No longer a sibling of the Ford Edge powered by the blue oval’s V6 engines, the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 has broken free of its Ford influences after almost a decade and now sports a much more ...
 
 
With the release in North America recently of the ‘entry-level’ McLaren 540C exotic sports car, the 2016 570S Coupe tested here likely becomes the most exciting mid-level engine trim in automotive ...
 
 
CAMBRIDGE, Ont. - The 2017 Porsche Macan Period. That's the message we were greeted with as our small drive group gathered around a large dining table in one of the lavish, branched-off rooms of ...
 
 
There are nine different Cayenne versions listed on Porsche Canada’s consumer site as I type this, compared to two current Cayman models, yet you won’t find the track-oriented 2016-only Cayman GT4 ...
 
 
Earlier this week, I attended a first drive event for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E 300 sedan on behalf of Ignition and courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Canada. The New E-Class sedan will eventually be ...
 
 
In the post-war 1950s, the sports car movement grew up in North America based on our love of ‘sports cars’. While many magazine articles were written back then debating the definition of a true ...
 
 
PORTO, PORTUGAL - After Audi’s popular A4 sedan received an all-new generation version that appeared in North American showrooms earlier this year, you knew it wouldn’t be long before its ...
 
 
Lincoln’s turnover of its staid lineup has been chugging along for the past few years with new MKC and MKX crossovers, but it will really pick up steam in the second half of 2016. An all-new ...
 
 
The Buick Enclave feels a bit like the forgotten member of the brand’s crossover / SUV lineup. While the compact Encore will get a facelift for 2017 and the mid-size Envision is new to the North ...
 
 
Here is our list of 5 (Five) Best and Worst Things About The Upcoming 2018 Audi A5 Coupe. BEST 1) Slippery style: Super refined but sporty style, with aerodynamics honed down to a slippery 0.25 ...
 
        
 
No longer a sibling of the Ford Edge powered by the blue oval’s V6 engines, the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 has broken free of its Ford influences after almost a decade and now sports a much more distinct identity. The new vehicle is built on a bespoke chassis, is powered by an all-new engine and has a contemporary Mazda design. Dimensionally, the CX-9 is 5,065 mm long but has shorter front (by 59 mm) and rear (by 25 mm) overhangs than the outgoing model. It’s front A-pillars have been moved back by 100 mm, lengthening the hood, which gives the vehicle a sleeker appearance despite being a sizeable, three-row, seven passenger SUV. Mazda engineers also put the CX-9 on a diet, taking about 90 kg (198 lbs.) worth of weight out of its structure in FWD configuration and approximately 130 kg (287 lbs.) out of models equipped with AWD. On the powertrain front, the CX-9 is powered by one engine, the SKYACTIV-G 2.5T. This turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. However, if you choose to splurge a little bit and fill up with premium fuel, peak horsepower jumps to 250. I spent some time behind the wheel of a range-topping Machine Gray Signature model which is equipped with a long list of standard equipment from 20-inch alloy wheels to a 12-speaker BOSE audio system to a moonroof, heated seats and steering wheel and a whole lot more. As one might expect with a vehicle loaded with this much equipment, the CX-9 makes for a comfortable cruiser. The seats are supportive, the interfaces are easy to use and the trim materials are pleasing to interact with and look great. With three rows of seats, there’s plenty of room for passengers and all of their stuff and the third row can be easily folded and stowed without having to remove the headrests. The 2.5-litre turbo four might not seem all that powerful on paper, but in practice it provides plenty of power to hustle the 1,917 kg CX-9 around with due haste without being unduly loud or harsh. A Sport mode button on the centre console livens things up a bit, stretching out the revs before upshifts and sharpens the throttle response, but even in Normal mode the CX-9 scoots along quite nicely. All told, the new CX-9 really delivers the goods. Its sharp KODO design feels fresh and contemporary, it’s a fun vehicle to drive despite its size and comes loaded with amenities consumers demand. SPECIFICATIONS – 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $50,100 / $52,295 (incl. $1,895 destination) ENGINE: SKYACTIV-G 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder HORSEPOWER: 227 hp @ 6,000 rpm (250 hp @ 6,000 rpm w/ premium fuel) TORQUE: 310 lb-ft. @ 2,000 rpm DRY WEIGHT: 1,917 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY.): 11.2 / 8.8 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000 ALTERNATIVES: Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander Photography by Lee Bailie
With the release in North America recently of the ‘entry-level’ McLaren 540C exotic sports car, the 2016 570S Coupe tested here likely becomes the most exciting mid-level engine trim in automotive history. In fact, its 562 SAE horsepower thundering to the rear wheels of the 570S represents the third most powerful version of McLaren’s mid-engine 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 – fourth down of five engine variants if you count the Asia-only 625C. From the 540C to the top-line 675LT, all feature jaw-dropping but closely related styling, along with similar though not quite identical carbon fibre chassis construction, suspension design, dramatic upward and out swinging doors, and adrenaline-pumping performance that ranges from sizzling hot to extra sizzling hot. The exotic British carmaker’s products are all meant to rival top-line models from the most lust-worthy Italian and German performance cars. Specifically, the 570S targets the Porsche 911 Turbo S and Audi R8 price-wise, the 570S starting at $219,750 in Canada, but with a striking