CVT Transmissions…

After a recent encounter with a deer in West Virginia left our beloved Ford Escape a write-off, it was time to go SUV shopping.

My wife and I looked at different models including the Honda Pilot, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder and decided on a low mileage 2014 Pathfinder SL model.  It had all the features we wanted, the price was right and a good friend of mine also had one that he was very happy with.  Now of course in parallel, I had spent countless hours researching the Pathfinder (anyone that knows me understands this is not a chore for me) and was aware of a class action lawsuit in the US focused on the CVT transmission.  However, that did not dissuade me – I thought it was still small numbers that were affected, we liked the way the car drove, the price was right and Nissan has always made great products.

Well, everything was great for the first seven weeks of owning the Pathfinder until this happened…

The rescue begins.

The rescue begins.

That’s right…our new ride was being towed away by Nissan Roadside Assistance only seven weeks after we bought it.

We had it taken to Maple Nissan where we purchased the car. The team there was great and stepped up to fix the issue right away. One week later we were back on our way with a new transmission installed.

Back in action.

The CVT (continuously variable transmission) has been a bit of a negative word over the years with the world of mechanics, but the technology has seen significant improvements recently. Today, many manufacturers are using this type of technology in a broad range of vehicle models.

Designed primarily to enhance fuel efficiency, the CVT is an automatic transmission that can seamlessly change through a continuous range of gears.  As a car guy, I had always been slightly weary of them because there has been negative press citing an increase in cabin noise, unnatural driving feel and originally they were not designed for towing.

Our whole experience does make you a bit nervous about the long-term ownership costs, especially after reading numerous horror stories about multiple CVT failure. Nevertheless, I’m continuing to stay positive. I suppose it is not a bad thing to get a new transmission at 53,000 KMs if you plan to keep your vehicle for the long-haul.

 

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Rolex 24 at Daytona Cont’d.

Everyone is entitled to a different opinion, but I’m most excited to see the brand new Ford GT race car fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing perform in the Rolex 24 Hours.

The cool thing about this car, aside from its 600+ HP and exclusive carbon-fibre body panels, is that it’s developed and constructed in Canada, a mere 30 km from where I live in downtown Toronto.
(Be sure to look for the Mosport cameos)

Multimatic, the manufacturer, is a privately held Canadian company who has been a global leader in automotive technology and component engineering since 1984. They’ve always provided an unwavering level of support for racing, and as a result, today, are responsible for building all the Chip Ganassi race cars and road cars for Ford, of which there are a total of 250 this year.

It’s pretty cool that a company with a relatively low profile can create such innovative and winning race car technology right in our own backyard.

I’ll be watching the Ford GT closely at the Roar Before the 24 test at Daytona from January 8-10. Sources says Ganassi is apparently going to LeMans with four of these cars in June as well – so no pressure :).

It’s official, Jeremy Clarkson is out and Top Gear will never be the same

Well it’s official, Jeremy Clarkson has been fired from the BBC. The story has finally emerged about his sudden suspension back on March 10th as the BBC provided the full details from their resulting investigation.

Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson’s contract will not be renewed after an “unprovoked physical attack” on a Top Gear producer, the BBC’s director general has confirmed as of about 6 hours ago.

In terms of timeline –

Clarkson was suspended on 10 March, following what was called by BBC a “fracas” with Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon. The physical altercation, which took place in a Yorkshire hotel, was said to have occurred because no hot food was provided following a day’s filming.

During the physical attack Oisin Tymon was struck, resulting in swelling and bleeding to his lip.”  The attack lasted “around 30 seconds and was halted by the intervention of a witness. The report went on to document that verbal abuse was sustained over a longer period and contained the strongest expletives and threats to sack Mr Tymon, who believed he had lost his job.

Well, the times are a changing as it sure does seem like celebrities are getting away with bad behaviour less today compared to days past.  All of which is likely a good thing, it is just sad that it happened to our favourite show Top Gear and at its peak.

Top Gear today is a global phenomena with an estimated 350 million viewers worldwide, making it the most watched show on TV. Originally created in 1977, as a regional television motoring show produced by BBC Midlands it has gone on and reinvented itself several times and time will tell what its future holds. We sincerely hope the show goes on for the BBC and its global audience but with the rumour mill already swirling it seems unlikely things will be status quo. The latest news about Clarkson suggests he is already in talks with Netflix and with Hammond and May alluding to them all being a package deal change looks likely.

