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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 BUICK ENCLAVE 2014 ENCORE

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t’s amazing how many car companies now sell big three-rows-ofseating wagons compared with similarly sized truck-like sport utility vehicles a decade ago. The Enclave is the prettiest of GM’s triplets that include the Acadia and Traverse, and received a substantial refresh for 2013. Everything forward of the A-pillar was changed, including sharper headlamps, LED running lights and more prominent fenders. The rear remained familiar, accented by light-emittingdiode (LED) taillights. The vehicle’s impressive utility is unchanged thanks to three rows of seats with room for

Overall: Although its bones were born a while back, Buick’s eight-passenger people-mover is fresh inside and out.

either seven or eight riders, depending on configuration. The second row slides to provide access to the spacious back row that’s actually habitable by adults. A twist of the key fires a 288-horsepower 3.6-litre V6 that operates through a six-speed automatic transmission. The Enclave begins as a front-wheel-driver, but all-wheeldrive is optional. As befits a Buick, the Enclave is all about luxury as well as practicality. Even base models include enough features to make German-car owners jealous, and the Enclave’s new instrument panel, ambient lighting and softer materials will make them

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even more steamed. Safety is covered with seven airbags (including the industry’s first centre-mounted airbag that protects from off-side crashes), a rear back-up camera, traction and stability control (to prevent a skid or spin) and a year’s worth of OnStar, GM’s satellite-based live-voice assistance centre. New safety tech for 2014 includes available camera-based systems that warn of oncoming collisions or if you change lanes without signaling. Those join the blind-spot

2014 REGAL GS warning and rear cross-traffic alert package that debuted in 2013. Moving up the trim ladder adds perforated-leather seats (heated in front) with memory, 19- or 20-inch wheels and fancier trim. A wide assortment of features can be ladled on such as navigation, skylight-style sunroof, a 10-speaker touch-screen audio package and a DVD entertainment system. Heated and cooled driver and front passenger seats can be had as a stand-alone option.

Drivetrain: The 288-horsepower 3.6-litre V6 has direct fuel injection; hooked to an updated six-speed automatic transmission.


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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 Corvette Stingray

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rom any angle, the 2014 Stingray -- Sting Ray was first used for the artful “split-window” 1963 ‘Vette -- is all Corvette, all the time. The wedge-shaped body and grinning grille are symbolic of previous editions, yet most of the car is completely new. The convertible is not merely a coupe without a roof, but a highly detailed sculpture that carries shapes and themes from the body to the interior and back. The dashing cockpit is the design equal to the exterior, something the ‘Vette faithful have waited ages to see.

New for 2014! Equally dramatic is the Stingray’s stiffer chassis that uses weight-reducing aluminum, just like the 2013 Z06 Corvette. It’s also stronger, which means the convertible body requires no additional bracing and thus weighs only about 29 kilograms more than the coupe. The engine compartment houses a newly designed 6.2-litre “LT1” V8 worth 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It uses direct fuel injection and variable valve timing to best the previous 6.2’s rating of 430/424. Both the all-new seven-speed manual transmis-

sion and optional six-speed automatic are located directly ahead of the rear suspension for improved weight distribution, just as before. The sevenspeed’s “Active Rev Matching” blips the throttle when upshifting/downshifting for smooth gear transitions and better vehicle stability, such as when gearing down while braking for a corner. Standard is a fiveposition selector knob with settings for Weather (ratchets up the stability and traction controls), Eco for maximum fuel economy, Tour (standard default position), Sport (firms

Overview: The Corvette makes economic mincemeat out of the competition, excelling in design and total performance. A more sophisticated presence simply adds to its desirability.

up the suspension and throttle settings and reduces exhaust backpressure) and Track (really firm and loud plus adds a lap timer to the electronic gauge panel). The Z51 performance option boosts engine output to 460 ponies and adds a performance suspension and exhaust system, beefier Brembolabeled brakes, larger wheels and tires and both differential and oil coolers. According to Chevrolet, Z51-equipped Corvettes will dash to 100 km-h from rest in about 4.0 seconds, or about 0.3 seconds quicker than the base Stingray.

2014 chevrolet volt Overall: The Chevrolet Volt remains the only electric you could drive from British Columbia to Nova Scotia without stopping to charge every 90 minutes, but there’s now even more incentive to buy thanks to a serious price cut.

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n a tight-run battle with the Nissan Leaf, anything one player does, the other has to do. When Nissan lowered the price on its Leaf for 2014, well, so did Chevrolet. And not just a little bit either: by five grand. The Volt’s biggest positive has been its have-cakeand-eat-it-too technology. The onboard batteries provide power to the electric motor for about 65 kilometres of combined city/highway driving, after which a 1.4-litre four-cylinder gasoline generator engine kicks in to charge the lithium-ion battery pack. Total range is estimated at about 500 kilometres before the generator engine needs refueling with premium gas or the 180-kilogram T-shaped battery located beneath the floor needs charging. “Fuel economy” is an obsolete term as it pertains to the Volt, although it’s claimed that the operational cost per kilometre with

electricity is a fraction of that of a regular internal combustion engine. When the generator is called in to charge the batteries, the common number used is about 5.0 l/100 km. The generator engine is rated at 60 kilowatts, or the equivalent of 80 horsepower, while the electric motor produces 111 kilowatts (150 horsepower) and 273 pound-feet of torque. The one aspect of the Volt that’s similar to a conventional hybrid is that battery charging occurs when the brakes are used. A single-speed controller replaces a traditional transmission to engage the front drive wheels. However, the operator can select Normal, Sport or Mountain mode with the latter providing extra power on steep grades. Commuters who want to simply plug in the Volt each night for the next day’s drive need no special gear as they can tap right into a standard 120-volt electrical

Powertrain: Recharge the battery at home to take you 65 kilometres on electricity; four-cylinder gas power-generator engine provides electricity once the battery runs out; no range anxiety; eight-year, 160,000-kilometre battery warranty. outlet that charges the batteries in about 10.5 hours. However that time is cut to three to four hours when using the optional 240-volt charging “station”. Volt operation is generally silent with a slight whirring of the electric components as you come to a stop and then accelerate. When the Volt switches to the gas engine, there’s more noise, but

no more than in any four-cylinder car. Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, streaming Bluetooth audio, cloth seats and plenty of eye-catching technology. Available safety packages with rear-park assist, front-park assist, forward collision alert and lane departure warning highlight the available extras.


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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 EQUINOX

Overall: With the Equinox compact tall wagon still such a big success, Chevrolet’s changes for 2014 are minor. Drivetrain: A 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder engine or an optional 3.6-litre V6 available in the mid-range and top-line models; optional all-wheel-drive is available across the range.

2014 TRAVERSE

A 182-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder reigns as a base engine, with its 9.2/6.1 l/100 km city/highway fuel economy. The optional 3.6-litre V6 with 301 horsepower outclasses every other compact tall wagon in the segment. It earns a 12.4/8.1 rating, which pretty solid given the power level. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with either engine. A wide assortment of standard equipment (air conditioning, cruise control, keyless remote entry and power windows/locks/mirrors, etc.) comes in base versions, as does a seven-inch touchscreen to work the standard audio system. Moving up into the top-line models adds climate control, heated leather seats, 18- or 19-inch wheels -- the larger of which are now chromed on LTZ models -- extra trim, and premium audio.

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all wagons with three-row seating promise plenty when it comes to saving fuel and being easier to drive than traditional old-school truck-based sport utility vehicles. In GM’s stable, the popular Traverse represents the least-expensive way to get into GM’s people-hauling triplets (the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave are the other two), and it went under the surgeon’s scalpel for 2013 and came out with sharper features and more content. The bold split grille seen on nearly all Chevy cars and trucks is gone, replaced by the company’s new face. The gold bowtie sits on a trapezoidal grille with a trio of larger air intakes below the bumper. The rear end didn’t change as dramatically, but it featured new lights. The interior was equally freshened with nicer materials where you’ll actually touch, a redesigned

centre stack with the colour touch-screen radio and contrasting stitching all over. Traverse’s passenger and cargo roominess still trumps that of the truck-based (and seeming-larger) Tahoe, whether all three rows of seats are folded flat or left upright. Traverse has a 3.6-litre V6 that produces 281 horsepower, or 288 ponies with the optional dual exhaust. The engine operates through a six-speed automatic transmission and the optional all-wheel-drive system distributes power to either the front or rear wheels, depending on road conditions and driver inputs. Safety systems include a standard rearview camera, complemented by optional blind-spot alert, rear cross traffic alert, a new front centre airbag, and, also new for 2014, both forward collision alert and lanedeparture warning.

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ith a larger optional V6 engine and some additional content in 2013, Chevrolet smartly figured that was more than enough to keep its potential Equinox customers happy. Why? Even after four years, it’s obviously “just right” for plenty of folks. Clever touches abound in the design, like the integrated rocker panels in the doors that reduce entry stepup height. (They also help keep pant legs from brushing up against the vehicle’s lower body area.) The interior is likely the Equinox’s best asset. It’s simply gorgeous and includes dual gloveboxes, easy-to-read twin gauges set in large pods and plenty of handy storage bins. There’s also a versatile split folding rear seat that can be adjusted fore and aft over a 20-centimetre range to optimize legroom or cargo capacity.

Overall: After redesigning the three-row, familysized Traverse for 2013, Chevrolet is focusing on bolstering its active safety systems for 2014.

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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 CHEVROLET TRUCKS very popular) 6.6-litre turbo-diesel V8 rated at 397 horsepower and an stout 765 pound-feet of torque. Both base and optional engines employ six-speed automatic Transmissions: a GM-developed Hydramatic comes with the 6.0; and the turbo-diesel employs an Allison-built unit. Chevy has added its “smart exhaust brake system” to the turbodiesel that, when coasting, holds compressed exhaust gasses inside the engine’s cylinders, creating resistance, which in turn slows down the truck without touching the brakes. The result is less wear and tear on the brake hardware and greater control for the driver, especially when hauling or towing heavy loads downhill. Included is a stability program that reduces a trailer’s tendency to wiggle around, while hill-start assist prevents the HD from rolling backward when on an incline. For the 2014 model year, the big news is that all gas-engine models now have the steeper 4.10:1 rear axle ratio as standard equipment to increase trailering ability by 2,040 kilograms to a total of 5,900. Those who do most of their driving on the highway and don’t require big towing capacity can still opt for the less-aggressive 3.73 ratio to save fuel. Since the uses for an HD pickup are so specific and individual, the list of standard HD equipment on the WT (Work Truck), LT and LTZ trim levels is tremendous, as is the options list. You can, quite literally, outfit the HD from bare-bones basic to over-the-edge luxury.

2014 SILVERADO HD

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ave you ever wondered why heavy-duty pickups are so popular? It’s not like there’s anything “light duty” about today’s light-duty Silverado, after all, but given their ratio of ability to size, HD trucks are amazingly capable. While we’ll most likely have to wait another year for the next Silverado HD, the current model is pretty much the same as the new-for-2011 version that introduced added stiffness to the big pickup’s 11 separate boxed frame assemblies. As well, the rear leaf springs were beefed up with a 2,800-kilogram gross rear-axle rating on the 2500 HDs, up from the previous 2,720-kilogram mark (ratings for the one-ton 3500 HD single and dual rear-wheel models were similarly increased). The base 6.0-litre gasoline V8 puts out 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, but for 2014, certain 2500-series models can be equipped to run on compressed natural gas, although power drops to 301 horses and 333 pound-feet of torque. For serious grunt work there’s the optional (and

2014 SILVERADO 1500 SERIES Overall: It might look kinda-sorta similar, but there’s just something about this pickup that’s really different.

