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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Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) 2013 Winners

Each year the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) recognizes the best new models introduced in Canada in category specific awards. This year 80 journalists, conducting over 2,000 individual roads test, determined the 2013 category award winners. While some of the winning vehicles are specific to the North American market, others are available globally.

And the winners are…

CITY CAR: Ford Focus EV

AJAC Winner – City Car

BEST NEW SMALL CAR (under $21k): Mazda3 Skyactiv Sedan

AJAC Winner – Best New Small Car (Under $21K)

BEST NEW SMALL CAR (over $21k): Hyundai Elantra GT

AJAC Winner – Best New Small Car (Over $21k)

BEST NEW FAMILY CAR (under $30k): Honda Accord Sedan

AJAC Winner – Best New Family Car (Under $30k)

BEST NEW FAMILY CAR (over $30k): Ford Fusion Hybrid

AJAC Winner – Best New Family Car (Over $35k)

BEST NEW LUXURY CAR: Cadillac ATS

AJAC Winner – Best New Luxury Car

BEST NEW PRESTIGE AND PERFORMANCE CAR: Porsche 911 Carrera S

AJAC Winner – Best New Prestige and Performance Car (Over $75k)

BEST NEW SPORTS/PERFORMANCE CAR (under $50k): Ford Focus ST

AJAC Winner – Best New Sports/Performance (Under $50k)

BEST NEW SPORTS/PERFORMANCE CAR (over $50k): Porsche Boxster

AJAC Winner – Best New Sports/Performance (Over $50k)

BEST NEW SUV/CUV (under $35k): Ford Escape 1.6 L EcoBoost

BEST NEW SUV/CUV ($35k-$60k): Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T

AJAC Winner – Best New SUV/CUV

The category winners now compete for the 2013 Canadian Car of the Year award that will be announced on February 14th, 2013, at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, ON. An event that the RedlineNorth Team will be attending. So check back in February for the announcement of the Canadian Car of the Year Award Winner.

2013 Chevrolet Equinox

With the seasonal equinox just behind us, it seems like a great time for Team RedlineNorth to review the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox. During a week of extreme weather differences we drove GM Canada’s tester on the highways and back roads of Southern Ontario.

2013 Chevy Equinox LT

Overview

Our first impressions of the Equinox are that it is a very safe, easy to drive and solid SUV. Designed as a true kid-hauler and grocery getter, the 2013 Equinox provides a ton of cargo room.  With the seats pushed forward, cargo capacity is a generous 31.4 cubic feet and with the seats folded flat, cargo capacity increases to a massive 63.7 cubic feet. Similarly, the front seats provide ample head and leg room while the back seats provide a spacious amount of leg and hip room along with a nicely appointed centre fold down armrest.

Our 2013 Chevrolet Equinox review vehicle came in the LT (AWD) trim package which includes the following features:

  • 3.0L DOHC V6 VVT with  264 HP @ 6950 rpm
  • Torque – 222 lb. ft. @ 5100 rpm
  • 6-speed automatic with overdrive and Driver Shift Control
  • 6 airbags
  • Leather heated driver & front passenger seats
  • 8-speaker, 250-watt premium Pioneer® sound system with subwoofer
  • OnStar® with 6 months of the Directions & Connections Plan, Turn-by-Turn Navigation and OnStarRemoteLinkTM
  • Air conditioning, keyless entry, power windows, locks and mirrors, cruise control, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, USB port and auxiliary audio input jack, and Bluetooth: hands free phone and audio connectivity.
  • Power rear liftgate
  • Rear vision camera with display in radio screen
  • GM’s new lane departure warning and forward collision alert system
  • 17 inch painted aluminum wheels
  • Trunk/storage space – 31.4 cubic feet with seats folded forward or 63.7 cubic feet with seats folded flat – based on GM Canada’s vehicle information
  • Chevrolet MyLinkTM – includes personal media connectivity by Bluetooth® to vehicle audio system; voice-activated technology for audio, phone, phone book and music selection; Stitcher SmartradioTM app to listen to talk radio, podcasts and live radio through your smartphone; picture viewer; Playlist and Album Art powered by Gracenote®
  • $31,025 CAD MSRP from GM Canada’s website as of October 2, 2012 ($26,445 for LS entry trim level) * Prices based on 2012 model

Pioneer Sound System with 8 speakers and subwoofer

Interior

Interior appointments are of a high quality as our test vehicle came with a classic white leather seating package and the cabin included a very sleek dash and entertainment console.  Our only compliant was around the quality of some of the plastic on the doors and dash.