design and performance closer to the pricier ($300+-ish) Ferrari 488 GTB and Lamborghini Huracán coupes. This particular 570S tester topped out at an as tested $254,112, after a host of packages and carbon fibre options (outside mirror caps, side intakes, door sills, interior accents), plus ‘Elite’ retina-searing orange paint ($4,530), a pricy Sports exhaust ($4,210) and vehicle lift kit ($1,630), which helpfully raises the body a few inches to help avoid the soul-searing sound of your McLaren’s underbody scraping the ground. Compared to its direct rivals noted above, the McLaren picks up the flash crown with its up and forward-swinging dihedral doors that dramatically announce the driver’s arrival. Having driven all these cars save the less powerful Audi R8, as well as its 641 hp big brother in the 650S, the McLaren 570S is certainly on the extreme performance and less on the luxury side of that continuum, with a sharp engine rip upon startup, and a firmly planted suspension with adaptive dampers that in either Normal, Sport or Track modes provide varying degrees of a rock hard ride that’ll leave you slaloming around potholes and road maintenance covers. Part of this tendency is to marvel at its quick steering responses, but likely due to the more conventional suspension setup that comes with the 570S compared to the 650S model’s special ProActive Chassis Control (PCC), where the dampers are hydraulically linked to a gas-filled ‘accumulator’ that stiffens damping when sensors detect upcoming cornering forces, relaxing the damping in a straight-line, and therefore negating the need for ride-busting anti-roll bars, even if the ‘stiffness’ of those bars can be adjusted. This suspension is likely the largest dynamic difference between the 570S and its 650S older brother, since acceleration from rest to 100 km/h (3.2 versus 3.0 seconds, respectively) and top speed (328 km/h and 333 km/h) barely register, at least when pushing to their respective max capabilities. The 570S also doesn’t receive the automatically raising rear airfoil/spoiler, which allows it and the 540C to offer a distinct rear look as well, with more curved taillights to the 650 and above’s straked design that more closely follows McLaren’s original MP4 12C’s hindquarters. Plus, the 570S’s fixed rear spoiler also doesn’t give away extra enthusiastic speeds or braking, while the slightly less bulky Monocell II entry sill makes climbing in and out of it a tad easier, if still worth practicing for smoothness. All in all, the McLaren 570S is still a glorious exotic sports car that still requires track sessions to truly work out that twin-turbo V8 and the seven-speed paddles, which can be left in a slightly jerky automatic mode, until it convices you that manual control is still the smoothest and most fun, even with no clutch pedal. Yes, it has been tweaked for greater day-to-day useability, but it's difficult to mask that this is a true beast that wants to run and stretch its legs, in curves and on straights, on road and during lapping days.   SPECIFICATIONS – 2016 McLaren 570S BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $219,750 / $254,112 ENGINE: 3.8L twin-turbo V8 HORSEPOWER: 562 hp @ 7,500 rpm TORQUE: 443 lb-ft. @ 5,000-6,500 rpm DRY WEIGHT: 1,344 kg CONFIGURATION: mid-engine, rear-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / unlimitedALTERNATIVES: Audi R8, Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Huracan, Porsche 911 Turbo S Photography by Michael Bettencourt
CAMBRIDGE, Ont. - The 2017 Porsche Macan Period. That's the message we were greeted with as our small drive group gathered around a large dining table in one of the lavish, branched-off rooms of the manor that is Langdon Hall to learn more about the newest additon to the Macan family. As we sat around a table in a room overlooking the sprawling lawn of the Langdon grounds, we were made aware of the differences – some subtle, others not so much - that set this Macan apart from its S, GTS, and Turbo siblings. The first and perhaps most obvious is the lack of lettering after its moniker (hence Period). No letters or fast-sounding words; just Macan, which is very appropriate considering that this is the base model version of the mid-sized SUV. This is also powered by a smaller engine in the form of a 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four, joining the 718 Boxster in the turbo four-cylinder Porsche camp. Other differences reveal themselves upon closer examination. The six-piston brakes of the S have been replaced by fours up front, while halogen headlights replace its Bi-Xenons. Also, the trim around the windows is matte black and there's no sunroof (optional across the Macan line). Inside, brushed aluminum trim, navigation and other multimedia features such as Apple CarPlay are absent, but are available as options (side note- navigation is standard on the Macan Turbo only).   There is a good reason for these content changes, however – the Macan's modest $52,700 price tag. Coming in at just under the $53,000, this will be the Porsche you’ll buy if you’ve ever pictured yourself having one in the driveway. For an extra $3,300, you can add a handful of features with the Premium Package, which includes Bi-Xenon headlights, Bose surround sound, auto-dimming mirrors, and rear heated seats. For an extra $3,950, you can step up to the Premium Package Plus, adding 14-way power and ventilated front seats (heated is standard), a panoramic sunroof, and Porsche’s Entry & Drive, which enables you to enter and start the car without reaching for the key. Considering the price tags on some of these upgrade items, the Premium Package Plus appears to be the best bang for the buck here. It will likely find wide acceptance. Also, if you can’t do without navigation, there are two ways you can go about getting it on this model. You can either go for the $1,980 navigation module option, or check off the $1,130 Connect package for Apple CarPlay, which displays navigation data when connected to an iPhone. Android Auto is not yet available, but could be offered in