Source: BBC, Top Gear Wikia 

2015 Dodge Ram 1500 diesel delivers outstanding fuel efficiency

Having reviewed the 2014 version of the Dodge Ram 1500 we were very excited to get behind the wheel of this 2015 version of Ram’s award-winning truck.  And, this time around we were going to see if all the media hype for the 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel is warranted.  Ironically, over the last few months we have seen an incredible drop in fuel prices so as of our test week in December gas prices in Canada were at their lowest level in four to five years and diesel fuel was actually priced at a premium in comparison.

Upon getting the keys to the new tester I was pleasantly surprised to see how good the truck looked in its “Western Brown” exterior colour.

Dodge Ram 1500 Ecodiesel

Dodge Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Anyone familiar with the luxury standard of today’s full-sized crew cab trucks will not be surprised by the level of detail in the Ram’s cabin – it is comparable to that of a luxury car with its rich leather bucket seats and high-end interior materials.   Some of our favourites include the back-up camera (crucial for parking in tight underground garages) and the nine speaker Alpine stereo system with SiriusXM Satelite radio. Other key features especially useful in the Canadian winter include heated second row seats, dual zone climate control and a heated steering wheel.  However, one feature we did not have, but was in the 2014 tester, was the air suspension system which provides drivers with the ability to raise the frame of the truck enabling more travel for off-road use. This feature also lowers the truck for better fuel efficiency and makes it easier to get in and out. For our purposes in the city this is not a feature we would leverage on a regular basis, but it is cool nonetheless.

Interior

Our tester came equipped with Chrysler’s award winning UConnect multimedia and connectivity package. It’s the most user-friendly setup in any pickup truck we have tested to date, combining an 8.4-inch center touchscreen with a configurable gauge display. UConnect’s touchscreen and steering-wheel controls gives the driver instant access to all the communication and interior features available in the cabin.

Dodge Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

UConnect console

As Dodge’s third highest trim level, the Laramie Crew Cab 4X4 model comes in at a starting price of $40,595 CDN MSRP.  However, our tester model came with a base price of $53,695 but was equipped with a range of optional features pushing the actual “total price as tested” to $64,535. The biggest ticket item within all the options is the $4,600 for the EcoDiesel V6.  That is a significant chunk of cash but this EcoDiesel engine is game changing and was named one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for 2014.

back truck

During our week-long test where we used the truck predominantly as a city errand chaser, with one trip to cottage country, the truck got an average of 10.4L per 100 KM which works out to 23 MPG.  This is truly remarkable fuel efficiency for an almost 6,000 lb (2,722 kg) full size truck especially considering the majority of miles were in the city.  In fact, the 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 is the most efficient engine available today in its class.  See official press release.

Dodge Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

3.0L V6 EcoDiesel

The 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel is a very innovative engine built from a block of compacted graphite iron with aluminum twin-cam heads that put out (240 horsepower and 420 pounds of torque) giving the engine loads of torque for towing (9,200-pound towing capacity).  Realistically, it does not have the same off-the-line speed as the HEMI V8 but who needs that? Since it provides a decent 0 to 60 time of about eight seconds (approx 1 second slower than the Hemi) which is very admirable for a full size pick-up that literally sips diesel compared to its gas-fired brethren.

The only feature our Ram was missing that would be useful is running boards since getting into the truck is a bit tough without them especially for shorter folks.  The running boards also provide some added mud and snow coverage for the driver and passengers upon entry and exit.

Since the Dodge Ram 1500 with its EcoDiesel V6 is the only diesel half-ton pickup currently available in North America there are no direct competitors. However, the key gasoline competitors to the Ram 1500 are the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan and the Toyota Tundra.

I know Christmas has come and gone but if you are still in the need of a full size truck with superb fuel efficiency make sure you check out a Ram dealer near you!

 

GoPro shares tank after journalist links camera to Michael Schumacher’s accident

There has been lots of buzz this week surrounding Michael Schumacher and this newly suggested idea that the GoPro camera he was using may have been part of the “problem” and may have worsened his head injuries. The sheer scale of this speculation is massive and the resulting press articles have sent shares of GoPro, lower this week.

