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Is the new Sienna the world's first sports minivan?

Is the new Sienna the world's first sports minivan?Minivans and sports cars. Shall the twain ever meet?

I mean, when one talks of utility vehicles – as opposed to SUV/crossovers – one can be forgiven for thinking of minivans, pickup trucks, “real” vans and delivery vehicles, etc. But, while I’ve seen some rather lame – er, sorry, physically challenged – analogies to minivans and sportiness over the years, they’re few and far between. And, in my never humble opinion, they’re mostly BS.

By Jim Bray - Friday, January 29, 2021

Jeep Cherokee a great vehicle to have when it snows a lot

Jeep Cherokee a great vehicle to have when it snows a lotWhen the snow flies and the drifts get deep, it’s nice to have a vehicle with robust four-wheel drive to get you through it. And it’s especially nice when it’s a vehicle with good ride height that can navigate the deep December doo-doo as if it were born for it.

Such is the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 4x4 – at least for the most part.

We had about a foot and a half of snow dumped on our little corner of the Rocky Mountain foothills just before Christmas, and it was enough to keep less capable vehicles either off of the road or stuck in the snow; heck, I helped push multiple vehicles into or out of their parking spots during that time, just on my little hilly cul-de-sac.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, January 17, 2021

Mazda celebrates 100 years with special edition CX-5

Mazda celebrates 100 years with special edition CX-5My favourite compact ute is back with some new tweaks for 2021, as well as a couple of new editions, one of which is a celebration of Mazda’s centennial.

It’s the CX-5, which started life a bit underpowered but was still lots of fun to drive, and Mazda has wisely upped the oomph ante over the years, a tad at least. But with the introduction of the company’s lovely optional 2.5 litre turbo four a while back, acceleration angst is now a thing of the past. And that’s wonderful!

It’s also a pretty luxurious vehicle in the upper trim levels. A Signature trim was introduced for 2019, which also included that turbo four (which Mazda also makes available nearly right across its line). That version didn’t come with paddle shifters, though Mazda has now corrected that oversight with the 2021 CX-5. And the paddles work well, though if you don’t shift it into sport mode the transmission will go back to sleep again if you aren’t prodding it enough to satisfy it. And that’s fine.

By Jim Bray - Monday, December 21, 2020

Toyota Venza: a tall wagon evolves into a taller and higher-tech SUV

Toyota Venza: a tall wagon evolves into a taller and higher-tech SUVOut goes the “car”, in comes the “SUV” – and that’s the tale of the Toyota Venza. Well, part of it.

Time was when the Venza occupied a kind of unique niche in the car marketplace, at least in North America: a tall station wagon. Station wagons are rare here, unfortunately, though other parts of Parent Earth still do brisk business with them. Here, we get a few wagons, mostly German (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but even sedans and coupes are threatening to become an endangered species in these parts in favour of SUV’s.

By Jim Bray - Tuesday, November 24, 2020

National Teen Driver Safety Week focused on at least one wrong issue

It appears that, these days, there’s a week, or a month, or a day, for just about any cause one can imagine. And last week, October 18 to 24 was apparently named National Teen Driver Safety Week, at least judging by the press releases I’ve received on the topic.

These releases offer a variety of tips for teenagers as they get behind the wheel of their vehicle, things such as remembering to mute your phone (in fact, in one release I got they say you should put it into Airplane Mode!), planning your route in advance, keeping both hands on the steering wheel, etc.

One organization, in their press release, even called upon the young drivers’ passengers to rat ‘em out: “Speak Up: As a passenger, help by speaking up if your driver decides to interact with a mobile device. Feel confident to ask them to stop immediately, and demand that they pull over and then use their phone safely.”

By Jim Bray - Monday, November 2, 2020

New behind the wheel? Here's some advice for new and inexperienced drivers

New behind the wheel? Here's some advice for new and inexperienced driversBack to School season may be the “most wonderful time of the year” if you’re a parent whose kids have been driving you up the wall for the past several months, but it’s also a time when many people are heading back to classes – or work, or whatever, as well.