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ith the all-new Silverado 1500-series, Chevrolet appears to have done its homework and paid close attention to what buyers are looking for to haul and tow their stuff. It looks familiar, but there are more powerful/efficient engines as well as improvements in nearly every other area. In front, the twin stacked headlights remain, but the grille is now much more prominent and tougher looking. Behind the tailgate, the handy "Corner Step" bumper has recessed footholds that, combined with built-in handholds inside the box, make accessing the bed much easier. The doors are now "inlaid" into the body, which cuts wind noise at highway speeds. Inside, the dashboard and control

panel that houses the optional 20-centimetre touch screen are positioned in a tidy pod for easy viewing and all of the oversized knobs and switches are work-glove-friendly and clearly marked. All body styles -- regular, extended Double Cab (now featuring front-hinged rear doors with outside handles) and four-door Crew Cab -are attached to reworked frames with more high-strength steel, extra bracing for stiffness and improved body mounts that help isolate road nose and vibration. For 2014, you can order the Crew Cab with a longer 200-centimetre bed (the standard bed is 172 centimetres) and you'll get a choice of three new all-aluminum engines. The entry point is a 4.3-litre V6 that has the

same displacement as the previous V6, but output has significantly increased to 285 horsepower and 305 poundfeet of torque from 195/260. Optional is a 5.3-litre V8 with 355 horses and 383 pound-feet, up from 315/335. Later in the model year they'll be joined by an available 6.2-litre V8 rated at 420 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque, which shares its parts with the new Corvette V8. All three powerplants feature direct fuel injection, which tailors the fuel load for the task at hand. They also have continuously variable valve timing (which allows in more fuel and air depending in the power needs) and cylinder deactivation that cuts

Overall: While the standard-duty 2014 Silverado is completely revised, the Heavy Duty version remains unchanged for now; minor equipment shuffling are the only highlights for the new model year. Drivetrain: Base 6.0-litre gas V8 can be driven on natural gas, albeit with some loss in power; torquey 6.6-litre turbodiesel V8 is smooth, quiet and ideal for knocking your house off its foundation. Base price (incl. destination): $39,200 Type: Heavy-duty three-quarter /one-ton pickup Base Engine (hp): 6.0-litre OHV V8 (360) Optional engine (hp): 6.6-litre OHV V8, turbo-diesel (397) Layout: Front-engine, rear- /four-wheel-drive Transmissions: Six-speed automatic l/100 km (city/highway): n/a Safety: Front airbags; anti-lock brakes Weight (kg): 2,400

off up to half the cylinders in light load and cruise situations. The model range also extends to include a new premium "High Country" model to appeal to wealthy ranchers and city slickers. The best part about this truck is its highly optioned leather interior that places it above the previous top-ofthe-line LTZ.

Drivetrain: Brand-new line of "Ecotec3" engines has direct fuel injection and variable valve timing for broader power range and improved economy; six-speed automatic transmissions for all.

Base price (incl. destination): $27,900 Type: Two- /four-door full-size pickup Base Engine (hp): 4.3-litre OHV V6 (285) Optional engines (hp): 5.3-litre OHV V8 (355); 6.2-li-

tre OHV V8 (420) Layout: Front-engine, rear- /four-wheel-drive Transmissions: Six-speed automatic l/100 km (city/highway): 11.9/8.4 (4.3)

Safety: Front airbags (with passenger-seat deactivation); side-curtain airbags (opt.); anti-lock brakes; stability control Weight (kg): 2,080


TODAY’S DRIVE 2013 R001651145

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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 Escalade/Escalade ESV 2014 CTS COUPE

2014 CTS SEDAN

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lthough Cadillac’s car-side -- ATS, CTS and XTS -- is either all new or heavily revised, the utility side is waiting patiently. We know there’s a new Escalade coming that’ll be a suitable replacement for the current model, but it’s still a year or so from production. However, there’s still no mistaking the Escalade as anything else on Yorkville Avenue in Toronto or on Broadway in New York, even if several newer competitors do a better job at pampering their guests. It might be a go-to vehicle for the Hollywood set, but you don’t have to be a rock star or a supermodel to appreciate the 403-horsepower 6.2-litre V8 with variable valve timing. A six-speed automatic transmission can be manually controlled via buttons located on the shift lever. The Escalade has a long standard-features list including an electric tilt steering column, but among the few options are heated and cooled front seats, navigation system/rear-view camera package, rain-

2014 ESCALADE Base price (incl. destination): $86,500; $90,500 (ESV) (2013) Type: Four-door luxury sport-utility vehicle Base Engine (hp): 6.2-litre OHV V8 (403) Layout: Front-engine, rear- /four-wheel-drive Transmission: Six-speed automatic l/100 km (city/highway): 15.3/10.1 (4x2) Safety: Front airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control Weight (kg): 2,590

sensing wipers and a rear-seat eight-inch DVD entertainment system. There are a wide range of wheel/tire options, including a set of super-jumbo 22-inch-diameter chrome wheels. If you want to skip the option picking, head straight for the Platinum edition that’s packed with features as well as its own front fascia treatment and interior upgrades. As before, the long-wheelbase ESV returns to the streets with the same seating capacity as the regular-length Escalade but with much more cargo room.

2014 SRX

2014 CTS COUPE - While the sedan is new for 2014, the CTS Coupe and Wagon wait for their own makeovers; brutish “V” models bring supercharged-V8 power to fight Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz hot-rods. 2014 CTS SEDAN - Cadillac’s midsize sedan lightens up, powers up and grows up; both the two-door coupe and the wagon models, including rapid-fire CTS-V versions, continue unaltered from 2013 for at least one more year.

2014 CADILLAC ESCALADE

2014 SRX - The mid-sized luxury-wagon segment is heating up and Cadillac’s offering attempts to keep pace for 2014.


TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

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2014 CHRYSLER 200 sedan

Overall: While Chrysler remains undecided about the 200 sedan’s fate, it remains swinging in the breeze for 2014.

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emember how we mentioned that Chrysler was working behind closed doors on the 200 sedan’s Alfa Romeo-based replacement for 2014? Well, that clearly didn’t happen, so the 2014 model is essentially unchanged from the 2013, other than a few small details. The car’s knot of attributes includes a $21,700 starting price, a wide assortment of standard equipment and decent enough comfort level. Where it loses steam is in fuel economy, which falls short of its peers. Below the floorboards, the suspension offers reasonable ride quality and outside noise abatement (acoustic laminated front and side glass is part of the package). Inside, you’ll find an attractive instrument panel and supportive seats. There are also plenty of what Chrysler calls “softtouch” features, such as the armrests. While the base powerplant is a 173-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder, buyers can select the 283-horsepower “Pentastar” 3.6-litre V6. The four-cylinder is coupled to the price-leader model’s four-speed automatic transmission, or you can specify a six-speed automatic that helps improve overall mileage. The latter is your only choice when it comes to the 3.6. The 200 has to cover a broad spectrum of buyers and is therefore available in LX, Touring, Limited and 200 S trim levels. The latter jumps off at the Limited’s trim level and adds 18-inch wheels, better interior appointments and stereo, and, of course, the V6. Base price (incl. destination): $21,700 Type: Four-door sedan Base Engine (hp): 2.4-litre DOHC I4 (173) Optional engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (283) Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive Transmissions: Four-speed automatic; six-speed automatic (opt. on I4, std. on V6) l/100 km (city/highway): 10.0/6.9 (2.4, 4AT) Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; antilock brakes, traction control; stability control Weight (kg): 1,540

Drivetrain: A 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a four-speed automatic transmission is the choice of frugal shoppers; a six-speed automatic is optional with the 2.4, but standard with the optional 3.6-liter V6.

2014 CHRYSLER 300

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fter the 2013 theme of “luxury for all” that bumped up standard equipment levels across the board, the 2014 carries over essentially unchanged to take on the likes of the Ford Taurus and the new 2014 Chevrolet Impala. Interestingly, where those models seem to leave off under the hood, the 300 is just getting rolling. Conversely, there’s no hybrid or turbocharged four-cylinders. The 300’s mechanical specs include a 292-horsepower 3.6-litre V6 base engine connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission, which helps both acceleration and fuel economy. For extra thrust, the optional 363-horsepower 5.7-litre “Hemi” V8 returns to save gas by running on only four of its eight cylinders under light load conditions. For an extra dose of performance, the SRT8’s 470-horsepower 6.4-litre (392 cubicinch) V8 and five-speed automatic trans is built to deliver the thrill you crave. The SRT8 rides on 20-inch wheels, tops out at 175

mph (280 km-h) and burns to 60 mph (96 km-h) in less than five seconds. Even fitted with an active-valve exhaust system that allows the fourcylinder mode to engage over a wider rev range, you’re not going to win any fuel-economy prizes, but that’s not really the point of this car. As a treat to the ears, the exhaust system opens up under higher loads. Models using the V6 or 5.7 V8 can be ordered with available all-wheel-drive that decouples the front axle when it’s not needed, reducing drag on the engine. Not counting the SRT8, the lineup for 2014 is comprised of the base Touring and 300 S, as well as the 300C and the 300C Luxury. Other than the base model, every trim level can be had with either the V6 or optionally the 5.7 V8. This means the “C” no longer guarantees eight cylinders under the hood.

Overall: Despite several newcomers in this league, the 300 is able to hold its own on every front; hey you’re not getting a 470-horse “Hemi” V8 in a new Taurus or Impala, are you . . . Drivetrain: A 292-horsepower V6 (300 in the 300 S) and 363-horse “Hemi” V8 are back, as is the SRT8’s 470-horse monster motor; the V6 now comes only with an eight-speed automatic transmission while the 5.7- and 6.4-litre SRT V8 operate with a five-speed automatic; AWD available on all but the SRT.


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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 AVENGER

Overall: Dodge’s mid-size Avenger isn’t perfect, but it is a bargain; oft-rumoured replacement still not here. Drivetrain: The base four-cylinder basically carries over (although there’s an optional six-speed automatic transmission); the optional 3.6-liter V6 is plenty potent, though.