the future. Enough about the features for now though, let’s get to how Macan feels and drives! The styling of the Macan is unmistakably Porsche. Inside, you grip a leather-wrapped steering wheel and situate yourself in half-leather, half-Alcantara seats, which are very comfortably bolstered and offer ideal seating for most any body type with eight-way adjustability. The shifter is easily accessible from any seating position, as well as are the different mode and option buttons that line the centre console. For our drive, we left Langdon Hall’s storied grounds in Cambridge and headed for Paris and eventually Caledonia, where we found some freshly laid asphalt to carve into on the numerous winding back roads. Steering and suspension feel are spot on in the Macan. The wheel never once felt heavy during spirited turns, and the suspension was a blend of not too stiff and not too floaty – just right. Between the two, road response was fantastic. As someone who has driven the Macan Turbo a few times, those experiences made the 252-horsepower 2.0-litre engine in this Macan feel a bit underwhelming. With the Macan Turbo costing about $33,000 more, however, the difference is understandable. The Sport mode alleviates the want for more under the foot with decreased throttle resistance, but Sport Plus is where the four-cylinder Macan really shines. Pick-up is almost instant as the SUV puts 273 lb-ft of torque to work through all four wheels, and the seven-speed PDK transmission ka-chunks along beautifully, holding onto gears while the engine wails. Noise was actually something that I think I missed the most in the Macan. In both Sport and Normal modes, it is almost strangely quiet. It’s not until you hit Sport Plus that you get some kind of aural feedback. But because this is a Porsche, there’s a solution: the optional $3,350 Sport Exhaust. So, who is this Porsche for? Really, the Macan (Period) is the new entry-level Porsche. This is for someone who has always wanted to get into a Porsche, but thought them to be beyond their means. It could also appeal to someone who already owns a Porsche, yet is looking for something with everyday utility and is good for long trips. The Macan is a comfortable, classy, well-balanced SUV with just enough Porsche sportiness sprinkled on top, and apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so – despite being on sale for only a short time in Canada, the Macan already has a waiting list. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Porsche Macan BASE PRICE: $52,700 ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder HORSEPOWER: 252 hp @ 5,000- 6,800 rpm TORQUE: 273 lb-ft. @ 1,600 – 4,500 rpm DRY WEIGHT: 1,770 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 7-speed PDK automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 11.6 / 9.3 / 10.6 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: BMW X3/X4, Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5, Lexus NX, Jaguar F-Pace 20d Photography by Micky Slinger
There are nine different Cayenne versions listed on Porsche Canada’s consumer site as I type this, compared to two current Cayman models, yet you won’t find the track-oriented 2016-only Cayman GT4 among them. So chances are that if you’d like your own 2016 Cayman GT4 such as the one tested here, you’re likely going to have to hunt down one of the few allocated to Canada on dealer lots now, many of them demos with a few thousand clicks on them. And it will still cost you a pretty penny, and perhaps above MSRP to boot. The GT4’s official starting MSRP of $96,500 is about 20 large more than the starting price of a less powerful ‘17 718 Cayman S, with our lightly optioned Racing Yellow tester coming in at $106,475 after all delivery charges. But an online search for the Cayman GT4 at Canadian dealerships across the country indicated a price range for demo models anywhere between $140k-$160k – suggesting there’s lots more demand than supply for these wild-tailed track beasts. Much of the appeal comes down to the higher-end sports car components borrowed from the impressive Porsche parts bin. The GT4’s engine is the same 3.8-litre horizontally opposed six as in a 911 Carrera S, with 385 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. of torque, but available only with a six-speed manual transmission with rev-matching, in Sport mode. This drivetrain provides a 0-100 km/h time of 4.4 seconds, with a top track speed of 295 km/h, providing a flat-six going away party before the four-cylinder-only 718 Caymans arrive. It’s the rare combination of the Cayman’s engine-under-your-feet balance along with chassis components and brakes largely culled from the heroic 911 GT3 that provides a unique performance symphony on lapping days, but somewhat punishing on the street overall. Some may call the lack of sound deadening, real door handles and overall removal of anything that doesn’t make it go faster or handle better (including the ability to delete the radio and air conditioning) as evidence of ‘driving purity’. But even Porsche admits the fabric loops in the lighter GT4 don’t weigh any less than more user-friendly regular door handles, so they’re a constant reminder that you’re driving something special. For most affluent drivers, however, only the most hardcore of performance and track enthusiasts will be willing to pay this much more, for this much less. SPECIFICATIONS – 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4 BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $96,500 / $106,475 ENGINE: 3.8L inline 6-cylinder HORSEPOWER: 385 hp @ 7,400 rpm TORQUE: 310 lb-ft. @ 4,750 rpm DRY WEIGHT: 1,340 kg CONFIGURATION: mid-engine, rear-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS L/100 KM (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 16 / 12.5 / 14 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: BMW M4, Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar F-Type, Lotus Evora 400 Photography by Michael Bettencourt