This means, as I’m sure you’ll have noticed, that our highways and byways are filling up again – not, perhaps, as much as they were back before our forcible, free trial of tyranny began, but more than were on the roads during the early heights of the health hype. This prompted the folks at OK Tire to offer some tips they think can help the more inexperienced drivers among us to have safer and/or more pleasant driving experiences than they might otherwise.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, September 27, 2020

Toyota's Camry offers multiple compelling versions of the family sedan

Toyota's Camry offers multiple compelling versions of the family sedanToyota’s mid-sized mainstream sedan has always been a good car, but it hasn’t always been a really compelling car to drive. Those days appear to be over, at least partly.

Camrys have also been known as excellent, well-built and engineered cars, something you can buy and drive comfortably and affordably over the long haul. But if I were looking for a Japanese car in this market segment, one that’s also interesting to those who enjoy extending their right feet a little, I’d have sent you scrambling for the Mazda6, though you can no longer get it with a V6 engine. Still, “Zoom-Zoom” and all that.

By Jim Bray - Thursday, July 9, 2020

New Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a very nice place to spend some time

New Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a very nice place to spend some timeIt may not be the most compelling vehicle to drive, but Toyota’s Highlander is a wonderful place in which to go from point A to point B, and its hybrid version may even save you some gas money.

But, oh, does it wallow! And that CVT!

Still, that could just be me. I don’t like driving a vehicle that handles curves like a hovercraft, but I can see why people would love this vehicle. It’s modern, it’s powerful enough, it’s equipped very nicely, and it has an interior that’s nothing short of exquisite. And it’s apparently all-new for 2020.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, June 27, 2020

Toyota's Tacoma TRD an exceptional off-roader

Toyota's Tacoma TRD an exceptional off-roaderIt may be a tad long in the tooth for this generation, but Toyota’s Tacoma pickup truck is legendary for its durability on and off the road. And if you want to make it even nicer, one of the TRD packages may be right up your alley.

The Tacoma has a history that stretches back to the famous old Hilux (and maybe even farther!), a compact pickup truck that was so durable the folks at the BBC’s Top Gear even had it ride down to earth on an imploding building’s roof to try killing it, after having put it through numerous other torture tests that it survived. Indeed, while the truck was a wreck cosmetically, it still started and, were its body and frame not ready for receiving the last rites, it probably would have driven!

By Jim Bray - Monday, June 15, 2020

Mazda joins the mini-ute fray with its CX-30

Mazda joins the mini-ute fray with its CX-30Take Mazda’s award-winning, and terrific, 3 hatchback, raise it a bit and add some plastic cladding and what do you have?

Well, if you’ve read the title to this piece, you’re already a step ahead and know I’m talking about the new for 2020 CX-30, a compact SUV/Crossover that’s based on the 3 – and that’s a heckuva great place to start!

By Jim Bray - Saturday, May 2, 2020

Honda CR-V Sport – a pretty nice vehicle, but Sport?

Honda CR-V SportHonda’s CR-V has been around nearly as long as the so-called “cute ute” market niche and, as is Honda’s wont, there’s a lot to like about it.

But is the Sport version really sporty?

Nope. And that’s a shame because, other than the “sportiness gap” it’s a pretty nice vehicle in its own right, Honda-isms notwithstanding.

By Jim Bray - Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Lincoln takes flight with new Corsair

Lincoln takes flight with new CorsairLincoln is out with a set of new SUV models that updates its line with a decidedly airplane-like – or tech-like anyway – meme, and judging from my couple of weeks in a pair of them they’ve done a very nice job of it.

The two I drove are the new Corsair, which replaces the Escape-based MKC, and the Explorer-related Aviator that sent the horrid-looking MKT to the showers. Between them there’s also the Nautilus, which has no aviation connection in its name at all and fits in the product line like the Edge fits into Ford’s (between the Escape and the Explorer).