Safety

The lane departure and collision avoidance warning systems worked well

The lane departure warning and forward collision alert systems were both used extensively during the test period and worked as advertised.  We appreciated the ability to adjust the collision alert system tolerance from alerting the driver at three different distance settings. In addition, the inset convex portion of the side mirrors provided an additional angle of view while overtaking on the highway which is a nice feature. The rear vision camera system was also used extensively in parking lots and is a great option due to the limited rear view visibility. Finally, the hill start assist feature, while strictly not a safety feature, was welcomed when exiting underground parking garages and worked well with no perceivable rollback.

Handling

The Equinox engine felt responsive for an SUV, providing quick acceleration on the highway and overtaking with ease. We tested out the Drive Shift Control, which allows the driver to up and down shift at the touch of the button.  However, like most ‘manual’ modes of automatic transmissions it didn’t really replace the feel of a manual transmission.

We drove the Equinox in both city and highway environments and our overall fuel economy average for the week was 11.9L/100 KM.  The city driving really affected things as the 3.0  engine naturally gets a bit thirsty in Toronto’s stop and go traffic.  However, we found the real time feedback on fuel consumption helped moderate our driving behaviour to maximize overall fuel economy.

Convenience

The Equinox had a number of convenience features that helped round out the overall driving experience. We really appreciated the ability to automatically adjust the opening of the rear trunk between three quarters to fully open at the turn of a dial.

While real time fuel efficiency statistics such as, current range and average fuel economy are nice to have, they were somewhat buried within the menu system and required multiple button presses to access.  It would likely be useful for this information to be displayed on the larger navigation screen.

Lastly, the arm rest storage space was more than ample and an interior light is provided to light up the console area to help you find what you are looking for.  In addition, a USB port and 12 volt charging outlet are also included in the arm rest compartment.

Ample rear seating

Competition

With so many competitors in the tightly battled smaller SUV/CUV space, GM certainly has their work cut out to make sure they continue to get their slice of the consumer pie. However, the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox remains very strong among its peers and is definitely worth a look if you are in the market for a smaller SUV/CUV.

Some of the other nameplates in the segment which will challenge GM for buyers are the Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tuscon, Honda CR-V and Mazda’s CX-5.

2013 Ford Escape

Recently, the RedlineNorth team got a chance to get up close and personal with the new 2013 Ford Escape SEL 4WD model.  Dressed in an all black exterior with black leather interior the new SUV is super slick upon first glance. Now, saying this, there are some detractors out there who are not keen on the new design and would like Ford to continue the Escape’s truck styling of the past decade. However, Ford has made the decision globally to leverage the Ford Kuga crossover vehicle platform which is the reason behind the new innovative design.

The 2013 model’s interior is immensely well appointed and finished to a level not seen in previous models. From the overall fit and finish, to the enhanced development of the Microsoft Sync system Escape owners now have all the tech gadgets and touchscreens typically associated with more upscale vehicles.  And keep in mind, there is another trim model called the Titanium above the SEL which has some additional features if you really want all the bells and whistles.

The cargo area is up slightly this year to 34.3 cubic feet behind the back seats and 68.1 with the rear seats folded.  The 2013 Escape continues to provide owners with the required space for the kids, groceries and those weekend getaways.

The rear of the Escape is nicely appointed with automatic tailgate, dual chrome exhaust tips and a two inch receiver trailer hitch coming standard with Class II towing package.

The SEL model shown here is equipped with the 2.0-liter turbo four cylinder with 240 horses and 270 lb-ft of torque which is actually the same horsepower and 37 more lb-ft of torque than offered by last year’s 3.0-liter V-6. And the kicker here is with the turbocharged EcoBoost technology it uses less fuel than last year’s V6 and less fuel than the 2012 hybrid model.

There are two other available engines including a turbocharged 16-valve 1.6-liter inline-4, with 178 hp,184 lb-ft and a 2.5-liter inline-4, with 168 hp, 170 lb-ft of torque.  Unfortunately, the 1.6 liter engine has been recalled recently for a fuel line fire hazard issue as seen here.

After reviewing the new 2013 Ford Escape, the RedlineNorth team gives it a double thumbs up and predicts it will sell well this year.  If you are in the market for a smaller sized SUV or crossover you need to add it to your list.

Specs are as follows:

  • Hit Canadian showrooms in May 2012
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
  • Wheelbase: 105.9 in
  • Length: 178.1 in
  • Width: 72.4 in Height: 66.3 in
  • Curb weight (est): 3600–3800 lb
  • Zero to 60 mph: 6.9–9.4 sec
  • Standing ¼-mile: 15.2–16.9
  • Top speed (limited): 118 mph
  • Fuel Economy: City/Highway: 21–23/28–33 mpg
  • MSRP of SEL model – $30, 521 CAD as of July 24, 2012