Earlier this week, I attended a first drive event for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E 300 sedan on behalf of Ignition and courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Canada. The New E-Class sedan will eventually be available in V6 (E 400) and AMG variants (E 43), but for the purposes of this event, I drove the 4-cylinder turbo version (E 300), which just went on sale across Canada last month. Moving forward, we’ll be publishing first drives of vehicles we get to sample on press preview events. They’ll be short, in the 300 to 500-word range, designed to give you, our readers, a taste of the vehicle along with some basic specs and some general driving impressions, along the lines of This Week’s Press Car. We will endeavor to get First Drive posted online during or soon after the event, as time permits. Sometimes, as is the case here, the post may go up a day or two after the event concludes, but we’ll try to be as prompt as we can. So with that out of the way, let’s get it started with the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E 300. OTTAWA, Ont. – The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E 300 is loaded with technology, so much so, in fact, that several articles could be written on that aspect of the car alone. Given that First Drive is primarily focused on providing a snapshot of the car, I’m not going to go into too much detail about the many safety systems available on this car. There are a few worth mentioning, however. But first things first. The E 300 is available in Canada with one powertrain combination. A 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque is mated to a nine-speed (9G-Tronic) automatic transmission that powers all four wheels. As with most Mercedes offerings in Canada, 4MATIC is standard issue. On the design front, the E 300 is available with either a Sport or Luxury design. The cars I drove in Ottawa were all of the Sport variety, so they had more of an AMG feel with a louvred grille, large air intakes rear chrome diffuser and five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels. The Luxury design features a chrome-trimmed bumper, a larger chrome grille, stand-up Mercedes star hood ornament and 18-inch five-twin spoke alloys among other differences. On the inside, the E 300 offers some of the luxury touches first introduced on the bigger S-Class, including a new user interface with touchpad control and massage seat functions. Those features combined with standard Artico leather seating surfaces, 12.3-inch COMAND display screen and 14-way power adjustable front seats make the E 300 a very comfortable place to be. Okay- now for the safety kit. There’s a lot of it, so bear with me. In addition to the various ‘assists’ available (crosswind, active brake, parking, lane keeping, etc.), the 300 can be equipped with Drive Pilot, which represents Mercedes latest step along the road to fully autonomous (self-driving) cars. Drive Pilot is a suite of technology designed to combat distracted driving and to keep the E 300 on the road with steering, braking, lane keeping and distance keeping support. Steering Pilot keeps the car centred in its lane and can steer through bends while Active Lane-change Assistant will help the guide the car into the adjacent lane once the turn signal has been engaged and the system detects the lane is clear. Distance Pilot Distronic (active cruise control) works at speeds of 0 to 210 km/h to keep the E 300 at a constant speed and distance from the vehicle in front. It can also accelerate and brake the car, and can bring it to a complete stop if the system detects the driver is inattentive (i.e. hands off the steering wheel for a prolonged period of time), a feature known as Active Emergency Stop Assist. I tried the latter on an empty stretch of highway and, after a few prompts to put my hands back on the wheel, my tester braked itself to a complete stop. It was quite impressive, as were the other Drive Pilot features. It is a bit of a strange experience to watch a car steer, brake and accelerate without human assistance, but the E 300 can do it – the future is already here. Taken together, the E 300 makes for a very compelling package. The well-equipped testers I drove were comfortable, quiet, composed and wrapped in a pleasing design with loads of cutting-edge technology. There’s much more to be said about it, and the other E-Class variants once they’re in market, but I’ll leave that for the feature-length article we’ll be running in the Winter 2016 edition of Ignition, which will be out later this fall. SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Mercedes-Benz E 300 BASE PRICE: $61,200 ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder HORSEPOWER: 241 hp @ 5,500 rpm TORQUE: 273 lb-ft. @ 1,300 – 4,000 rpm DRY WEIGHT: 1,765 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 10.8 / 8.1 / 9.5 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: Audi A6, BMW M5, Lexus GS Photography by Lee Bailie
In the post-war 1950s, the sports car movement grew up in North America based on our love of ‘sports cars’. While many magazine articles were written back then debating the definition of a true sports car, the consensus seemed to be that it was a small, two-seat, open-top roadster (with side curtains) that was equally suited to touring and racing. Indeed, in the era it was commonplace for a sports car owner to drive to the race track, tape up the headlights and go racing. Today, the rough equivalent might be track days, or lapping days. Back then, examples of such true sports cars would be the MG-TC, MGA, Triumph TR3, Austin-Healey 100, the Morgan +4 or the Porsche Speedster. The Sunbeam Alpine, which came out in 1959 and had wind-up side windows had some trouble being accepted as a true sports car on account of its lack of side curtains. Eventually we got past that and dropped the notion that side windows (or coupe bodywork for that matter) disqualified a car from being a sports car. The introduction of the more sedan-like Mustang and Camaro further confused things, but that old notion of a ‘true’ sports car lived on. The Mazda Miata (aka MX-5) which was introduced in 1990 