jigsaw-puzzle fashion over several months. In late October, Miles confirmed the complete schedule and there are some noteworthy changes. One of the biggest – Miles’ aversion to racing after Labour Day – appears to have subsided. Slightly. Although the number of races remains unchanged (16), the calendar is 36 days longer in 2016, beginning in mid-March on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and concluding in mid-September at Sonoma Raceway in California. As is often the case, there are some casualties. Auto Club Speedway, NOLA Motorsports Park and the Milwaukee Mile won’t be back due to varying degrees of poor attendance, promoter issues and the inability to find workable dates. In their places are three new venues: Phoenix International Raceway (April 2), Road America (June 26) and Boston (September 4). Phoenix and Road America are old IndyCar venues that haven’t hosted a race since 2005 and 2007, respectively. Boston is a new date that will see racing on streets in the city’s Seaport District. All three venues (Phoenix and Road America in particular) have been rumoured to be coming for some time, so it will be interesting to see how the ticket-buying public responds. Phoenix and Road America already have very successful NASCAR dates and, perhaps because of that, IndyCar may have more time to build an audience for its events. Either way, all three events will be closely scrutinized as management continues its search for the 16- to 18-race schedule that balances road courses, street circuits and ovals. The steady churn of events coming and going, and dates being flip-flopped around the schedule (like Auto Club Speedway, which raced on four different dates in four years), isn’t sustainable and Miles needs to find venues with long-term potential. Another thing to keep an eye on in the coming year is the status of potential 2017 venues. Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (which last hosted an IndyCar race in 2007 and is the current site of the Mexican F1 Grand Prix) and Gateway Motorsports Park (last hosted an IndyCar race in 2003, and will be used as a test facility in 2016) are both in play. 2. REPLACING DERRICK WALKER When Derrick Walker announced his resignation as IndyCar’s President of Competition and Operations last August after three years on the job, the news caught many observers off-guard, myself included. Walker, a motorsport lifer with decades of experience as owner and operator in IndyCar and sports car racing, was viewed by many to be the perfect person to manage the clashing egos and agendas that roil the IndyCar paddock. As a former owner, Walker would be able to engage current car owners on their level – he’d be able to get things done because he could speak to them in their language. As his tenure wound down though, he expressed frustration publicly over an inability to get much done due to resistance from car owners and a lack of resources within the IndyCar office. At times, it appeared as if Walker had been effectively sidelined, especially in 2015. His attempts at tackling the big issues confronting the sport, such as the eventual successor for the current Dallara DW12 chassis, received much resistance from the paddock. To the point he all but gave up trying to even to broach the subject after a while. With the situation deteriorating and little hope of relief, in the short term at least, Walker elected to jump ship. The selection of a successor will have a long-term impact on a broad range of competition issues, from managing manufacturer relationships, to future chassis talks, to officiating and staffing race control. It’s a hire IndyCar needs to get right. 3. MANUFACTURER RELATIONS Chevrolet won the manufacturer and drivers’ championship in 2015, and has won both titles every year since engine competition returned in 2012 (with the exception of 2013 when Scott Dixon won the drivers’ championship with Honda power). With the introduction of areo kits last year, Chevrolet seemed to get the upper hand early, and the advantage helped paved the way to wins in 10 out of 16 races. In many cases, Honda-powered cars had a hard time cracking the top 10, much less the podium. The advantage was less pronounced later in the season, with four of Honda’s wins coming in the final six races, but that didn’t stop Honda from asking IndyCar for help. Over Chevrolet’s objections, IndyCar elected in early November to permit the Japanese manufacturer to make changes to its road / street circuit and short oval aero kit for 2016 by invoking Rule 9.3. This rule basically give the Series discretion to enable either Chevrolet or Honda to alter its aero kit specs in the interest of improving competition. This ruling does not apply to Honda’s superspeedway kit, which will remain unchanged. With just two engine manufacturers, and no third supplier on the horizon, IndyCar has to manage these relationships very carefully. Another down year might encourage Honda to question its involvement within IndyCar moving forward. IndyCar has to keep them happy and in the fold – doing so should to be a top priority for both Miles and whomever he chooses as Walker’s replacement.
$41,950 AS TESTED Queue Gonzalez: The 2015 B 250 4MATIC received a facelift to fit with Mercedes-Benz’s present design language, not to mention the addition of the convenient all-wheel drive feature. The quiet whisper of the turbo under the hood is a nice surprise when pushing this roomy hatchback through its paces. Michael Bettencourt: The least expensive B-Class Benz certainly has a refined powertrain, but base models are fairly spartan. Still, the tall body style is certainly practical, with tons of legroom and headroom for rear passengers. The AWD B-Class starts at almost $4,000 less than the GLA mini-SUV, which pushes closer to $6,000 if you’d rather spend the funds on winter tires than AWD. QG: Speaking of pushing, it does require a little more leg muscle on the pedal to get it going from stop, but this is a family-oriented car and expecting neck-breaking launches would be unfair. Turning off economy mode helps relieve some of that effort. Zero-to-100 dreams aside, the gradual acceleration is a good reminder of Mercedes’ refined driving language, where smooth drives, from start to stop, are always top notch. MB: No doubt, this is a sophisticated little luxury car, but the turbo lag seems much more noticeable with the 4MATIC system. Weight doesn’t seem to be much different from the FWD model, but perhaps with a 208-horsepower four-cylinder turbo geared for fuel efficiency (10 in the city and 7.5 L/100 km on the highway), the 4MATIC’s mapping software could be making the turbo lag more noticeable. QG: Tech is all here, with everything you would expect from a luxury brand. Our tester has the beautiful Cranberry Red leather upholstery trim, which adds a little sportiness. Because the B 250 is nicely equipped, you won’t feel like you’re missing many bells and whistles. If Mercedes-Benz followed the school letter grading system to classify its vehicles, then B is rightfully scored for the entry-level B 250. MB: I’d agree with that, though I believe a well-optioned FWD B-Class is the value sweet spot. If I really wanted AWD in my small-ish Benz, I’d also look closely at the GLA, which handles flatter, weighs the same and offers a more dialed-in engine response.