By Jim Bray - Monday, April 6, 2020

Motoring: Citroen DS3 Crossback

“Ahhh, it’s as if the car’s greeting me,” coos my wife Caroline as she walks up to the DS3. Its door handles pop out and the power folding wing mirrors unfold. The automotive equivalent of a dog licking you to death. “I can imagine this appeals to lonely people,” she adds. This characteristic certainly draws admiration from fellow motorists I meet on our travels between Hampshire, Dorset and Wales.

By Tim Saunders - Tuesday, March 31, 2020

MOTORING: Kia ProCeed GT Line

MOTORING: Kia ProCeed GT LineEstate cars are passé. Look around, there are shooting brakes everywhere.

This term is used for estates that resemble more of a coupe in terms of style and panache.

The latest such offering is the ProCeed GT Line from Kia, an elegant and eye-catching design for sure. There’s room inside for five adults and there’s a nice large boot, which swallows the Friday night food shopping with ease.

By Tim Saunders - Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Automakers and Other Manufacturers Help Fight the War on the Coronavirus

During World War II, American industrial giants retooled their operations to make the United States the “Arsenal of Democracy.” Today, in response to President Trump’s metaphorical call to arms against COVID-19, America is once again flexing its industrial muscles to answer that call and produce life-saving equipment to battle the virus.

By Institute for Energy Research - Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Ford's Escape sports a nice new suit of clothes for 2020

Ford's Escape sports a nice new suit of clothes for 2020The new, mostly carless era at Ford is beginning and one of the newest salvos in the company’s battle for market success is personified by the latest version of its popular SUV, the Escape.

And it’s a pretty nice item for the most part. I like its looks compared to the also-handsome outgoing model, and I was even happy with the performance obtained by Ford Canada’s sample SEL trim level’s 1.5 litre turbo three. Sure, it doesn’t offer a huge amount of horsepower or torque, but in my week driving it in various winter road conditions – from bare and dry to awful – it performed just fine.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, March 22, 2020

Volvo V60 a very nice wagon that claims off-road strength

Volvo V60 a very nice wagon that claims off-road strengthIt almost seems as if station wagons are an endangered species in North America. Oh sure, there are hatchbacks, and “crossovers” but honest to goodness wagons seem limited to European manufacturers these days and even those are hard to find on Canadian streets.

I love wagons. They give you everything good that you can find in a sedan (such as the convenience of four doors) and add a lot of the storage you can get from an SUV. And because they’re (mostly) still as low as a car they can offer sports car handling and fun.

By Jim Bray - Monday, March 9, 2020

Award-winning Subarus bring Big Brother to some otherwise nice vehicles

Award-winning Subarus bring Big Brother to some otherwise nice vehiclesSubaru, the Japanese car company, has won two Automobile Journalists Association of Canada “Best Car in Canada” awards, for its new Legacy and Outback, and on the whole they’re very nice vehicles.

Though neither won the Best Car in Canada award for 2020 (that went to Mazda’s terrific 3 sedan/hatchback), the Legacy took its category as Best Large Car in Canada for 2020, while the Outback was named Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2020. That’s pretty good!

By Jim Bray - Friday, February 21, 2020

Mazda CX-5 adds diesel power to its lineup

Mazda CX-5 adds diesel power to its lineup

How do you make a great SUV even more stimulating? Well, you could give it more oomph, or better fuel mileage – or, better still, both.

And that’s what Mazda has done with the CX-5 Diesel, a new model in the company’s SUV line, and it’s a pretty compelling piece of automotive stuff.

Mazda’s famous "Zoom-Zoom" slogan isn’t just advertising hype; it’s actually true. In fact, over the past decade or so I’ve gotten more speeding tickets while behind the wheel of a Mazda than I have any other brand, including supposedly higher end sports vehicles. Can’t blame Mazda for self-inflicted wounds, but such is the effect Mazda vehicles have on me. It isn’t horsepower or torque, it’s just an overall feel – and I love it!

By Jim Bray - Monday, February 17, 2020