was a deliberate throwback to that older idea. Indeed, the car was essentially a steel-bodied clone of the Lotus Elan from the early 1960s with its 1,600 cc DOHC four-cylinder engine and chassis layout (front engine, rear-wheel drive, wishbone chassis). This was a bare-bones sports car in the traditional form – a manual transmission, no creature comforts added, save for a radio and with a tiny trunk that would barely accommodate your small sports bag. It was such a success at reviving the best of the sports car ideals in a reliable Japanese car that the MX-5 has become the most popular sports car ever. This year, total sales passed the million mark. In the 1990s, I owned two different first gen Miatas (the first was written off after it was rear-ended) and I drove them for a combined total of more than over 200,000 km, making many long trips to Florida and to various races across America. The first generation NA became the slightly restyled and upgraded NB. In 2006, the third generation NC was introduced with a 2.0-litre engine. This was a ‘softer’ redesign - slightly more interior space, some more accessories like cruise control and satellite radio, and a bigger trunk - and Mazda started to move away from the ‘Miata’ name in favour of the MX-5 moniker. Miata purists didn’t respond well to that. Personally, I once had rental NC for a week while attending the Monterey Historics event in California and I did enjoy the car. It still offered the genuine open-air experience and the upgraded features were convenient but I never searched the pages of Auto Trader looking for a used NC the way I’ve looked for used first- or second-generation versions. Finally, in 2016, Mazda has seen the error its ways and has produced the fourth gen ND, which is an obvious effort to produce a modern car with the old Miata character. It’s lighter and sportier than the NC, and as an unofficial member of the Miata nostalgia club, I approve. Recently, I had to opportunity to borrow one of the new MX-5s to tour the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. The car I was given was a mid-range GS with the Sport Option package which includes an upgraded suspension, Recaro seats and 17-inch BBS wheels. The GS and the optioned-up GT models all have 17-inch wheels with 45-profile Bridgestone Potenza S001 maximum performance summer tires while the base GX makes do with 16-inch 50-profile tires. The new car reminds me of my first-gen cars, but with even more precise and confident handling and a bit more power. This new car has a 2.0-litre engine with 155 hp but that’s more than you need for any road situation and more than adequate to make the Sport Option version an ideal track-day car. Indeed, if you want to go racing in competition, there is a ‘spec-racer’ model available for licensed, would-be racers and there are lots of race shops willing to transform your road-going version into a competitive racer. For me, I would simply want a tourer and this car was near ideal for our trip through the hills and valleys of the Finger lakes country. Once off the main throughways, the rural roads wind their way through and around the topography making for ideal sports car touring country. It is easy to see why Cam Argetsinger and others were inspired to carve out a true road-racing course on the roads through and around Watkins Glen. The days we were there were among the hottest of the summer and we wimped out and kept the top up and the air conditioning going full blast much of the time. But we did manage to get in some open car touring and the new version of the soft top lived up to its claims. It’s very easy to drop the top and bring it back up again while sitting in the driver’s seat (a convenience that is definitely not in the old sports car tradition). For sure, this car provided the authentic, traditional sports-car experience. As I see it, the version we had, the GS with the Sports Options package, was the best version if you want to drive the car is a very spirited way on the road or during a track day experience. The add-ons that come with the GT are not really in keeping with the bare-bones sports car that this car is supposed to represent, and there may be other cars that offer a better mix of sporty and bells-and-whistles conveniences than the GT MX-5, but even with the top-of-the-line GT there’s not any real competition at that price point. However, for my money, I would opt for the base model GX or the base GS instead, but not just to save money. The Recaro seats are designed to hold you securely in place no matter what but even for people with normal-width butts, the high, rigid side bolsters are confining and they make it difficult to get into and out of the car. The normal seats are more comfortable for everyday driving. Interestingly, so far the Recaro seats are not available in any package offered in the United States. As for the other things the GS offers over the GX, there is an upgraded suspension with Bilstein shocks, limited-slip rear differential and a front strut tower bar. I like the leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. You also get the touchscreen Mazda Connect which displays navigation, audio, Bluetooth and other information via a central screen. For my money, I would be happy with the basic radio and Bluetooth in the GX (audio entertainment in an open-top sports car is an iffy proposition at best anyway) and I could use my $150 Garmin GPS in this car or any other car, including rentals. The handling upgrades go a long way to justifying the $4,400 additional cost of the GS over the GX even if, like me, you don't find the Mazda Connect to be an essential feature. Besides, locating a GX could be a tall order. The impression I get from a casual search of Mazda dealers near me (west-end Toronto area) is that they are stocking GS and GT models by preference. There are alternatives within the sports convertible arena to consider, including the include the Nissan 370Z, BMW Z4 and the Porsche 718 Boxster, all of which are generally more expensive. To my surprise, I found that the convertible