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hrysler’s mid-sized Dodge Avenger won’t be winning any style awards anytime soon, but it is handily sized, well equipped and can be turned into something quite unique with a couple different option packages. As with its Chrysler 200 sibling, the Avenger’s overhauled interior that was introduced for the 2011 model year is much more passenger friendly and eye pleasing (fewer square shapes/grids and more metal-look plastic trim), with soft-touch materials and warm ambient lighting. Dodge claims that the cabin is one of the quietest in the segment, thanks to a plethora of sound deadening “treatments”. At the same time, the Avenger’s stance was lowered, the track width (the distance between the left and right tires) widened and most of the suspension bushings changed out to improve ride and road holding qualities. The exterior, which has remained mostly unaltered since the Avenger’s 2008 re-launch, was treated to a more aggressive nose and rear deck. Not so new is the base 173-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission. Move up and the four-speed is swapped for a more fuel-friendly sixspeed auto. Optional is a 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that’s standard in the R/T, matched to a six-speed automatic. Models for 2014 include the Canada Value Package (SE); SXT; SXT Plus; and R/T. The latter offers colour-matched exterior touches, 18-inch wheels, more aggressive leather-wrapped seats, black grilles and headlight surrounds, and a rear spoiler. Although the V6 engine and transmission are identical to every other Avenger, the suspension is stiffer and lower, which translates to a more enthusiastic driving experience. New for 2014 is the “Blacktop” package that can be added to the base SE and SXT trims. It’s mostly a visual package that adds 18-inch wheels, black trim, grille, rear spoiler and black headlight bezels. Base price (incl. destination): $21,700 Type: Four-door sedan Base Engine (hp): 2.4-litre DOHC I4 (173) Optional engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (283) Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive Transmissions: Four-speed automatic (2.4); six-speed automatic (opt. on 2.4, std. on 3.6) l/100 km (city/highway): 10.6/6.5 (2.4, 4AT) Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control Weight (kg): 1,540

2014 DODGE DART

Drivetrain: Base and optional fourcylinder engines, ranging from 160184 horsepower; six-speed manuals for all and available automatic transmissions, except fuel-saving Aero that uses a twin-clutch automated manual.

Overall: It’s a compact sedan that blends Italian and American style with global appeal. With Chrysler now being a fully entrenched member of the Fiat group, it gives the North American brand access to world-class technology and small-car platforms. Although the Dart and Alfa’s Giulietta (Alfa Romeo also belongs to Fiat) share the same basic underpinnings, the Dart has its own distinctive sheet metal, interior and powerplant selection. It’s also built at a Chrysler assembly plant in Illinois. The Dart’s importance can’t be overstated enough, since Chrysler hadn’t had a compact sedan in play since the 2005-model-year Neon. The Dart name resonates more with older customers, with many younger car buyers likely missing the connection completely. Turning a Giulietta into a Dart involved increasing the platform length by 30 centimetres inches and the width by five centimetres. The result, claims Dodge, is a car with segment-leading scale, beating such small-car luminaries as the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze. The cabin design is a standout, with futuristic-looking gauges, non-traditional control-panel displays and a unique storage area beneath the front passenger seat-cushion. For 2014, Dodge is reacting to customer and market feedback and has shuffled the Dart’s trim levels and powertrains a little. The base

engine is a 160-horsepower 2.0-liter fourcylinder that’s standard with SE. The SXT, GT (which replaces the R/T) and Limited come with the 184-horsepower 2.4-liter. The 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder used to be the optional higher-power selection for most trims, but is now exclusively found in the fuel-saving Aero. The turbo-four is rated at the same 160 horses as the base engine, but leads in the torque department with 184 poundfeet to 145. All three choices represent pretty powerful stuff for this class, which is important as even the lightest Dart outhefts most of its peers by a good 150 kilograms. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with all engines, while a six-speed automatic is optional with all but the Aero’s 1.4 Turbo. That engine can be had with an available six-speed automated manual gearbox. Base Darts are pretty basic, but on par with others in the category. The go-to model to get air conditioning, split-folding rear bench seat, upgraded interior and a better engine is the SXT for about $3,000 more. After this, the major difference between the Limited and the GT is that the Limited comes with an automatic transmission instead of a six-speed manual. Otherwise, both have leather seating, keyless start and a backup camera.


TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

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2014 DODGE CHALLENGER Overall: With stronger and better-looking competitors coming out in the very near future, how does Dodge prepare? With plenty of firepower available through a range of six different models with plenty of customizing going on.

Drivetrain: A 305-horespower 3.6-litre V6 starts the Challenger rolling; two optional “Hemi” V8 engines worth 375 and 470 horses ready to turn tires into goo.

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he popularity of the Chevrolet and Ford “Pony” cars means that owners might as well be looking for beige Corollas when trying to find their cars in a parking lot. But whether by design or something else, the less common (by quite a bit) Dodge Challenger is almost like driving a low-volume production model that gets noticed because there are fewer around to trip over. The Challenger is actually based on a shortened version of the previous Chrysler 300 platform and uses many of its components. While that’s good for business by minimizing development and production costs, it also makes for a car that, for a supposedly sporty two-door, is a bit on the chunky side. Like many Chrysler products, the base Challenger uses a 3.6-litre V6 that in this case puts out 305 horses. That’s short of the 323-horsepower V6 used by the Camaro, but identical to the Mustang’s 305 rating. The carryover 5.7-litre “Hemi” V8 installed in the R/T makes 375 horsepower again this year, less than the 420 horses delivered by Ford and much less than any of the V8 offerings from Chevrolet. Dodge’s top-dog SRT8 392’s 470

horsepower 6.4-litre V8 isn’t enough to take on the Shelby GT500 or the Camaro ZL1, which put out as much as 192 more ponies. Still, there’s no sight -- or sound -- like an SRT8 392 at full song whether from behind the wheel or listening from the sidelines. For the 2014 model year, there are six distinct trim levels being showcased, including the Rallye Redline that slots between the SXT Plus (available with a “Sinister Super Sport Group” of goodies, as is the SXT) and the Hemi-powered R/T. The Rallye Redline is a V6 model that comes dressed up with “red-hot” exterior trim, special Black Chrome 20-inch wheels, heavy-duty suspension and brakes and a performance rear-axle ratio. A new “Blacktop” package for the R/T adds 20-inch gloss-black wheels as well as gloss-black grille surround.

2014 JOURNEY

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he Avenger is a perfectly serviceable mid-size sedan, but the tall-wagon that uses its bones and engines is a much more palatable proposition. The Journey scores a hole-in-one as a practical, efficient and affordable carrier. It has just-right sizing going for it, which means its more compact than a Chevrolet Traverse or Ford Explorer, but larger than a Mitsubishi Outlander. These rigs offer standard or optional third-row seating, but all are considerably more expensive than the $23,200 (base price) Journey. In base trim, there’s seating for five people, although there’s an available two-place third-row 50:50 split bench. There are also some other clever interior

storage options such as a front passenger seat with a flip-forward hinged cushion that’s ideal for concealing cameras, purses and other valuables. And all models feature two in-floor storage compartments with removable plastic liners behind the front seats that are large enough to hold a dozen beverage cans each, plus ice. And don’t forget the chilled storage bin inside the glove compartment that can keep a couple of cool beverages at the ready. Although influenced by the Dodge Avenger sedan, this roomier derivation has about four more inches between the front and rear wheels and a 20-centimetre height advantage, but with an overall length that’s just a touch greater.

Also shared with the Avenger is a 173-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder with four-speed automatic in base models. Optional is a 283-horsepower 3.6-litre V6 with a six-speed auto. There are seven trim levels for 2014 (Canada Value Package, SE Plus, SXT, a new Limited trim and two R/T AWD trims), which means there’s likely a Journey for every taste, need and budget. Base Journey equipment includes air conditioning keyless remote entry, power windows, locks and mirrors and a complete range of safety gear. Uplevel models offer leather seating surfaces, roof rack, backup camera, navigation system, 19-inch wheels and a flashlight stored in the cargo area. Most Journeys are now front-wheel-drive with all-wheel-drive now exclusively in the top-line R/T. The system automatically kicks in to direct power to the rear wheels when needed, including slippery mud and snow conditions as well as when the vehicle is accelerating up to 110 km-h. Overall: Even though it isn’t the last word in refinement, the Journey does do value very well, especially with optional three-row seating. Drivetrain: An older 173-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a significantly more impressive 283-horsepower V6 carry over; automatic transmissions all around and all-wheel-drive offered in V6 versions.


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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 FORD F150

Drivetrain: The F-150 borrows the 3.7-litre V6 and 5.0-litre V8 from the Mustang, along with a turbocharged 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 from the Flex/Taurus SHO; the 6.2-litre V8 from the off-road SVT Raptor can be had in upscale models.

Overall: With an all-new F-150 coming late next year, the 2014 version makes the most of a few well-deserved tweaks; new Tremor is a twin-turbocharged sport truck that brings back memories of the long-gone SVT Lightning.

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rying to keep buyers happy while an all-new F-150 is in the works can’t be an easy thing. So, Ford is doing its best with 2014 models by rolling out a few small changes to its best-selling pickup. The segment-first high-intensity-discharge headlights that debuted on the Limited model for 2013 are now standard on every trim level, except the base models, while power-telescoping/folding towing mirrors inspired by the Super Duty are available too. All models get their own trim-specific grilles, bumpers and wheel designs; other changes for 2014 include a new grille for the FX package and chrome wheels for XLT and STX. Those wishing for a return of the SVT Lightning sport truck can now have the next best thing: the 2014 Tremor. It’s regular-cab shortbox sport-truck powered by the 3.5-litre “EcoBoost” turbocharged V6. It uses flatblack accents outside, 20-inch wheels with low-profile tires and a steep rear-end gear for the best possible acceleration. At the other end of the spectrum, the Limited is available only as a SuperCrew four-door cab, the body-colour moldings, brightwork and 22-inch wheels are set off by an interior with heated and cooled red-and-black leather seats, alumi-

num trim and piano black accents that complement the new MyFord Touch screen on the dash. The Limited is exclusively powered by the popular 3.5-litre EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V6 with 365 horsepower. Those wanting traditional V8 power are spoiled, too, with 5.0-litre or 6.2-litre options readily available in most other trims. The sheer number of F-150 combinations is mind-boggling. Not including paint colours and interior trims, there are four box lengths and three cab sizes (regular, extended SuperCab and four-door SuperCrew), not to mention both rear- and four-wheel-drive availability. A 411-horsepower 6.2-litre V8 is standard in the F-150 SVT Raptor 4x4, which is inspired by Ford’s participation in off-road desert racing. Standard gear includes special shock absorbers that stiffen as they compress to keep the truck from bottoming out or becoming too tippy while cornering. That’s a good idea, since there’s more than 28 centimetres of suspension travel in front and about 35 in back. The giant 35-inch-tall all-terrain rubber has been mounted to 17-inch wheels that are positioned farther outboard from the fenders to a point where the Raptor’s width has been increased by more than 18 centimetres compared to a standard F-150.

2014 FORD F150 TREMOR

2014 FORD RAPTOR SPECIAL

2014 FORD F-SERIES SUPERDUTY Overall: Ford’s Super Duty is the best-selling HD truck around, but that doesn’t mean it’ll stand pat during a quiet year... Drivetrain: Powerplants consist of a 6.2-litre gas V8 and 6.7-litre turbo-diesel that produces 800 pound-feet of torque; six-speed automatic transmissions connect to both.

