Ever since getting away with the 707-horsepower Challenger Hellcat back in 2015, SRT has been stuffing big, overpowered HEMI V8 engines into whatever Chrysler would let them get away with.

Clearly, during what I can only imagine was a brainstorm meeting, somebody at SRT must have said, “Sure, having a Challenger is fun and all. But what if I want to be able to tow a boat, take my three kids to hockey practice and go drag racing all in the same vehicle?”

And so in 2017, we were introduced to the Dodge Durango SRT— a proper family vehicle that’s also an actual muscle car. Three years on, the SRT Durango hasn’t really received any noteworthy updates. However, it still excels at one very important thing; putting a big grin on your face.

As is the case with all standard SRT vehicles, the Hellcat variants get all the headlines — and that’s certainly true for the forthcoming 2021 Durango Hellcat. However what’s also true of all 6.4-litre, ‘392’-equipped SRT vehicles is that they still offer a high level of performance which, unlike the Hellcat, is usable for daily street driving. Think of it this way; a 392 car may not be more fun than a Hellcat, but it is fun, more often than a Hellcat.

Review 2021 Dodge Durango SRT

With 475 horsepower on tap, delivered seamlessly through an 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission, it’s possible to blister the Durango SRT to 100 km/h in well under five seconds. That’s fast by any standard. But especially for a vehicle which seats six people. Just select with the “launch” button in the center console, hold your left foot on the brake, mash the throttle and you’re gone. You can do that over and over and over again without the engine or the transmission breaking a sweat.

However, there’s a problem. Because of the Durango’s sheer size, it’s difficult to use all that power to exploit even normal gaps on the highway. In traffic, you really have to pick your battles with all that power. Bury your foot a little too far into the throttle and you’ll find yourself in someone else’s back seat.

Still, the power is intoxicating and because torque delivery comes on nice and low you can use it to toss your passenger back in their seat on a whim. A high performance exhaust gives you all the muscle car HEMI noise you could ask for and the performance tuned steering makes the Durgano surprisingly pliable, if somewhat numb overall.

While the AWD Durango SRT is rated for a towing capacity of 7,200 lb (little surprise with its 470 lb-ft of torque), adding the Trailer-Tow option which includes a 7- and 4-Pin Wiring Harness, a Class IV Receiver-Hitch, a Compact Spare Tire and a Trailer Brake Control will set you back an additional $825.

Review 2021 Dodge Durango SRT

Review 2021 Dodge Durango SRT

Most striking on the Durango SRT are styling cues taken from the Dodge Charger such as a menacing performance grille and functional, vented hood reminiscent of various Hellcat models. The iconic Dodge red accented LED tail lamps position the Durango as an unmistakable member of the Dodge family.

Inside, the cabin is beyond spacious. The leather and suede-trimmed front and second row seats are both heated and the overall quality of Dodge’s interiors continue to improve each year.

However, what’s irritating about the interior is just how much of it is an optional extra. So much of what brings the Durango SRT’s interior up to par in its segment is part of what’s called the “Premium Interior Group” option, which adds on a wrapped instrument panel, suede headliner and carbon fibre interior accents for an eye-twitch inducing $2,495.

It’s almost overwhelming how much “infotainment” is available in the Durango SRT. Of course, you get Chrysler’s UConnect system that comes to life through an 8.4-inch Touchscreen Display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are compatible and you can even use the car as a 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hot Spot.

What’s really entertaining, however, is the SRT Performance Pages app where you can track your reaction time, 0 – 100 km/h time and much, much more. Will you be setting any speed records in this giant people-carrier? Probably not. Will those features ever get old? Also, no. If you want a rear DVD entertainment center, that’s an additional $1,995.

Review 2021 Dodge Durango SRT

One option you will want is the Harmon Kardon Amplified Speakers with subwoofer pack. It’s $995.

It’s hard to imagine any kind of weather scenario the Durango SRT couldn’t handle. Besides the weight, horsepower, torque and AWD system, you also get 4-wheel traction control, electronic stability control, a conventional differential front axle and an electronic Limited Slip Differential in the rear. Your tires are arguably your best safety feature and again, you’re in good hands there with the Durango’s meaty 295/45ZR20 BSW all-season, run-flat tires.

The “Technology Group” offers customers adaptive cruise control with stop and go, advanced brake assist, full-speed forward collision warning and lane departure warning. However, Dodge will charge you an additional $950 if you want them.