Time will tell what happens with this one as we are sure there will be more to come here.

Seven-time F1 champion Schumacher suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident in the French Alps last December. He emerged from a medically induced coma in June and returned home after being discharged from hospital in September.

Lamborghini Huracán

The Lamborghini Huracán is Lamborghini’s new replacement for its sales leader and most produced car, the Gallardo.  With more than 14,000 copies of the Gallardo sold over two generations the Huracán certainly has big shoes to fill.

Source: Norbert Aepli, Switzerland

Source: Norbert Aepli, Switzerland

The all new Huracán picks up where the Gallardo left off. Like its predecessor, the Huracán has a mid-mounted, naturally aspirated, 5.2-liter V-10 engine. This direct-injected power plant pumps 610 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels via a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. The new Huracán has a ton of shared technology with Audi’s next generation R8 due to Volkswagen Group’s ownership of Lamborghini.

Capable of zero to 62 mph in 3.2 seconds, and zero to 124 mph (200 kph) in 9.9 seconds with a top speed of approx 201 mph the Huracán is a true super car. Its blistering speeds are a result of the unbelievable horsepower to weight ratio of 2.36 kg (5.20 lb) per horsepower.  With a curb weight of only 1,422 kg (3,135 lb), the car’s chassis is made of carbon fiber and aluminium, destined to please the speed demons.

Having been recently released, the Huracán is now making the rounds to the world’s top tier auto journalists. One of these first reviews comes from the UK’s Autocar who took the Huracán for a spin on the UK roads along with their favourite test track.  Make sure you turn the volume up to take in the sensory experience of what it is like to drive a Lambo.  We have to agree with the video reviewer as it really is one of the prettiest Lambo designed in the last 25 years. Bravo Lamborghini or should I say Audi AG!

The Mercedes C63 AMG Experiment

After spending a glorious day at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park watching the Tudor United Sportscar series we thought it was time to have a little fun with some old school video. Check out this 2012 Chris Harris segment where he takes a Mercedes C63 AMG coupe with the optional 480 HP power upgrade and lets her rip on some smaller rubber. The moral of this video is “Everyone should learn to drive with big power on skinny rubber!

Today is the year’s best day in auto racing television

The weather is beautiful here in Toronto today so hopefully you are all out enjoying an auto related activity.  However, if you are stuck inside, don’t fret since today is the best day of the year for auto racing television as the F1 Monaco GP, Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 all are happening.

Monaco Grand Prix view

Monaco Grand Prix view

Indy 500 start

Indy 500 start

Coca-Cola 600

Coca-Cola 600

So for the folks staying indoors we recommend you grab a good spot on the couch to experience the greatest day as a racing couch potato.  Of course saying this, if you do end up watching all three races make sure you get some serious exercise this week. Happy watching!

 

Range Rover Sport HSE vs. Range Rover Supercharged

The Range Rover brand is truly iconic since people who know nothing about cars are aware of its rich pedigree of craftsmanship, luxury and performance. Resulting from this amazing brand recognition, Land Rover stands out among its competitors as one of the world’s top brands. Interestingly, today, Land Rover is now owned by India’s Tata Motors who acquired both the Jaguar and Land Rover brands in a blockbuster deal in 2008. Over the past six years, Tata has done a stellar job of rejuvenating the brand globally. Consequently, when you look at Land Rovers’ current 2014 model line-up it’s obvious the nameplate has come a long way since Maurice Wilks constructed the first Land Rover back in 1947 after being inspired by the American World War II Jeep.

Last month, we had the incredible opportunity to experience first hand Land Rover’s 2014 Range Rover Sport HSE and the 2014 Range Rover Supercharged model.

2014 Ranger Rover Sport

2014 Ranger Rover Sport HSE

We started behind the wheel of the newly redesigned Sport HSE model equipped with the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 which pumps out 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Redesigned from the frame up to be lighter and more nimble, (it tips the scales 800 pounds lighter than the 2013 model) Land Rover has turned its stylish SUV into a family friendly SUV for those who strive to drive a premium vehicle. Although now longer than its predecessor by 2.5 inches for a total of 191 it is still over four inches shorter than the 2014 Cadillac CTS sedan.