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ot content with having the most powerful and probably the most capable heavy-duty pickup around, Ford has worked some more magic to keep the stat-creep war with its rivals going strong. Every Super Duty gets larger brakes for the 2014 model year that are more effective at shedding heat (there’s a larger parking brake too). That means payload capacity is up to 3,290 kilograms while the conventional towing capacity tops out at 8,390 kilograms, which it claims is class-leading. Ford also aims its Super Duty trucks toward the higher end of the market. A fully loaded GMC Sierra HD 3500 with the ubiquitous Denali package starts just south of $50,000 and climbs higher very quickly. Ford’s reply was to add a Platinum trim to the SD line with unique styling, different 20-inch wheels, chrome slathered everywhere, while inside features wood trim and high-grain leather cover nearly every surface. Niceties include standard power-adjustable pedals, a rear-view camera, remote start and power telescoping mirrors. The Platinum also gets Ford’s SD-specific version of MyFord Touch, which has larger buttons and knobs for secondary controls that can easily be used with work gloves on. Otherwise, the standard 6.2-litre gasoline V8 that rules the roost with 385 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque remains unchanged. Optional is an equally fresh Ford-developed 6.7-litre V8 turbo-diesel that generates a flat 400 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque. The engine can run B20 fuel, which contains 80 per cent petroleum diesel mixed with 20 per cent bio-diesel. Both powerplants are connected to six-speed automatic transmissions. For turbo-diesel applications, there’s an available “Live Drive” power take off (PTO) unit, consisting of an extra transmission output gear that can control accessories such as a snow plow, tow-truck lift or even a dump-truck-style box. Other newfound equipment includes trailersway and roll stability control to help keep you and your load shiny-side-up. Hill Start Assist keeps you from rolling backward while stopped on an incline and Hill Decent Control holds the SD at a set speed while traveling down a steep grade.


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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 FORD FOCUS 2014 FORD FUSION

Overall: With nary a six-cylinder engine in sight, the Fusion remains one of the best-looking sedans on the market, regardless of price. Drivetrain: A 170-horsepower four-cylinder plus two optional turbocharged four-cylinders worth 179 and 237 horsepower; two versions of gasoline-electric hybrids available in regular or plug-in guise.

Overall: Ford’s mainstream compact is now available with smoking hot ST performance, or, oppositely, electric economy. Drivetrain: 160-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder connected to a five-speed manual transmission or optional twin-clutch automated manual; ST adds turbo and extra gear to handle 252 horses; optional all-electric drivetrain with 143-horsepower motor.

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Like other modern electric cars, the Focus isn’t inexpensive with an MSRP of $42,400 before tax rebates and other incentives, but there aren’t many downsides if you can afford it. Both new Focus models only come in four-door hatchback form, but the “regular” cars can be had as sedans. That’s because it’s the only style available if you order the price-leader “S” that comes with manual climate control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel and basic four-speaker audio system and 15-inch steel wheels. The SE, SEL and Titanium trims get progressively more expensive for both sedan and hatchback. For the fuel conscious who don’t want to stretch up to the Electric, the optional SFE package -- with its aero wheel covers, grille shutters, high-efficiency tires, four-wheel disc brakes and a rear spoiler -- is rated at 4.8 l/100 km on the highway. The standard 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is rated at 160 horsepower. A fivespeed manual transmission is standard on all models, while optional is a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox. All models arrive with torque vectoring, which is a system that applies light braking pressure to slow down the inside wheel when the car is turning. This helps the Focus attack the corners with more precision by reducing the tendency to plow straight ahead (referred to as understeer).

2014 FORD FUSION

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fter aggressively expanding the guest list from both ends of the social spectrum for 2013, Ford is sitting back and watching the praise continue on its compact Focus line for 2014. The ST performance model takes all the positives of the Focus and then adds a list of improvements aimed at buyers who are in the mood for a Volkswagen GTI. The 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder produces 252 horsepower and even features overboost with a giant slug of mid-range torque added. The ST is still front-wheel-drive, but uses a stiffer suspension, bigger and stickier tires and a variety of electronic systems to make it a true back-road hero. The ST gets unique parts inside and out, including more supportive seats and only comes with a six-speed manual transmission. The ST’s “green” counterpoint is the Focus Electric that features a 107-kilowatt (143-horsepower) motor and lithium-ion battery pack that can deliver a claimed range of 120 kilometres. By Ford’s clock, recharging takes three to four hours from a 240-volt home station available for about $1,500 from electronics retailer Best Buy. Like the ST, the Focus Electric stands out from regular Focii thanks to an Aston Martin-esque grille and headlights, along with special wheels, low-rolling-resistance tires and other wind-cheating aids.


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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

Overall: One of Ford’s most popular tall wagons thanks to smart balance of utility, technology and styling.

2014 FORD EDGE

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an less really be more? Amazingly, the Ford Edge is one of the larger tall wagons around that can be downsized under the hood with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This optional 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine makes 240 horsepower, down 45 on the base 3.5-litre V6, but it does have more torque, so it’s not much slower. Fuel economy is better using the same sixspeed automatic transmission, but the EcoBoost model is only available with front-wheel drive. Interestingly, it actually costs more money to get the four-cylinder: about $1,000 more at each trim level than the base V6. It’ll be up to you to weigh the possible gains in fuel economy against the extra cost. The Edge Sport retains its 305-horsepower 3.7-litre V6 as well as its 22-inch wheels (17-20-inchers come on other trim levels), sharper suspension, lower body cladding, unique black leather interior and paddle shifters that rev match the downshifts (to maintain vehicle stability) for its six-speed automatic

Drivetrain: Base 285-horsepower 3.5-litre V6, optional 305-horsepower 3.7-litre V6 in the Sport; 240-horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder; all use six-speed automatic transmissions.

transmission. The option sheet is headed by the MyFord Touch voice- and touch-screen-activated controls that replaces most of the traditional instrumentation with two 10-centimetre diagonal screens positioned on either side of the speedometer, plus one 20-centimetre screen in the centre stack. Together with a game-controller-style “smart” button on the steering wheel, MyFord Touch manages a variety of climate, communications, navigation, infotainment and other vehicle functions in a fairly intuitive fashion and without the usual buttons and switches littering the control area. The system also includes the ability to transform the car into a Wi-Fi hub, and it’ll even read out incoming text messages to help you keep your eyes on the road.

2014 FORD EXPLORER Overall: Ford pours the lessons learned with the 2013 Explorer Sport model into the rest of the gene pool. Drivetrain: A 290-horsepower V6; fuel-sipping turbocharged four-cylinder available for front-wheel-drive models; 350-horsepower 3.5-litre twinturbo EcoBoost V6 with sixspeed automatic transmission and road-biased all-wheel drive.

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2014 FORD MUSTANG

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2014 FORD MUSTANG CONVERTIBLE

Drivetrain: Base 3.7-litre V8 with 305 horsepower, while 5.0-litre V8 in the GT now 420 horsepower on tap.

t’s amazing to think that Porsche isn’t the only automaker with a model that’s turning 50 this year. Ford’s equally long-serving Mustang has had its share of ups and downs along the way, but most believe that the last few model years have been the best ever. While enthusiasts wait for an all-new Mustang for 2015, the outgoing cars still look fresh after some updates for 2013. Those changes included new front and rear bumper covers, larger grilles and front splitters, high-intensity headlights and LED taillamps, along with slick “pony projection” puddle lights that shine the Mustang’s logo on the ground at night. Aside from the facelift, the already-excellent GT continues with 5.0-litre V8 that produces 420 horsepower. GT models can be ordered with track packs with extra en-

Overall: Look who’s turning 50? While the world waits for an all-new “Global” Mustang in 2015, Ford is celebrating with the still-very-good current edition; we weep for the absent Boss 302.

gine/oil coolers, bigger brakes and sticky tires, along with the same rear differential found in the dearly-departed high-performance Boss 302. Also, most Mustangs get Track Apps, a simple system accessed through an eight-centimetre display that allows drivers to measure g-forces, acceleration times for zero-to-100-km-h and quarter-mile runs, and more. Regular Mustangs are still plenty fun thanks to a 305-horsepower V6 and the addition of hill-start assist for manual-transmission cars, which prevents them from rolling backward when drivers release the brake to move to the gas pedal. New final-year upgrades include appearance packages with unique wheels and blacked-out body details, and a revised instrument cluster that ditches the old 1960s font for a cleaner design.

2014 SHELBY GT500

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he amount of development dollars required to turn the Shelby GT500 from a boulevard cruiser into a cruise missile must be extravagant. However, the expenditure is more than worth it simply to be able to say that there are 662 horses shoved under the Shelby GT500’s vented hood. That comes courtesy of a 5.8-litre V8, a huge supercharger, plus plenty of the usual power-freeing extras. To keep it cool, the Shelby requires about a dozen separate radiators, intercoolers, external oil and transmission coolers, and optional coolers for the rear differential. Even the front grille is missing to provide as much air as possible to that nuclear powerplant. A beefed-up six-speed Tremec manual transmission somehow copes with the torque and stress of repeated drag launches just fine, made even easier by the addition of computerized launch control. The Mustang is also the first pony car with a top speed of more than 200 mph (320 km-h) and to have legs that long with a relatively low rev ceiling, it’s geared pretty high: you can hit 100 km-h in first gear. To say that the GT500 leaves the baddest Chevrolet Camaro of them all in the dust isn’t hyperbole. The Ford puts out over 80 more horsepower and is significantly lighter too. If you can believe it, the car somehow manages to eke out 13.9 l/100 km in the city and 8.3 on the highway. In addition, an SVT Performance Package includes a stiffer suspension, limited-slip differential, more front and rear aero bits for greater downforce, slightly lowered ride height and unique Goodyear Eagle tires mounted on lightweight 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels. SVT-branded Recaro front seats are an option, too. You can add other extras, of course, including a giant glass roof and a navigation system, but they will obviously further inflate the car’s $55,500 base price ($60,000 for the GT500 convertible).

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2014 SIERRA

Overall: Well, it sure is square, but from top to bottom, it’s as new as it gets, right down to three brand new engines.

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or 2014, the Sierra and the related Silverado each continue with their own style and attitude, although the “attitude” part is hard to define, exactly. While Chevrolet positions the Silverado as a kind of middle-ground pickup for both work and play, in the Sierra’s case those virtues are distinctly separated. More basic GMC models accentuate the “Professional Grade” tag and the pitch is directed at buyers who rely on their pickups to earn a living. At the opposite end of the scale is the Sierra Denali subbrand that places a much higher value on coddling content. In either case, the Sierra’s primary identification point can be spotted in your rearview mirror. The

Drivetrain: Three engines all have aluminum cylinder blocks and direct fuel injection that makes big difference to power and fuel economy; six-speed automatic transmissions for all; V6 makes nearly 300 horsepower and is standard for every cab style and two- /four-wheel-drive.

entire front end, including grille, headlights, bumper and in-yourface GMC logo, are more massive than before and in total make a bolder statement than the Silverado does. Some minor sheetmetal differences exist between the Chevy and the GMC, but that’s about it. Even the interiors of the two pickups share the same basic dash, control panel and available touchscreen communications centre that are a masterstroke of efficient legibility. Of course as you scale the trim-level ladder the appointments become more luxurious and the cabin resembles something approaching a high-end limo, especially in the four-door crew-cab models. Improvements in aerodynamics,

insulation and weather sealing help shut out intrusive noises. Just as a greater use of aluminum in fabricating various body panels and suspension parts has kept the Sierra’s weight in check, the three new engines also benefit. All use aluminum cylinder blocks and incorporate direct injection, whereby fuel is force-fed into the cylinders under high pressure to tailor the fuel load for specific uses. There’s also continuously variable valve timing for improved low- and high-speed performance, while half the cylinders in V8 engines will automatically shut down in steady-state cruise conditions to save fuel. The V6 engine also runs on four cylinders in such situations. The base

Overall: Terrain remains incredibly popular, even years after its intro; Denali model only adds more appeal . . . and chrome. Drivetrain: A thrifty 2.4-litre four-cylinder drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, which does double duty to deliver power from the 3.6-litre V6; all-wheel drive available with either engine. Base price (incl. destination): $29,900 Type: Compact sport utility vehicle Base Engine (hp): 2.4-litre DOHC I4 (182) Optional engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (301) Layout: Front-engine, rear- /all-wheel-drive Transmissions: Six-speed automatic l/100 km (city/highway): 9.2/6.1 (2.4, FWD) Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control Weight (kg): 1,730

2014 TERRAIN

4.3-litre V6 might have the same displacement as before, but now makes 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. The old iron 4.3 was good for just 195/260 pound-feet. Mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission, fuel consumption is cut by almost 2.0 l/100 km in the city and 1.5 on the highway (now 11.9/8.4). V8 choices consist of a new 5.3-litre unit with 355 horses and 383 pound-feet, up from 315/335, and a 6.2-litre piece rated at 420/450. That compares to the previous 6.2’s 403/417 rating. It’s standard in the fancier Sierra Denali, not to mention a rather substantial list of content that includes unique 20-inch chrome and wood and leather innards.


TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

T Overall: Honda’s mid-size Accord is the brand other automakers’ hope to be, in terms of style, content and popularity; two hybrid models added to the lineup for 2014. Drivetrain: Base 2.4-litre four-cylinder makes 185-189 horsepower and features an optional continuously variable transmission; optional V6 remains optional on coupes and sedans; Both plug-in and conventional hybrid powertrains are now available.

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2014 ACCORD COUPE automatic remains the only choice for V6 sedans and base V6 coupes. For 2014, Honda is introducing the Accord Plug-In hybrid with a 137-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder mated to a 124-kilowatt electric motor. The Plug-In can travel up to 28 kilometres on electric-only propulsion and has a maximum 800-kilometre range. It takes about three hours using 120-volt house current to replenish the lithium-ion battery (about 10 minutes for a 50 per cent charge), or about an hour with a 240-volt charger. The Plug-In is initially available in select U.S. markets, but for everywhere else, a regular (non-plug-in) Accord Hybrid sedan that uses the same powertrain (but a lighter battery pack) is coming on stream. It’s rated at 4.0 l/100 km in the city and 4.2 on the highway.

he U.S.-built Accord that was introduced for 2013 is similar in looks, although a bit smaller than its predecessor. The sedan is about nine centimetres shorter in overall length with about 2.5 centimetres less between the front and rear wheels. Concurrently, trunk space increased by five percent, thanks to a more compact rear suspension. The coupe underwent a more subtle transformation and remains one of the most appealing models of its type on the road. The base 2.4-litre fourcylinder makes 185 horsepower, while the optional 3.5-litre V6 makes 278. A six-speed gearbox on four-cylinder Accord sedans and up-level V6 coupes remains available. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) replaced the five-speed automatic option on all four-cylinder models, but a six-speed

2014 CIVIC COUPE Overall: Following a significant 2013 model-year overhaul of the 2012 Civic, the sedan and coupe take a rest for 2014, at least for now; a natural-gas-powered Civic is one of the few such vehicles on the market. Drivetrain: Pick your powerplant, including a gas-electric Hybrid, a 140-horse fourcylinder and a 201-horsepower four-cylinder in the sporty Si.

sedans and coupes equipped with automatic transmissions were fitted with larger front brakes. The new dash has fewer creases and angles than before and most plastic surfaces have been replaced with softtouch materials. Returning for 2014 is the standard 140-horsepower 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, with the optional 201-horsepower fourcylinder repeating in the performanceoriented Si. Similarly, the 110-horse 1.8 continues to power the natural-gas-fueled sedan, while the gaselectric Civic Hybrid’s powertrain producing 110 horsepower also carries over. The Hybrid now includes forward-collision alert and accidental-lane-departure warning systems (both are options in other Civics). The base powerplant mates to a five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic. A sixspeed manual gearbox goes to the Si and a continuously variable unit is for the Hybrid.

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Overall: Following a significant 2013 modelyear overhaul of the 2012 Civic, the sedan and coupe take a rest for 2014, at least for now; a natural-gas-powered Civic is one of the few such vehicles on the market. Drivetrain: Pick your powerplant, including a gas-electric us we canHybrid, comea 140-horse to you.”four-cylinder and a 201-horsepower four-cylinder in the sporty Si.

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onda surprised the world when it gave its one-yearold ninth-generation Civic a structural and styling adjustment for 2013. That won’t happen again for 2014, but Honda has shown that it isn’t afraid to make adjustments on the fly to any of its models. Although the lower-volume Civic coupe was left alone, the sedan’s alterations included completely new front and rear bodywork encompassing a more prominent grille, restyled hood and new fog lights, corner lights and taillights. Changes were also initiated to improve the Civic’s front-end crash protection, especially at each corner, allowing it to pass new partial front-end crash test standards with flying colours. Other adjustments were applied to the suspension and steering components as well as soundproofing materials to improve ride comfort, reduce cabin noise and create a sportier driving experience. Finally,

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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 HONDA PILOT

Overall: Getting you and the gang out and about in good and bad weather and road conditions is the Pilot’s stock in trade. This is essentially a no-change year for this wagon as Honda readies a replacement for the 2015 model year.

Drivetrain: Honda’s rock-steady 250-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 runs the show in concert with a five-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel-drive is optional.

2014 HONDA RIDGELINE Overall: Despite rumours to the contrary, the longstanding Ridgeline refuses to quit; for 2014 a new top-hauling SE version temps buyers with oodles of standard features. Drivetrain: Keeping the Ridgeline running is a 250-horsepower V6 that’s common to a number of Honda products, also standard is a five-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive with locking rear differential.

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or the time being, meaning at least for the 2014 model year, this Swiss Army Knife of a truck will stick to its current guise. The one-piece body/ cargo hold is affixed to a ladder-type frame that’s unlike that of most other pickups where separate passenger and pickup bed modules are bolted to a frame. The Ridgeline also features a smooth-riding fully independent rear suspension, a tailgate that can drop down or swing to the side, and a large lockable storage bin located beneath the five-foot-long cargo bed, or what Honda calls an in-bed trunk. The spare tire is located beneath the load floor, which begs the question: how do you get your cold ones out of the cooler and the spare tire out when you have a load of rocks, lumber or motorcycles in the back? Payload is rated at a reasonable 500 kilograms. The tailgate can support more weight than any other in the industry and the bed is a dent- and corrosion-resistant steel-reinforced molded composite unit. Along with a 250-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 and five-speed automatic transmission, the base model (there are a total of four trim levels) comes with all-wheel-drive, traction control, side-curtain airbags and standard stability control to keep this nifty rig pointing where the driver intends. The optional towing package is built to trailer up to 2,270 kilograms. To help cope with that kind of load, Ridgeline comes with transmission and oil coolers, heavy-duty brakes, two radiator fans and pre-wiring for most trailers. Eight tie-down cleats help keep the payload secure.

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f you aren’t quite up for something as big as a Chevy Suburban or a Ford Expedition, you’ll likely be content behind the wheel of a Honda Pilot. With eight-passenger capacity and, more importantly, reasonable fuel economy, this blocky wagon is certainly worth scoping out. The Pilot features the whole stubby-nose, u p r i g h t - ro o f - p i l l a r s and wheel-openingspushed-outward-intrue-off-roader-tradition kind of thing. Short front and rear body overhang allows Pilot pilots to traverse deeper ruts and gullies when heading into the back woods. The upscale interior provides reasonable leg and knee room for second- and third-row riders, although those at the far end lose some precious head, shoulder and hip space. The Pilot’s eight-place seating is impressive in this class of vehicle and outaccommodates the Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-9, plus other competitors, by one spot. When not needed, the rear seats can be folded flat without removing the headrests, while the liftgate features a convenient Base price (incl. destination): $36,600 Type: Four-door sport utility vehicle Engine (hp): 3.5-litre SOHC V6 (250) Layout: Front-engine, front- /allwheel-drive Transmission: Five-speed automatic

glass-hatch opening. The standard 3.5-litre V6 makes 250 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, but the engine also features the Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system that imperceptibly switches between three, four and six cylinders, depending on whether the motor is accelerating or cruising at a steady rate. The twowheel-drive models are rated at 11.8 l/100 km in the city and 7.8 on the highway. The Pilot is available in either front- and fourwheel-drive, with the latter functioning when tire slip is detected and when accelerating from a stop. The system can also be “locked” in place at speeds below 25 km-h, which is handy when stuck or operating in poor-traction conditions. Hill Start Assist prevents the Pilot from rolling backward on an incline of 10 degrees or greater when the driver’s right foot shifts from the brake pedal to the accelerator. Among the Pilot’s wealth of standard equipment are front and rear air conditioning, tilt/ telescopic steering column, trailer hitch and a seven-speaker audio system. l/100 km (city/highway): 11.8/7.8 (FWD) Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; antilock brakes; traction control; stability control. Weight (kg): 1,960


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2014 HONDA CRV Overall: The CR-V combines style, practicality and comfort into one attractive five-passenger package. Honda won’t change any of that formula for 2014. Drivetrain: A 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine makes 185 horsepower and connects to a five-speed automatic transmission; all trim levels can be had with all-wheel-drive.

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he current edition of Honda’s popular Civicbased wagon is now three years old and continues to maintain its popularity despite new or updated segment rivals including the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester. Honda claims that the CRV’s attractive shape reduces fuel-robbing aerodynamic drag by eight per cent when compared to the previous CR-V. The interior is an equally attractive spot for passengers and delivers a decent amount of cargo space. Maximizing the load floor is a snap with the standard Fold-Down

Rear Seat that operates by flipping a pair of levers located just inside the tailgate. The rest of the cabin is standard Honda fare, which translates into an uncluttered (albeit plasticky) dashboard, comfy, supportive seats and generously sized storage compartments, including a large floor-console bin that can hold a purse or other bulky items. Under the hood is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. Fuel performance is rated at 9.0 l/100 km city and 6.4 highway for front-wheel-drive models (9.2/6.6 for AWD models). Honda claims that by acti-

2014 HONDA FIT

Overall: A new 2015 Fit will arrive by mid-2014 with more space, style and power plus reduced fuel consumption; could be some great deals to be had on remaining 2013/2014 units. Drivetrain: A 1.5-litre engine puts out 117 horsepower; five-speed manual transmission shifts with the best of them; five-speed automatic is optional.