version of the Mustang comes in at a base price comparable to the MX-5 GX, while the Camaro is a bit more expensive but in the same price range. Of course, neither the Mustang nor the Camaro are ‘true’ sports cars in the manner I’ve described here - each to their own taste, however. The other day I had a chance encounter with a neighbour who is now a successful novelist. As the royalties began to come in one of his first upscale purchases was a NC Miata. More royalties later, the Miata was replaced by a Porsche Cayman. Now he tells me that he has added a new ND MX-5 to his stable in addition to the Porsche. To me that says it all about the allure of the Miata. It’s clear that the Mazda Miata/MX-5 has found its niche. It’s the best-selling sports car ever and there are more of them racing than any other kind of production model. For sure, they are not another cookie-cutter car built to appeal to all tastes. But if you think that an MX-5 might be your cup of tea, it’s well worth a test drive. SPECIFICATIONS – 2016 Mazda MX-5 GS w/ Sport Option package BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $35,300 / $39,700 ENGINE: SKYACTIV-G 2.0L inline 4-cylinder HORSEPOWER: 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm TORQUE: 148 lb-ft. @ 4,600 rpm DRY WEIGHT: 1,058 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, rear-wheel driveTRANSMISSION: 6-speed manualFUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY.): 8.8 / 6.9 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36/ 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: BMW Z4, Nissan 370Z, Porsche 718 Boxster Photography by George Webster
PORTO, PORTUGAL - After Audi’s popular A4 sedan received an all-new generation version that appeared in North American showrooms earlier this year, you knew it wouldn’t be long before its hot-looking coupe sibling would be similarly revised. But unlike its four-door stablemate, Audi will introduce the A5 Coupe into market at the same time as its hotter S5 performance version, with both scheduled to arrive at Canadian dealers in spring 2017, as 2018 models. It’s the first all-new A5 since the subtly stylish coupe was introduced in 2007, quite a long time even in an era of extended life spans for sporty models – especially German luxury ones. Audi spent the extra time refining the interior and technology of the A5, while lightening and boosting the performance side of the performance-oriented S5, which features a powerplant that has the same displacement, but is turbocharged instead of supercharged, and radically different otherwise. Exterior design adds some CanCon in aerodynamics Neither model looks hugely different, which is a plus as these were subtly some of the best-looking German luxury coupes on the market. The most immediate difference lies in the revised LED headlights, which now has its hockey stick-shaped blade pointed downwards towards its outer edges, in a form that’s similar to 2017 Ford Fusion. A neat touch at the rear are the LED turn signals that move in the direction you want to go, Mustang style, though not with three bars following each other, but in Teutonically straight and highly defined yellow strips underneath the brake lights. In between those extremities lie slightly more pronounced fenders meant to highlight an increased muscularity, with the S5 featuring distinctive aluminum trim and mirror housings, as per S-line custom. This car’s super-slippery 0.25 co-efficient of drag helps keep it quiet at highway speeds exceeding 140 km/h (highways in Portugal are largely limited to 120km/h, but even automatic photo radar traps don’t generally trip below 145 km/h, according to locals). This Prius-like aerodynamics figure also provides a bit of Canadian content, as they were honed under the direction of Ottawa-born aerodynamicist Dr. Moni Islam, a Montreal-raised engineer who holds degrees from Concordia and the University of Toronto. Engine upgrades for both These slightly more aggressive accents are backed up by more power under the hood for both the A5 and S5. The A5 receives a healthy bump up in power from the current model’s 220 hp, with 252 hp coming from a turbocharged four-cylinder that continues in 2.0-litre form. On the road, this engine provided a smooth yet lively companion, quietly obedient in urban conditions – though from the outside, its direct injection is surprisingly loud and diesel-like. It offers a responsive urge when called upon, especially if used in conjunction with the shift paddles that are now standard on all ‘5’ models. Audi stakes a credible claim of 5.8 seconds for its 0-100 km/h time, with fuel economy not yet confirmed for North America, but likely close to the ’17 A4 quattro sedan’s 8.7 L/100km average. The A5 uses a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, while the S5 comes with an eight-speed Tiptronic unit. No manual gearboxes are planned for this side of the world, a reflection of just how few opt to shift their own gears, even in performance vehicles. With the original S5 offering up a muscular supercharged V8 with 354 ponies, the last generation’s supercharged powerplant’s 333 was a kinder, gentler offering, in performance and at the pump. For this 2018 model, power is back up to 354 metric horses, though its U.S. horsepower figure comes in at 349 hp (and 249 hp for the A5 Coupe). Torque rises even more substantially, up to 369 lb-ft, helping to propel the S5 from rest in an official 4.7 seconds. Interior comfort and convenience upgrades the most apparent of all The tech-heavy interior is by far the most improved aspect of the A5 family, especially in our afternoon testing fully loaded models on curvy back roads and highways in northern Portugal. This more advanced feel starts as soon as one sits in the driver’s seat, an electric arm extending out the seatbelt from the B-pillar to make it easier to grasp. This is a long-time party trick of Mercedes-Benz two-door models, but more originality points go to Audi’s available ‘virtual cockpit,’ which trades in actual dials for a super high resolution TFT screen that places the navi map in between digital dials, allowing the driver to select among different GPS and display modes. There’s also a new head-up display that ghosts speed, GPS and stereo information onto the windshield in front of you, with the rotary MMI-controller system now touch-sensitive like a tablet as well. Folks who don’t want to spend much time diving into the specifics of the advanced system may still appreciate hard buttons for radio station presets as well as a real volume knob down by the MMI controller, features that are quickly disappearing from other luxury interiors. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available, as will a way to wirelessly charge certain phones, if so equipped. Plus, previously missing luxury features such as a heated steering wheel and ventilated and massaging seats will now be available, as will a way to adjust ambient light patterns in 30 different shades. We spent most of our time in the A5, but the S5’s interior was notable for the full sonic blast of the optional 3D Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker, 755-watt system. Even set to half way its max volume, the rearview mirror shook and bass thumped through our quivering organs. I couldn’t in good conscience push it past three-quarters, even though the sound stayed pinpoint sharp, for fear my driving partner would use the small volume knob next to his knee to cut the sound quickly before delivering a Medusa-worthy death-stare. One annoying aspect of the A5 and S5 had to do with its shifter and automatic parking brake. Though owners would, presumably, get used to the oddly placed Park button located on the lower left of the shifter, the auto-engaging parking brake that doesn’t automatically un-engage when going into Drive quickly becomes tiresome. Increased size, but decreased weight also help dynamics Size-wise, Audi engineers increased both the overall interior and space, the latter now up to 465 litres, with a 40/20/40 rear seat split that allows both rear seats to be occupied and the centre section to still offer a usefully large pass-through for skis or hockey sticks, though bags for either one may be a stretch. That trunk also now offers the ability to rise with a sweep of the foot. Even with its larger size, Audi was able to trim the curb weight by as much as 60 kilograms (132 lb). That’s not a huge decrease, but combined with the more powerful engines, certainly helps in the dynamics department. Full-time all-wheel drive sends 60 percent of the A5 torque’s rearward under most conditions, but can send up to 70 per cent to the front and up to 85 per cent rearward, such as when accelerating hard from a stop. In the S5, a more advanced sport differential can vary torque side to side as well, sending most power to the outside rear wheel, and thus fighting the understeer that sometimes plague safety-oriented all-wheel drive systems. There’s also now a predictive and electronic damping function to the new suspension that reads the car’s various inputs (engine rpm, steering angle, transmission mode, etc.), that promises increased comfort as well as performance, depending on the driver’s mood and the condition of the road ahead. Impressive, but evolutionary In the end, both the A5 and S5 lead to much-needed but not-terribly-ambitious remakes to the popular luxury and performance coupes, respectively. While the S5 is more technically interesting for its new turbocharged V6, its compressor now nestled tightly in between the V6’s cylinders, most of the changes are based on the new Audi A4. This helps its interior convenience and comfort aspects more so than its performance ones. at least so far. Then again, we haven’t seen what Audi has in store for a potential RS 5 model, so the best is likely yet to come. SPECIFICATIONS – 2018 Audi A5 / S5 Coupe BASE PRICE: $44,700 / $57,800 est. (A5 / S5 – 2016 model pricing) ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. / 3.0L turbocharged V6 HORSEPOWER: 252 / 354 TORQUE: 272.9 / 368.8 CONFIGURATION: Front-engine / all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual clutch automatic / 8-speed Tiptronic automatic DRY WEIGHT (KG): 1,390 / 1,615 FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (NEDC COMB.): 6.3 / 7.4 L/100 km WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: BMW 2-Series / M2, Cadillac ATS/ ATS-V Coupe, Infiniti Q60 Coupe, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe / C 63 Coupe              Photography by Michael Bettencourt and Audi AG
Lincoln’s turnover of its staid lineup has been chugging along for the past few years with new MKC and MKX crossovers, but it will really pick up steam in the second half of 2016. An all-new Continental sedan is on the way, but it’s not the only new Lincoln bound for dealerships. A refreshed 2017 MKZ mid-size sedan is has just gone on sale with new front-end styling and powertrain updates among other changes, On the powertrain front, the 3.0L EcoBoost V6 replaces the 3.7L V6. The 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cylinder carries over, as does the normally aspirated 2.0L four, which powers the MKZ hybrid. Power output has been increased in both EcoBoost units, slightly (5 hp / 5 lb-ft.) with the 2.0L (245 hp / 275 lb-ft.) and significantly with the 3.0L (400 hp / 400 hp). The latter produces and extra 100 hp and 133 lb-ft. of torque over the outgoing 3.7. The hybrid’s numbers are unchanged at 188 total system horsepower with 129 lb-ft. of torque. The engines are paired with two transmissions, a six-speed automatic goes with the EcoBoost mills and the hybrid comes with a CVT. On the inside, the MKZ sports a redesigned centre stack with buttons and knobs replacing the slide controls of the outgoing model. Other changes include redesigned door panels with new trim materials. The touchscreen infotainment / navigation system, powered by SYNC 3 software operates beautifully and utilizes its unique Lincoln graphics and colour palates. The 2017 MKZ comes in two trims, Select and Reserve for both regular and hybrid models. I sampled two of the three