$20,595 AS TESTED Alas, the era of the infamous 2.slow is over. The lethargic four-banger that took up residence in base Jettas of yore has been replaced with a newer, turbocharged 1.4L mill, and it puts out some decent numbers. A Jetta Trendline from 2015 would put out 115 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque, but 2016’s 1.4 TSI shatters those numbers with 150 horses and 184 lb-ft! This is also the entry level engine, with 1.8L and 2.0L TSIs available for some extra cash. With some extra bang under the hood, some refined styling inside and out, and unheard of standard features for this price segment, all we need is some alloys to come standard. 2017 perhaps?
$105,290 AS TESTED The Porsche Cayman GT4 does not pretend to be something it isn’t. So,what is it then? The all-new GT4 is pure unadulterated fun for the enthusiast driver, and it is available exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission to appease purists. Compared to the GTS, it is lighter (by 35 kg, for 1,340 kg), more powerful by 45 hp, faster by 0.4 seconds from 0-100 km/h (in 4.4 seconds folks) and even better looking (big wing and all). It absolutely has a purpose, and that is to excite! The 385-hp 3.8L flat six gets a sport button, two-mode suspension and two buttons that turn off the electronic nannies mostly or fully, but that’s about it. The rest of the interior is underwhelming in terms of features and uniqueness though (it’s just like most other Porsches), which is a good thing if you’re the weekend warrior type.
$51,680 AS TESTED Infinitis continue to surprise me even though they shouldn’t since I’ve driven so many of them over the years. Yet, their high levels of sophistication and refinement, plus their superlative road manners and sleeper-esque performance win me over time and again. The 2015 Q50 Limited is no exception. Its smooth 3.7L V6 delivers 328 horses to the ATESSA E-TS all-wheel drive system through a seven-speed automatic with manual and downshift rev-matching modes. It coolly and calmly delivered a respectable 10.1 L/100 km over my 170-kilometre test, and the optional deluxe touring and technology package made sure the kitchen sink was along for the ride, too.
$32,345 ESTIMATE ONLY Starting in January 2016, GM will finally make its all-electric Chevrolet Spark EV available to non-fleet buyers in Canada. Its 130 ponies are impressive for such a small, five-door hatchback, but it’s the subcompact four-seater’s 327 lb-ft of torque – and 7.2 second 0-96 km/h run – that truly makes it a mini-mountain of oomph. No official prices yet, but the Spark EV started at $31,455 in 2015 for fleet buyers. Provincial rebates of $8,500 in Ontario and slightly less than that in Quebec and BC will bring this back into fully-loaded gas Spark territory, but at 137 km of total official range, many potential buyers may wish to wait for the Chevrolet Bolt (due by the end of 2016) and it’s more appealing 320+ km of promised range.
$32,699 AS TESTED The Focus ST is a smaller car that really packs a punch, thanks to a 2.0L turbocharged four that puts 252 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque to the ground through a six-speed manual. It’s a front-driver, so watch out for torque steer – it’s quite pronounced. Despite the potential for accidental lane-changing, the Focus ST’s road manners are quite good overall with a firm, but not jarring ride. Inside, the spacious cabin offers firmly bolstered leather-wrapped Recaro seats, an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, satellite radio, back-up camera and a host of other goodies that sweeten an already good deal.
$86,060 AS TESTED The new ATS-V has little more than half the displacement of the even newer CTS-V. It develops 464 turbocharged horses compared to its brethren’s 640 supercharged Detroit ponies (on two fewer cylinders I might add). It starts at nearly $26,000 less than the CTS-V, which has a base MSRP of $91,685. Clearly a little brother, big brother relationship, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You get the ATS-V when you want a kick-ass Caddy that will run circles around the grocery cart return, and the CTS-V when you’re looking for supercar-beating performance for a fraction of the price. We’ve got the full monty on big bro in this month's publication, but understand that ’lil bro is no slouch. He’ll even catch the neigbourhood bully Mercedes C 63 AMG off guard with a few quick jabs, before running off with its lunch money. Cadillac’s Cue infotainment system isn’t as good as the Merc’s, and it’s missing some of the finer finishing touches (nitpicking here), but in no way does that make the ATS-V any less amazing. Dollar for dollar, it just might be the best buy in this entire issue.

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