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t this time Honda isn’t saying if the final current-gen Fit will be a 2013or 2014-designated model. Regardless, the last of its type will be driving into the sunset and replaced by a new version that will be built at Honda’s Mexico plant. Despite its advanced age (in car years), the Fit’s wedge-shaped body still looks contemporary and athletic. The large front glass area makes the car appear sleeker while providing excellent forward visibility. As one of the biggest cars in its class -- in terms of interior volume -- there’s an abundance of rear-passenger legroom and enough headroom for high-hatters. The interior features smart-looking gauges and control-panel layout, rich-feeling seat fabrics and 10 beverage holders. The Fit’s flip-up rear seat bench creates a load floor ideal for toting plants and shrubs while the split-folding rear seatback folds flat for transporting cargo. A 117-horsepower 1.5-litre four-cylinder connects to a five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic. Base DX Fits are pretty bare, but mid-range LX trims feature air conditioning, tilt-and-telescopic steering, four-speaker audio system and power windows, locks and mirrors.

vating the “ECON” button that alters the transmission and air conditioning functions, drivers can further improve on these numbers. As for function, the lift gate is wide and tall while the cargo area extends more than five feet from the rear with the back seat folded. In base LX trim, the CR-V comes with a significant amount of standard equipment, while the EX includes a power moonroof, fog lights and a few other niceties. Popping for the EX-L adds leather seat covers, 10-way heated driver’s seat, up-level audio system and access to the optional navigation system. The Touring is as loaded as you could possibly get a CR-V.

2014 HONDA ODYSSEY Overall: Honda’s updated 2014 minivan receives mild interior/exterior touch-ups along with added structural support; base models arrive with more content; top-line Odyssey Touring Elite features a built-in . . . vacuum cleaner. Drivetrain: All trim levels use a 248-horsepower V6 with cylinder deactivation to save fuel, along with a previously optional six-speed automatic transmission (replacing the base five-speed unit).

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f all the rivals to Chrysler’s Town & Country and Dodge’s Grand Caravan, the Honda Odyssey minivan is out in front of the pack despite its steeper base price. For 2014 the Odyssey minivan becomes more competitive with upgrades for base models that include a six-speed automatic transmission to replace the five-speed unit. The six-speed transmission was formerly the domain of up-level trims. The carryover 248-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 comes with variable-cylinder-management that cuts out two or three of the cylinders under light-load conditions for improved fuel economy. Also newly standard are Bluetooth short-range wireless networking, four-way power passenger seat, “Expanded View” driver’s mirror and upgraded audio functionality. These features are in addition to a power driver’s seat, keyless entry and cruise control. There’s no base-price increase, which still makes the $31,600 Odyssey a pretty good deal, especially since it gets the six-speed automatic and now earns the same 10.9 l/100 km-city and 7.1-highway rating as the other four higher trims.


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Overview: The Cherokee name returns following a lengthy hiatus, but it’s dressed up in more contemporary sheetmetal that belies its ability to still navigate difficult on- and off-road terrain. Drivetrain: A Fiatbased 2.4-litre four-cylinder is supplemented by a 3.2-litre V6 option; standard nine-speed automatic transmission helps reduce fuel consumption, while three optional 4x4 systems supply a range of traction needs.

2014 CHEROKEE

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ollowing the Jeep Liberty’s retirement, ChryslerFiat’s off-road division has resurrected the Cherokee name, but with a significant shift in direction. Instead of the brick-like original, the Cherokee has some seriously modern sculpting going on. All by itself, the pinched and pointynose grille says plenty about the risk that Jeep’s designers have undertaken in creating the new Cherokee. Then there are the eyelet headlights that would have been impossible to imagine on any production car, Jeep or otherwise . . . until now, that is. The interior is also as

modern as the outside. All but the most basic Cherokee models feature 12.7- or 21.3-centimetre touch-screens, depending on the trim level, that operate climate, communications and infotainment systems. Base models get a Fiatdesigned 2.4-litre four-cylinder worth 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. Optional is an all-new 3.2-litre V6 that’s rated at 271 horses. It’s a subset of Chrysler’s 3.6-litre V6 that’s the base engine in the larger Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ram pickup. In the Cherokee’s case, ordering the V6 provides a 2,045-kilogram

2014 COMPASS Overall: With the lowest price in its segment, by far, the basic Jeep Patriot still manages to improve its usefulness with a new transmission.

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ince they’re so closely related under the skin, whatever you say about the Jeep Compass also applies to its Patriot relation. So when Jeep finally offers a “real” six-speed automatic transmission in one, you know it’ll happen in the other. The six-speed is available with either the standard 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 158 horsepower and the optional 172-horsepower 2.4-litre version, with either front- or optional Freedom Drive I four-wheel drive. The sole place where the CVT shows its face is with the Freedom Drive II 4x4 off-road package. There it acts like a mechanical low-range box but without the

towing capacity. Both engines are connected to nine-speed automatic transmissions, which is the first use of that gear changer in any Chrysler product. Front-wheel-drive is the norm, but buyers can choose from three different four-wheel-drive setups, depending on trim level. Active Drive I, optional in the Sport, North and Limited editions, is a single-speed unit that kicks in automatically whenever tire slip is detected. Active Drive II, also available in North and Limited, comes with a two-speed transfer case and is designed for off-road use with either the

four- or six-cylinder engines. But for rock crawling and boulder hopping, Active Drive Lock, as the name implies, locks up the rear differential in low range. This system is standard in the Cherokee Trailhawk, which is a “Trail Rated” rig outfitted with an off-road suspension (increases ride height by an inch), skid plates, unique alloy wheels with all-terrain rubber, blacked-out trim and a fullsize spare tire. All 4x4 systems include Selec-Terrain traction control with five different settings to match the kind of ground you’re covering (snow, sand, mud, etc.).

added weight or complexity. Other tweaks include all-terrain tires on 17-inch wheels, skid plates, tow hooks, and most importantly, two inches of additional ride height. Either engine can be connected to a five-speed-manual transmission, although they remain front-wheel drive. Patriot trim levels for 2014 hold steady at Sport, Latitude and Limited. Sport content includes not a heck of a lot (no A/C and you even have to manually crank the windows, hence the low starting price). As you move up -- in some cases, way up -- the line there’s air conditioning/climate control, leather-covered seats (heated up front), power windows, door locks and outside mirrors and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror available for your comfort and pleasure. Options, some of which are standard with the Limited, include allterrain tires, navigation system, soil-repellent and anti-microbial seat fabric and a premium sound system with speakers that drop down from the liftgate (when it’s in the raised position) for tailgate parties.


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2014 GRAND CARAVAN

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lthough the category’s appeal has faded in the last decade or so, the minivan segment was sparked 30 years ago with the Chrysler “Magic Wagons” and that’s a good excuse for a birthday party. The Grand Caravan combines a great starting price with plenty of space and decent performance. Since its 2011-modelyear updating, the GC drives more securely and frugally with a revised suspension topped with low-rolling-resistance tires to help prop up fuel economy. At the same time, the interior was upgraded with new gauges and soft-touch dashboard and doorpanel surfaces replacing hard plastic. The 3.6-litre “Pentastar” V6 that was introduced at the same time produces 283 horsepower and, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, easily runs with the minivan herd for fuel consumption. Inside, you’ll find the usual dozen or so cupholders plus a variety of smallitem bins and pockets (including dual glove boxes) that showcase

the vehicle’s utility. The standard third-row split-folding bench seat can be power folded (as an option) to create a flat load floor. The Stow ‘n’ Go feature comes with a one-touch-down feature and provides out-of-sight storage bins when the second-row seats are left in their upright positions. The price-leading Canada Value Package, heads the list of trim levels that also includes SXT, Crew, Crew Plus and the sporty R/T. The Canadian Value Package rings in at $29,700, but usually sells for less than $22K -one of the best deals in the land -- and includes most of the basic features and safety systems you would expect. At the top end, the $42,600 R/T comes with a tighter suspension. The 2014 30th Anniversary Edition builds on the mid-level SXT and adds 17-inch wheels and chrome trim outside, along with badging, black leather-and-suede seats, piano-black accents and more. There’s also a Blacktop package that includes polished wheels and blacked-out trim.

Base price (incl. destination): $29,700 Type: Four-door minivan Engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (283) Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive Transmissions: Six-speed automatic l/100 km (city/highway): 12.2/7.9 Safety: Front airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control Weight (kg): 2,050

Overall: Dodge created the whole minivan segment 30 years ago and now celebrates the Grand Caravan’s birthday with a special model. Drivetrain: Solid 3.6-litre V6 with six-speed automatic transmission posts respectable fuel-consumption numbers.

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2014 RAM HD Overall: Although they’re not redesigned very often, HD pickups are continually evolving; Ram HD is now the first non-SRT vehicle to get the hotrod 6.4-litre “Hemi” V8. Powertrains: It’s hard to believe the 5.7-litre “Hemi” V8 is a “base engine” in anything, but it’s joined by the 6.4-litre SRT V8 to bridge the gap between the gasoline and madcrazy diesel engines; three versions of the 6.7-litre six-cylinder Cummins turbo-diesel make 350, 370, and 385 horsepower and up to 850 pound-feet of torque.

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fter the Ram 2500 and 3500 series pickups upped the stakes with their optional Cummins turbo-diesel available in evil, eviler and eviler-est grades in 2013, that left a rather big step down to the base 5.7-litre V8. What to do? Well, add the 6.4-litre SRT V8 to the lineup, of course. But back to the Cummins. The tamest of the 6.7-litre inline six-cylinder powerplants is rated at 350 horsepower and 660 pound-feet of torque, while the intermediate version pushes those numbers to 370 horsepower and 800 poundfeet. For maximum thrust and grunt, the 385-horse unit lays down 850 pound-feet. The Cummins can be matched to a six-speed manual transmission (the only shift-it-yourself in its class), or a six-speed automatic. The result is a truck that can haul and tow up to 7,730 kilogram of trailer weight and up to 820 kilograms of tongue weight using a conventional Class V hitch. The turbo-diesel has a standard exhaust brake that uses the engine’s compression to help decelerate the vehicle. That means shorter stops and less brake wear. Another Cummins bonus is that the interval between oil changes is 24,000 kilometres. Still avail-

able is Chrysler’s venerable 383-horsepower 5.7-litre “Hemi” V8 with a seemingly light 400 pound-feet of torque. Now back to the 6.4. Previously an SRT exclusive in the car line, it’s optional in both the 2500 and 3500. The 6.4 delivers 410 horses and 429 pound-feet of torque. For maximum towing, a coil-sprung rear suspension with air bladders is available on 2500 models, while 3500 use optional air springs integrated into the existing leafsprung suspension. Tow ratings of just under 8,180 kilograms and 13,600 kilograms, respectively, are simply ridiculous. Of course four-wheel-drive is available, but in the HD it has a disconnect feature that disengages the forward driveshaft from the transfer case when not needed, thus cutting fuel consumption. Inside, owner/operators will also appreciate the cab design, with a dashboard with available touch-screen controls (with redundant switches) for the communications and climate control systems. The center console features two-tier storage space. Regular, Crew and Mega cab models return, with a variety of box sizes and equipment levels that would make your head spin.