On paper, there is no good reason to buy a Dodge Durango SRT. It’s too big. Too loud. Too crude. Too thirsty. Too powerful. Its base price is already too expensive and then it seems as if everything is an overpriced, optional extra.

If you’re looking for a “performance SUV”, there are many more sensible options on the market for far less money. But I don’t know if it’s possible to love any of those SUVs as much as you would a Durango SRT. Firing up the 392 HEMI engine. Rumbling down the street. Laying your foot into it. You can’t help but have an emotional, over joyous response to those things.

The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

The post Review: 2020 Dodge Durango SRT appeared first on WHEELS.ca.

Sergio Perez, who’s been given the bum’s rush and told to get lost by his employer. Racing Point F1, won Sunday’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain. In last place at the end of the first lap, he fought his way through the field to finish first. Esteban Ocon celebrated on the podium for the first time in his F1 career by finishing second for Renault and our Lance Stroll was third in the second Racing Point car. Our Nicholas Latifi suffered an oil leak in his Williams and was a DNF.

The star of the show, though, was Englishman George Russell, who filled in for the ailing Lewis Hamilton and pretty much set the world on fire. If not for bad luck, he would have won the race.

For a full report, please click here

NOTEBOOK JOTTINGS

I have been in the newspaper business forever. As a result, I don’t believe anything anybody tells me, particularly if they’re politicians. Cynical? You bet. I don’t think anybody will ever be able to fix the Indigenous water problem in this country, regardless of what is promised and by whom. And COVID-19? “Do as I say, not as I do,” is a political mantra. And by the way, guess who will get the COVID vaccine first?

The same applies to celebrities. This is what Lewis Hamilton told F1 journalist David Tremayne about COVID-19:

“Lockdown is not good. It’s not been fun for anybody. But I would say, for me, to be in a bubble for this championship has been horrible. I’m so lucky I’ve got Angela [personal trainer Angela Cullen], but I’ve not had anyone else in my bubble for this year. I’ve not really been around anybody and not been out to dinner, not been socializing at all, and it’s been a really big challenge.”

And this is what the team wrote when announcing the news that Lewis had caught the bug. Icicles were hanging from every word.

“The 2020 world champion returned negative tests throughout his time in Bahrain as per Formula 1 protocols, but started suffering mild symptoms on Monday morning. Following information (that) he had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19 prior to arriving in Bahrain, Hamilton was tested again on Monday and returned a positive result, ruling him out of the next race.”

“In contact with someone.” Care to elaborate, Lewis? And what’s that you said about how horrible it is being in your bubble? See first paragraph, above.

Toto Wolff says George Russell’s performance in Sunday’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain will not have any effect whatsoever on negotiations to re-sign Lewis Hamilton.

Ho, ho, ho.

Toto has always had a quick wit, as well as a quick quip – as he illustrated in a post-race interview Sunday. (Usually, when somebody utters a vulgarism on international television, somebody else has the presence of mind to apologize to those of us with sensitive ears. But not Sunday, when Wolff swore when explaining what went wrong in the Mercedes garage when they managed to mix up the drivers’ tires. Community standards are changing all the time, I guess – although I don’t think (I hope not, anyway) that this particular profanity will become commonplace. But I digress. . .)

Lewis Hamilton is paid nearly 70 million Canadian dollars a year (40 GBP) to drive that Mercedes racing car. This, in itself, is obscene and I could go on and on about that. But our focus here is the negotiation. Because of carelessness, or whatever it was, Hamilton came down with COVID and missed the race this weekend. He was replaced by George Russell, who is a good racing driver in his own right and has a ride with Williams, but which means he’s always at the back. Russell led all practice sessions, came oh-so-close to winning the pole (Bottas just edged him), took the lead at the start and dominated until Mercedes screwed up a pit stop and then he got a flat tire.

In short, a driver with not much F1 experience got into the car of the seven-time world champion and if you didn’t know it wasn’t Lewis, you would have figured he was driving.

Now, Lewis Hamilton is a great racing driver, I think. I have to say that because I don’t know. He’s always been in great cars, first with McLaren and now Mercedes. And he was defeated, head-to-head, by his teammate, Nico Rosberg, who promptly retired. Valterri Bottas is not in Rosberg’s league so Hamilton has not had strong competition in the best car since he was beaten. And then, when he got sick and had to miss a race, his replacement drove his car as well as he did.