The Sport was a ton of fun to drive in both city and highway environments and its size works well for an urban environment as I never felt it was too big.  As for overall appearance the black on black colour scheme along with the motor hood venting provides a sinister and sporty look. A few welcomed features during the last few days of our Canadian “hell” winter were the heated windshield along with the ultra comfy heated seats and heated steering wheel. Although there are several other engines offered in the Sport trim including the unreal supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 the 3.0 V6 engine is more than enough power to propel the Range Rover Sport. Land Rover estimates the V6 configuration provides a 0-60 mph performance time of 6.9 seconds which should be enough for most families aside from the Andretti’s.

Back seat of Ranger Rover Sport

Back seat of Ranger Rover Sport HSE

It’s amazing how capable this new Range Rover Sport really is and it’s a bit of a shame that few owners will ever challenge it on anything rougher than an unpaved road on their way to the cottage. Its perfect combination of subtle suspension and Brembo brakes results in excellent driving and braking capability at all speeds and it does this in spite of the beefy 4700 lb curb weight. 

Motor hood of Range Rover Sport

Hood vents on Range Rover Sport HSE

Overall, the Range Rover Sport is an amazing ride and I would truly love to have one in the driveway.  Our test model came in at $86,000 CDN reinforcing the premium price Range Rover’s garner in the marketplace.

Range Rover Supercharged

Range Rover Supercharged

Next up is Land Rover’s flagship model, the Range Rover Supercharged, which brings an out of this world level of power and size to the ring.  Beginning with its regal design the Ranger Rover Supercharged is as close as you can get to having your own personal chariot.  Its stance exudes confidence and poise and let’s be honest if you are driving one of these you want the world to know you have made it. Designed to compete with the big boys of high-performance luxury SUVs including the Mercedes GL 63 AMG and Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the supercharged 5.0L V-8 engine delivers a whopping 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. Kudos to the team at Land Rover as they have done a magnificent job designing this new powertrain. When you stomp on the gas pedal it provides the acceleration of a V8 supercar and launches like a cheetah. At one point during the week-long test, I seriously thought I may need some wheelie bars. The power is instant and visceral and the V8 sound that goes along with it is intoxicating. With a sizzling 0-60-mph time in the range of 5.0 seconds it is the most powerful Land Rover ever built and driving it is a sure way to get the adrenaline pumping.  But the best part of all is it’s a true wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Aside from the Supercharged badge on the tailgate nobody knows it has so much power. Hence, you pull up beside someone at a stoplight, and when the light turns green you might as well be in a Z06 Corvette since most vehicles will not even come close to challenging you. Having said this, I’m not condoning this type of activity as it’s illegal, but this is a risk associated with owning the supercharged V8 model.

Interior of Ranger Rover Supercharged

Interior of Ranger Rover Supercharged

The Range Rover includes a host of other goodies that make life easier and driving a little safer too. To name a few there’s a surround camera system, reverse traffic detection with blind spot monitoring and closing vehicle sensing, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, rain sensing wipers, an 18-speaker Meridian audio system, massaging and heated seats and best of all are the heavenly front headrests which are hands down the most comfortable headrests I have ever experienced. Although designed to be an incredible off-roader it is way too beautiful and expensive to take to the trails and I’d be surprised to hear that any of these models ever see the mud and water they are designed to tackle.

Ranger Rover Supercharged

Ranger Rover Supercharged

Coming in at a price tag as tested of $127,145 the Range Rover Supercharged is certainly not for the everyman.  Nope, this vehicle is designed for those who have successfully climbed the corporate ladder and/or entrepreneurial rock stars along with professional athletes and celebrities. However, there is other important group worth mentioning who have had a long history with Land Rover products and that is the British Royal family. A few years back in a story we did about the introduction of the Range Rover Evoque we also included a video of Queen Elizabeth II driving her Land Rover equipped with a manual transmission. And just this past summer, we saw Land Rover once again star as the vehicle of choice for Prince William and Kate at the birth of Prince George. Kudos to Land Rover since you could not ask for better global brand ambassadors!