2014 RAM 1500 Overall: Not to be outdone, Ram combines best-in-the-business functionality and diversity to match Ford and Chevy/ GMC and also does one better by being the first of the bunch to offer a turbo-diesel option. Drivetrain: Chrysler’s 3.6-litre V6 and 5.7-liter “Hemi” V8 is joined by all-new 3.0-litre “EcoDiesel” V6; eight-speed automatic transmission and other countermeasures help Ram reduce fuel consumption to respectable levels. Base price (incl. destination): $28,700 Type: Two- /four-door pickup Base engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (305) Optional engines (hp): 3.0-litre DOHC V6, turbodiesel (240); 5.7-liter OHV V8 (395) Layout: Front-engine, rear- /four-wheel-drive Transmissions: Eight-speed automatic (3.6, 3.0, opt. on 5.7); six-speed automatic (5.7) l/100 km (city/highway): 11.4/7.8 (3.6, 4x2) Safety: Front airbags; impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control. Weight (kg): 2,080


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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 TOYOTA TUNDRA

lthough Toyota hasn’t sold as many of its fullsize Tundras as it might have expected, that doesn’t mean it has given up. In fact, the Tundra has been given a mid-cycle facelift that incorporates a new hood and reprofiled grille, along with a three-piece lower bumper and squared-off fenders and wheel wells. The bed sides and the cargo area itself are new as is the tailgate. However, the overall profile hasn’t changed: Tundras continue to be available in your choice of Regular-cab, extended-length Double Cab and four-door CrewMax with its extra-sized rear doors. The 310-horsepower 4.6-litre V8 and top-tuned 381-horsepower 5.7 V8 are basically untouched and both use six-speed automatic transmissions. Four-wheel-drive is optional, of course. Inside, the roomy cabin features several improvements to make life easier for the driver, including moving the HVAC and audio controls six centimetres closer. New seats feature better ventilation and can also travel more. Base regular-cab models actually come fairly well equipped with air conditioning and a 6.1-inch (15.5-centimetre) touchscreen display with Bluetooth short-range wireless networking and a backup camera. Adding more doors to the cab automatically gets you more, although many of those standard features

can be added to regular-cab models by choosing the SR5 Package and the SR5 Plus Package. There’s not enough room here to discuss the 10 models and 30 available configurations, but noteworthy is the Platinum that includes perforated diamond-pleated leather seats and instrument panel, along with plenty of chrome touches, a 12-speaker JBL-brand touch-screen audio system, navigation and heated and cooled seats. The new Platinum 1794 Edition is Toyota’s take on Ford’s King Ranch or Ram’s Laramie Longhorn. It’s billed as a tribute to the ranch, founded in the year 1794, where

the Tundra plant is located in Texas. You get a saddlebrown leather touches with suede inserts, and similar luxury equipment to the Platinum. Both the Platinum and Platinum 1794 are 4x4 machines available only in the four-door CrewMax cab configuration. Overall: Toyota is finally giving the Tundra pickup a significant refresh with a new nose, better-quality interior parts and a new “1794 Edition” that’s the company’s take on high-end cowboy luxury. Drivetrain: Two V8s that produce 310 and 381 horsepower; six-speed automatic transmissions all around.

2014 RAV 4

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Overall: One year after its latest generation change, Toyota is already playing around with new Entune audio systems. hrough four generations, the RAV4 The all-wheel-drive option is has Auto, has gone from unlikely savior to Lock and Sport modes to suit specific slick machine. But it has to be since traction and driving situations. Lock the competition is insanely fierce. Back in mode keeps half the power going to the 1997 when the first RAV4 arrived, it was back wheels as long as you’re driving all by itself. Benchmark vehicles such as slower than 40 km-h. Sport mode allows the Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson and, of wider transfer of torque between the course, the Honda CR-V have the RAV4 front and rear wheels (as much as half fighting tooth and nail for turf it once to the rear) than the Auto mode. That’s owned outright. To do this, the design all well and good, but the real battleis rather impressive with all sorts of ground these days is in interior fit and swoops and curves and an angry-looking finish as well as technology. The RAV4 nose. There’s more high-strength steel is awash with “soft-touch” materials and in the structure, which is intended to in- silver trim bits, which is pretty standard crease safety while keeping the weight in for this class. There are also eight stancheck. The RAV4 is similarly sized to the dard airbags and a 16-centimetre screen previous model, but Toyota says there is that doubles as a monitor for the back-up more cargo room. Despite this, there is camera, which is also standard. RAV4 is no option of the third-row seat or the V6 offered in the usual LE, XLE and Limited engine that was required when that seat trim levels. Oddly perhaps, the LE comes was ordered. In fact, where the Ford Es- with 17-inch steel wheels, which probcape offers three different four-cylinder ably helps keep the starting price around engines, the RAV4 only offers the carry- 25 grand, but you do get air conditionover 2.5-litre four-cylinder rated at 179 ing and some power features. The XLE horsepower. Fuel economy is good (6.4 adds a moonroof and roof rails, while the l/100 km on the highway), largely due to a Limited comes with 18-inch alloy wheels six-speed automatic transmission with tall and opens up the door to a 576-watt JBLoverdrive gearing to cut highway revs. brand audio system.

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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013 Overall: It’s hard to be the king, especially in an increasingly tight mid-size segment, but Toyota keeps its crown with more tweaks and a sportier new trim. Drivetrain: Fuel-efficient four- and six-cylinder engines, plus an outstanding gas-electric hybrid that nails it for price and impressive fuel economy.

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2014 TOYOTA CAMRY

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hile the number of serious contenders for the mid-sized sedan crown grows more impressive every year, it doesn’t really seem to matter. The Toyota Camry has remained firmly in that position for years, and the company can’t seem to build enough to fill demand. The Camry’s 2012 redesign included a pointier front end, chiseled front fenders and an accent crease extending across the doors and fenders. The windshield area was also increased for improved visibility. Toyota claims there’s now slightly more passenger space than before resulting from cabinlayout adjustments. Buyers can choose from four different upholstery finishes, depending on the model, from woven fabric in base models to leather with faux suede seat covers at the luxury end of the scale. Revisions to the front and rear suspension were designed to keep the Camry more stable in a straight line, sharpen steering response and improve ride comfort. Back for more is the base 178-horse-

power 2.5-litre four-cylinder and the optional 268-horsepower 3.5-litre V6. In the Camry hybrid, Toyota installed a new 156-horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, replacing the previous 147-horse 2.4-litre unit. The 2.5 and its electric-motor assistant produce the same 199 pound-feet of torque as before, but the Hybrid’s net 200 horsepower has increased by 13. Fuel consumption is rated at 4.5 l/100 km in the city and 4.9 on the highway. By contrast, the V6 uses more than twice as much fuel in the

2014 VENZA

2014 COROLLA

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or a small car, the Corolla has some big numbers to brag about. Like the fact that in 47 years Toyota has sold more than 40 million of them and currently operates 16 factories worldwide that ship Corollas to 154 countries. The all-new 11th-generation North American version comes on strong with a bit more style -- especially from the windshield forward -- than its broad base of customers are used to seeing. Nothing too radical, mind you, but just enough design drama to create some politely muffled ooh’s and ah’s. Where the new Corolla shines, however, is in passenger accommodations and comfort. The car has grown about four inches in overall length and in distance between the front and rear wheels. In addition a slightly wider cabin also contributes to more passenger space. Interior styling has also improved, but in a conservative way that differs from more daring competitors. Likewise, engine choices eschew anything performance-related. A 132-horsepower four-cylinder carries over from the previous generation and is connected to a six-speed manual transmission for the base CE and the S. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional on the CE, while a new continuously variable unit (CVT) is optional for S and standard for LE and LE ECO. To reduce that “rubber-band” sensation of varying engine speed that’s prevalent with many CVT applications, Toyota’s engineers added seven artificial shift points that function automatically (or can be controlled through available steering-column-mounted paddle shifters) to simulate the action of a regular automatic transmission. The LE ECO is also equipped with a 140-horsepower version of the 1.8 that’s rated at 6.5 l/100 km on the highway and 4.6 in the city, compared to the base model’s 6.9/5.2 rating with the CVT. Aside from a more efficient engine with special variable valve timing, those figures are achieved with the help of underbody panels that improve the car’s aerodynamics (and reduce highwayspeed fuel consumption). As before, entry-level Corollas don’t come with air conditioning ; that’s saved for the LE and the S. The LE ECO gets climate control. All models comes with steel wheels as standard, with aluminum wheels available only as an option.

city and about one-third more on the highway. Both gasoline engines operate with six-speed automatic transmissions, while the Hybrid uses a continuously variable unit. All Camrys arrive well equipped, although the top-line XLE is understandably loaded to the hilt. The fun-to-drive SE V6 comes with sporty suspension tuning, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, sport front seats and a quicker-shifting transmission that blips (rev matches) the throttle when downshifting, which promotes stability.

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hy didn’t Toyota call the Venza the Camry wagon? It doesn’t really roll off the tongue, now does it. So, by raising the body a bit and giving it a unique interior, Toyota gets another vehicle line that’s decently popular. The Venza’s interior is also similar to that of the Camry, although there are added storage spots throughout the cabin and the shifter has been relocated to the upper portion of the center console. The split-folding rear seats fold flat, but they also recline up to 14 degrees for extra comfort and can be manually folded from the open liftgatge using levers located on either side of the cargo bay. The Venza is fitted with a 181-horsepower 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine or an optional 268-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 matched to a six-speed automatic transmission (also Camry sourced). Power goes to the front wheels, although all-wheeldrive is available at extra cost. The Venza line for Canada is pretty simple: four- and six-cylinder models, both available in front or all-wheel-drive. To that you can add an XLE, and to that you can add the Limited, and to that you can add the Limited With Tech Package. They’re all bound together in that order. Standard equipment is still generous, including dual-zone air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls and a six-disc CD changer for the audio package. Nineteen-inch wheels are also standard, while 20-inchers accompany V6 models. The XLE adds leather seats (heated in front), power hatch opening, panoramic glass roof and a backup camera. At the top is the Tech Package that adds a 13-speaker audio system and automatic headlights that use sensors to switch to low beams from high when vehicles approach in the oncoming lane.


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2014 JEEP WRANGLER Overall: Jeep’s iconic off-roader adds more tricks and special editions that are ready to tackle the Rubicon Trail right off the showroom floor.

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he Wrangler has come a long way from its birth as wartime transport for millions of GIs, but that go-anywhere attitude remains its biggest appeal. The legendary off-roader enjoys a hardcore following; people who fearlessly dare to use these rugged rascals the way they’re intended. Of course not everyone goes boulderhopping and canyon-crawling in their Wranglers (the Jeep, not the Jeans), and the vehicle has been slowly and methodically updated to be more friendly to urban commuters. But do good seats and a modern powertrain hurt the of-

froad experience. Of course not, so it’s really win-win. But there’s more. The back seat of the four-door Unlimited model as well as the soft top both fold easily using, amazingly, just one hand. Both two- and four-door Wranglers can be ordered with a premium top that reportedly is easier to clean and its three layers add a degree of noise insulation. Unchanged is the Chryslerdesigned 285-horsepower V6 that connects to either a sixspeed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic. The combo provides for a l/100 km rating of 12.7 city and 9.3 highway (Unlimited

models fare a little worse). Base Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon trim levels continue in Canada for 2014; the first two feature part-time four-wheel-drive with optional limited-slip rear differential. The tough-customer Rubicon uses the Off-Road Rock-Trac unit with its extra-low-range gearing, front/rear-locking differentials for greater agility and 32-inch off-road rubber.

2014 JEEP WRANGLER UNLIMITED

Drivetrain: The 3.6-litre V6 makes 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, but isn’t about time for the 5.7-litre Hemi or the new Chrysler turbo-diesel?; six-speed manual transmission and optional five-speed automatic.