powertrain combinations. Sadly, no V6 models were made available for the press preview. On the road, the MKZ is a quiet and comfortable car to cruise along in. Both models were quiet at highway speed and in city traffic. What surprised a little was how responsive they were to stabs at the throttle. Launches were quite quick but they filled the cabin with buzzy engine noise, which is bit disappointing for a car born out of quiet luxury. One can toggle the modes (comfort, normal and sport) of Lincoln Drive Control, but it doesn’t change the car’s character much. Steering effort, throttle response and suspension damping felt much the same regardless of setting. Might as well just leave it in normal and never touch it again. Besides, fiddling with driving modes and mashing the accelerator seems to be at odds with the MKZ’s nature. This car, and the Lincoln brand generally, is all about taking the road less traveled in comfort and style. SPECIFICATIONS   2017 Lincoln MKZ   BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $42,000 / $46,000 ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder, 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 HORSEPOWER: 245 hp / 400 hp TORQUE: 275 lb-ft. / 400 lb-ft. DRY WEIGHT: 1,769 kg / 1,901 kg (AWD) CONFIGURATION: front engine, front and all-wheel drive FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 11.8 / 8.4 / 10.3; 14 / 9.2 / 11.8 (V6) WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: Acura TLX, Infiniti Q50, Lexus ES Photo by Lee Bailie  
The Buick Enclave feels a bit like the forgotten member of the brand’s crossover / SUV lineup. While the compact Encore will get a facelift for 2017 and the mid-size Envision is new to the North American market, consumers will likely have to wait until the 2018 model year for an all-new Enclave. The current gen full-sized Buick SUV, which was last updated in 2013, will soldier on for at least one more year beyond 2016. Despite its age, the Enclave still offers room for seven, a comfortable ride and plenty of premium content (4G LTE Wi-Fi, heated and cooled leather seats, navigation, satellite radio, etc). Available in front and all-wheel drive, the Enclave is powered by a 3.6-litre V6 (288 hp / 270 lb-ft.) mated to six-speed automatic transmission. Power delivery is linear and a flat torque curve (peaking at 3,400 rpm) ensures good off-the-line acceleration. The Enclave may be a bit long in the tooth, but it delivers a compelling luxury package that is competitive with its German and Japanese rivals. SPECIFICATIONS 2016 Buick Enclave AWD Premium BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $49,035 / $58,995 ENGINE: 3.6L V6 HORSEPOWER: 288 hp @ 6,300 rpm TORQUE: 270 lb-ft. @ 3,400 rpm DRY WEIGHT: 2,930 kg CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 16.1 / 10.8 / 13.7 WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: Acura MDX, Dodge Durango, Infiniti QX60, Mazda CX-9
Here is our list of 5 (Five) Best and Worst Things About The Upcoming 2018 Audi A5 Coupe. BEST 1) Slippery style: Super refined but sporty style, with aerodynamics honed down to a slippery 0.25 coefficient of drag by Ottawa-born aerodynamicist Dr. Moni Islam, who holds degrees from Concordia in Montreal and the University of Toronto. 2) Whisper quiet: Also helped by those sleek aerodynamics, as well as the platform it shares with the A4 and pricier Q7, the A5 is whisper quiet and hugely refined when cruising at highway speeds, and even extra-legal highway speeds. 3) Power healthy for “base” model: Major power boost from the redone turbocharged 252 hp four-cylinder engine, as on the A4 sedan, with a healthy 293 lb-ft of torque, standard paddle shifters and quattro all-wheel drive that combine to power it to 100km/h in a claimed but believable 5.8 seconds. 4) Kicking sound: a brief burst to what I thought must be nearing full blast of the optional 3D Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker, 755-watt system was barely up to half way. Even though I warned my co-driver of the audio test, I couldn’t in good conscience push it past three-quarters, even though the sound was still pinpoint sharp. 5) Virtual wow factor: Audi’s flashy virtual cockpit is now available here, which first debuted on the TT, which trades in analog gauges for a super high resolution screen that uniquely bleeds the navigation system across much of the space in front of the driver. Worst 1) Too similar-looking for some: a quick poll of attendees at the launch had a few thinking it looked a bit too much like the outgoing version, especially with the similar-looking five-spoke wheels on some test models – with a hint of ’17 Ford Fusion in its headlights especially. 2) Still tiny back seat: even with 23 more millimetres (0.9 inch) of knee room in the back, the plus-two seats back there are still very tight, and made slightly tougher to access with the automatically extending and retracting seatbelt arms, as Mercedes-Benz has used for a while on its big two-doors. 3) Lack of engine choice: the A5 will arrive with one turbo 2.0-litre four, and that’s it; though the sportier S5 benefits from an all-new turbocharged V6 engine, A5 drivers in North America won’t be offered any of the other four engines available in Europe (three diesels, one other gas). A plug-in offering would be a great option here. 4) Parking pain: Though A5 drivers would (likely) get used to the oddly placed Park button located on the lower left of the shifter, the auto-engaging parking brake that doesn’t automatically un-engage when going into Drive had multiple drivers cursing the combo of the two, even by the end of our half-day preview drive. 5) ‘Diesel-gate’ collateral damage? Though the emissions control defeat device scandal is most closely associated with parent company Volkswagen, Audi may still have a trust issue with consumers not impressed with the brand heavily pushing ‘clean diesels’ that were found to be anything but, and removed from the market for 2016 by government regulators in both Canada and the U.S.

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