2014 Cadillac XTS Platinum Vsport AWD

Having recently reviewed several Cadillac models including the SRX, ATS and now the XTS we can honestly say they are all a treat to drive.  Over the last few years, GM’s top brand has truly undergone a renaissance as a result of GM’s heightened attention to detail, design and performance.  Seriously, as car enthusiasts what’s not to love when the car looks good, luxurious and fast?

Cadillac XTS Vsport

2014 Cadillac XTS Vsport

Designed to replace both the Cadillac STS and DTS, the XTS is slightly smaller than the DTS but larger than the STS. Production began in May 2012 at the Oshawa, Canada assembly plant and the model was officially launched in June 2012. The XTS is available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations.   Here in Canada, it’s very exciting that this beauty is made in our own backyard for the North American market.  In February 2013, GM began manufacturing the XTS in Shanghai, China for their domestic market.

Our XTS tester came in the top of the line AWD Platinum Vsport trim which includes GM’s new twin-turbo version of the 3.6L V6.  The new engine develops a whopping 410 horsepower and 369 lb ft. of torque.  All this power translates into a “pin you into the seats performance” but with the panache and demure of a 2014 luxury model. The six-speed automatic uses the same gear ratios as in the naturally aspirated XTS but with a shorter final-drive ratio resulting in a lively acceleration band. It’s so powerful I’m confident the XTS could go head-to-head with many of today’s twin-turbo V8’s offered by its German competitors.

And the truth is in the numbers, as the Vsport goes from 0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds and has a quarter-mile time of 13.6 seconds based on most tests. That’s super fast for a large four-door sedan.

In spite of its immense powerplant, the Cadillac is not a fuel hog by today’s standards with GM’s provided fuel economy ratings of (L/100 km): 13.2 city, 8.3 hwy. Now of course, the Vsport requires premium fuel but it’s totally worth it when you get behind the wheel.

Quite the booty

Quite the booty

As for pricing here’s the story.

Base price: $73,745 (XTS Vsport AWD Platinum)
Options:  Rear DVD ($1,995), Crystal Red Tintcoat ($1,295)
Freight: $1,700
AC Fee: $100
Price as Tested: $78,835 CDN

However, if all the Vsport’s power and features are not required you can purchase a base XTS model at a more reasonable price just above $50,000.

Plush leather interior

Plush leather interior

There is no mistake as the XTS interior is ultra luxurious with leather, wood and chrome trim blended together to create an elegant cabin environment. After driving it around town you start to feel you are commanding a rolling stateroom, only interrupted by the growl of its performance underpinnings. Some of these features include Brembo performance brakes, paddle shifters, electronic limited-slip-differential, magnetic ride suspension and an HUD (heads-up display) making the Vsport a bona fide luxury rocket-ship.

Cadillac interior

Cadillac interior

At the center of it all is the eight-inch touch screen seamlessly located in the dashboard and powered by Cadillac’s User Experience (CUE). Its features include capacitive sensing touch control with proximity sensing, haptic feedback, gesture recognition and enhanced voice recognition. This high-tech feature is very intuitive and designed for the younger tech savvy demographic Cadillac is targeting.

Cadillac XTS Vsport

Cadillac XTS Vsport

The XTS competes well with its big sedan brothers as its spaciousness is impressive with rear seat room large enough to do double duty as a chauffeur driven vehicle.  Also, it brings with it a massive trunk capacity of 509 litres/18 cubic ft. which is more than many of its competitors including the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8.

For those consumers who want performance in a full size sedan without reaching the over the top price tag of a Mercedes AMG or BMW M series, the Cadillac XTS Vsport is the car for you. As a Canadian made luxury cruiser with more ponies than you will ever need under the hood, the Vsport AWD Platinum model is an out-right bargain at $75,000 when compared to its European rivals.  Honestly, if I had the bucks I would love to wake up to the XTS Vsport in my garage.

Competitors

  • Acura RLX
  • Audi A8
  • BMW 7-Series
  • Infiniti M
  • Hyundai Genesis
  • Lexus LS
  • Mercedes S-Class
  • Volvo S80

We will be reviewing the XTS’ little sister the CTS Vsport later this summer so keep your eyes out for that review.