2014 jeep PATRIOT Overall: With the lowest price in its segment, by far, the basic Jeep Patriot still manages to improve its usefulness with a new transmission. Drivetrain: Two different four-cylinder engines keep the Patriot well tethered to terra firma; a new six-speed automatic transmission joins the carryover five-speed manual; continuously variable unit only appears with “Trail-rated” 4x4 model. Since they’re so closely related under the skin, whatever you say about the Jeep Compass also applies to its Patriot relation. So when Jeep finally offers a “real” six-speed automatic transmission in one, you know it’ll happen in the other. The six-speed is available with either the standard 2.0-litre fourcylinder with 158 horsepower and the optional 172-horsepower 2.4-litre version, with either front- or optional

Freedom Drive I four-wheel drive. The sole place where the CVT shows its face is with the Freedom Drive II 4x4 off-road package. There it acts like a mechanical low-range box but without the added weight or complexity. Other tweaks include all-terrain tires on 17inch wheels, skid plates, tow hooks, and most importantly, two inches of additional ride height. Either engine can be connected to a five-speed-

manual transmission, although they remain front-wheel drive. Patriot trim levels for 2014 hold steady at Sport, Latitude and Limited. Sport content includes not a heck of a lot (no A/C and you even have to manually crank the windows, hence the low starting price). As you move up -- in some cases, way up -- the line there’s air conditioning/climate control, leather-covered seats (heated up front), power

windows, door locks and outside mirrors and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror available for your comfort and pleasure. Options, some of which are standard with the Limited, include allterrain tires, navigation system, soilrepellent and anti-microbial seat fabric and a premium sound system with speakers that drop down from the liftgate (when it’s in the raised position) for tailgate parties.


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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

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TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

2014 CHEVROLET CAMERO

W

e should celebrate the fact that the Ponycar Wars have gone far past conventional weapons. Every year comes another iteration designed to turn heads and beat the pack either on the street or the track. For 2014, Chevrolet is giving its iconic Camaro a mid-cycle update that’s aimed at not only improving its presence, but also its aerodynamic efficiency. Everything front of the Apillar is new, with slimmer headlights, and on SS models, there’s a functional hood scoop. The taillights are slimmer and stretched more horizontally, there’s a faux rear diffuser and a new trunklid too. Camaro’s lineup grows by

one also, thanks to the re-born Z28. This track-focused sweetheart has all the right tricks, including thinner window glass and carbon-ceramic Brembo-brand brake discs that help it lop off 140 kilograms of fat, along with suspension changes and ultra-sticky tires that help generate more than 1.05 g while cornering. The coup de gras is the Corvette Z06-derived 7.0-litre V8 that delivers 500 horsepower to a six-speed manual transmission. Compared with the 580-horsepower supercharged ZL1, the Z28 is actually quicker around a track and that’s saying a lot. But you would have a hard time convincing most people to

buy in given all the everyday conve- new-style 20-inch wheels (redesigned nience items they sacrifice. The 1LE, 18- and 19-inchers are standard) and which was introduced in for 2013, is a performance mode setting for the similarly grin-inducing thanks to ZL1- traction- and stability-control systems, spec handling, but it has the same which are vital to preventing this rear432-horsepower (up from 426) 6.2-li- drive machine from becoming too tail tre V8 shared with the SS. Six-speed happy. The convertible is available with manuals are the choice for most hi-po the V6, the 6.2-litre V8 and, for more Camaros, although SS models can get drama, in ZL1 guise. No matter, it’s a six-speed automatic (horsepower a great-looking shell for an interior drops to 400 in those cars). The base that’s a mix of new and classic themes cars are still motivated by a 323-horse- that will delight die-hard Camaropower 3.6-litre V6 fitted with either a istes; they’ll positively swoon over the six-speed Overall: manual transmission or op- holds twinfive centre gauge and consoleThe cool customer people andpods is elegant looking tional six-speedand automatic. SS models mounted dials like those found in early fun to drive with a standard six-speed manual transmission. add beefier Brembo-brand brakes, Camaros, while some trims get a new lowered ride height, sport suspension, colour head-up display.

2014 MALIBU

2014 IMPALA Overall: Big leap ahead in size and styling; maybe you don’t have to go smaller to save gas, after all; The previous Impala hangs around for another year, exclusively for fleet buyers. t has been years in the tive noise cancellation for fires it when the brake is making, but General four-cylinder Impalas. It released. Regenerative Motors finally pushed uses hidden microphones braking creates electricthe reset button on one of and a special control ity while slowing down, its most endearing brands. module to create oppos- which helps recharge the Chevrolet’s enhanced ing sound waves sent batteries. eAssist, which flagship now shares the through the car’s speak- is offered in other GM same platform with Cadil- ers to cancel out low-en- sedans, gives the Impala lac’s top-positioned XTS, gine-speed droning. The a fuel-economy rating of but its appearance is far four-cylinder reference 8.7 l/100 km in the city more broad-shouldered might shock diehard Im- and 5.8 on the highway, and defined than that of pala fans who could have compared to a 9.9/6.3 the Caddy. There’s more never imagined such an estimate for the base to admire inside with a engine in a full-size sedan. 2.5. For maximum pohighly sculpted gauge lay- Fact is there are two avail- tency, a 305-horsepower out and control panel. An able: a base 195-horse- 3.6-litre V6 (which was available 20-centimetre power 2.5-litre; and a the sole engine choice (diagonal) touch-screen 182-horsepower 2.4-litre for the previous Impala) above the audio and ven- “eAssist” powerplant. The is optional. A six-speed tilation controls provides latter works in tandem automatic transmission access to the Impala’s with a belt-driven, liquid- connects to all. The base navigation, phone and in- cooled 15-horsepower Impala LS includes the air/ fotainment systems and electric motor/generator cruise/tilt basics plus 10 flips up to reveal a secret (replacing the traditional standard airbags, with the compartment for small alternator) that feeds off mid-grade LT significantly valuables and your USB a lithium-ion battery pack upping content levels. The music device or smart located behind the rear LTZ will provide a full-on phone that plugs right seat. There’s also a stop/ luxury experience with in. The Impala features start system that kills the leather seats, power sunsome serious cabin-noise engine when the vehicle roof, navigation and other abatement, including ac- is stationary and then re- goodies.

I

Overall: Revised Chevrolet Camaro gets smoother front end, but nearly everything underneath has been changed; reborn track-focused Z28 joins supercharged ZL1 and lookalike 1LE in providing night-sweats for Mustang owners.

Overall: After the new was Malibu criticized for lack of space and refinement, Chevrolet goes for drastic mid-cycle changes after only one year on the market.

C

hevrolet gambled big-time on the Malibu redesign launched for the 2013 model year. It was a direction-changing model highlighted by a powerplant lineup focused on fuel efficiency. However, Chevrolet’s mid-size sedan shed a few centimetres between the front and rear wheels, which meant it had less rear-seat space than the outgoing model. In such a cutthroat class where the competition is closer than ever, it was a mistake. For 2014, Chevrolet has rolled forward all the changes it had planned for the Malibu’s mid-cycle updates, meaning the company has gone a long way to address those criticisms. Exterior changes include a more aggressive front grille and lower fascia, although the Camaroinspired taillights and rear end remain unchanged.

Inside, the Malibu’s stylists appear to have gone all out to improve on last year’s update. A redesigned centre console now provides more room and storage, while engineers somehow used black magic to deliver another three centimetres of rear legroom without altering the exterior dimensions. Standard on all but the base model is Chevrolet’s MyLink touchscreen audio/communications system with a faceplate that pivots upward to reveal a hidden 15-centimetre-deep storage area. The base engine remains a 2.5-litre four-cylinder that makes 197 horsepower, although it now features direct fuel injection and a system that shuts off the engine when the vehicle is at rest, then fires it up when the brake pedal is released. The latter, all by itself, is estimated to help fuel efficiency by

five per cent. Optional is an updated turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder rated at 259 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, which is up significantly. Also offered is the Malibu Eco that uses General Motors’ mildhybrid system (called eAssist) shared with the Buick LaCrosse and Regal. The 182-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder gas engine works with a beltdriven 15-horsepower electric motor/generator, replacing the traditional alternator. It feeds off of a lithium-ion battery pack positioned behind the rear seat that slightly reduces trunk space. Other Eco technologies include lowrolling resistance tires and better aerodynamics. Also new for 2014 are optional blind-spot and rear-cross traffic alert, which is lets you know when about vehicles passing behind you.


31

TODAY’S DRIVE 2013

6674 Airport Road, Fort St. John

250•787•0634

Toll Free: 1•800•936•9353 www.drivingforce.ca

2012 RAM 1500 LARAMIE 6.7L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, wood boxliner, black leather interior, sunroof, black ext. 25,499kms - Stk #111851

51,995

$

2013 FORD F-450 FLAT DECK 6.2L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, cloth interior, regualr cab, white ext. 13,561kms - Stk #113430

37,995

$

2011 FORD F-350 XLT 6.2L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, grey cloth interior, silver ext. 52,753kms - Stk #107232

2011 FORD F-250 CC XLT 6.2L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, CD, cloth interior, wooden boxliner, blue ext. 82,873kms - Stk #115108

25,995

$

2013 FORD F-450 CUBE VAN 5.4L, auto, ATC, PS, vinyl bucket seats, white ext. 14,468kms - Stk #116109

37,995

$

2011 FORD ESCAPE XLT 2.5L, auto, 4WD, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, leather interior, heated seats, grey ext. $ 40,311kms - Stk #105508

23,995

2011 FORD F-350 XLT 6.2L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, cloth interior, wooden boxliner, white ext. $ 79,575kms - Stk #106970

34,995

2011 NISSAN PATHFINDER SV 4L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, sunroof, black interior, grey ext. 57,304kms - Stk #106142

27,995

$

2011 CHEVROLET AVALANCHE LT 5.3L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, cloth interior, backup camera, running boards, blue ext. $ 34,375kms - Stk #115900

41,995

34,995

$

2013 FORD RAPTOR SVT 6.2L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, CD, leather interior, back-up camera, complete Raptor kit, $ white ext. 2,114kms - Stk #114913

64,995

2009 GMC CHEVROLET SUBURBAN 5.3L, auto, LT, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, DVD, sunroof, grey ext. 79,293kms - Stk #100531

33,000

$

2013 FORD EXPLORER XLT 4L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, moonroof, leather interior, silver ext. 22,915kms - Stk #109694

40,000

$

2011 FORD F-250 XL 6.2L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, regular cab, wooden boxliner, white ext. $ 32,671kms - Stk #107849

26,995

2011 SLT RAM 3500 6.7L, DIESEL, auto, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, cloth interior, silver ext. 62,054kms - Stk #105564

38,900

$

2011 FORD F-150 KING RANCH 5.0L, auto, ATC, PW, PL, PS, CD, brown leather interior, sunroof, wooden boxliner, $ white ext. 53,349kms - Stk #107446

38,995

2011 DODGE JOURNEY R/T 3.6L, auto, AWD, PW, PL, PS, PM, CD, leather interior, heated seats, silver ext. $ 31,089kms - Stk #105009

25,995


32

TODAY’S DRIVE 2013 R001633191

Todaysdrive 2013  

New Vehicle Preview 2014 Published by Alaska Highway News

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