Lewis is probably at a point in his life where he doesn’t need the money. He’s been making tens of millions of dollars for years. It’s the principle, though. He’s Lewis Hamilton, seven-time world champion, and his pay packet has to reflect that. But it you’re Toto Wolff, team principal for Mercedes and a man who has to constantly work to convince the automaker’s board of directors to stay in F1 and keep spending the money that’s necessary to continue being No, 1, this is an opportunity to save some.

This will probably be Lewis’s last contract. It will likely be for two years (a cap on drivers’ salaries might kick in after that) and will give him the chance to become the all-time F1 world championship winner and to back away from F1 while holding most, if not all, of the records. And he will be paid well for those final two years. But he won ‘t get 40 million GBP and if he balks and refuses to sign, then George Russell will have shown he’s ready to be promoted.

Toto Wolff is holding all the cards now. That’s why, when he says Russell’s performance won’t have any effect on negotiations with Lewis, the statement should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

F1 television covered Romain Grosjean’s accident like a blanket this weekend. What the TV left out, the websites filled in. It was all very clinical, all very surgical in its analysis. I have a different take: something to think about.

I have a friend who, years ago, paddled a canoe across Canada, from Montreal to Vancouver, following the route of the Voyageurs. It took him three summers. He was not particularly religious or even spiritual when he first started out. When it was over, he sure believed in something. Whether it was God or a Guardian Angel, it doesn’t matter. He’s with us today to tell the tale.

He was ln a river up in northern Saskatchewan, in the middle of nowhere, when he came upon a rapids not on his charts. He had no time to get to shore so had to ride them out. The canoe overturned and was bashed against the rocks. It was badly damaged. He always wore a life jacket. Good thing. But he was in serious, serious trouble. We’re talking wilderness here. There were wild animals about and he had nothing to defend himself. He tried to stay awake but would doze off. He kept waking up, hearing things, which was very frightening.

Two days later, he was walking along the river bank, trying to figure out what to do. He’d found most of his cooking utensils but the canoe was wrecked. As he walked, his eye caught something glinting in the sun. He went closer and soon realized it was a large tackle box. He opened it and found everything inside that he needed to repair the canoe. Everything. He never became a Holy Roller after that, but he told his friends there was no doubt in his mind that Divine Intervention saved his life.

As Divine Intervention saved the life of Romain Grosjean a week ago Sunday. There is no other explanation.

Mick Schumacher, son of you-know-who, won the Formula 2 championship Sunday and will move up to F1 in 2021 with Haas F1. I think Mick has the chops. At least, I hope so. I can think of another son of a GP driver who hasn’t panned out, despite a team being built around him. He has his fans but Max Verstappen has never stepped up to the plate the way many expected. He has a great car but he has never taken it by the neck and shaken victory out of it. He had a golden opportunity this weekend and didn’t/couldn’t do it. The crash in the race notwithstanding, he just doesn’t have his old man’s fire.

Is it just me, or is there just an awful lot of careless driving going on in Formula One this season? Perhaps it’s the track designs, or the drivers are ultra brave because of the halo, or the cars are faster – whatever, there are crashes of one kind or another in just about every race these days. When Fangio, Hawthorne, Clark, Hill, Amon, Stewart – I could go on – were out there, there were not nearly the number of “shunts” there are today. But, as I said, maybe it’s just me.

OTHER RACING

Years ago, the late Craig Hill and I were collaborating on a brief history of auto racing in Canada for the old Formula magazine. We came up for air one evening and I said, “Who, at this very moment, is the hottest young stock car driver in the country? A guy who’s a can’t miss in NASCAR?” And Craig Hill said: “A 16-year-old from St. Thomas. His name is D.J. Kennington.”

Now, Hill, who was one of the finest racing drivers in Canada – he won two national road-racing championships and still strapped into a USAC midget on occasion – had a day job. He was the promotions manager for Wakefield Castrol in Canada. I don’t know if Hill had anything to do with what came next, but I have a feeling there was a connection, something that has continued to this very day. Late last week, D.J. and Wakefield announced a new multi-year agreement that will see Kennington continue to drive the No. 17 Castrol Edge Dodge in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series in 2021 and beyond, continuing the partnership that began more than 25 years ago.

In that time, D.J. is the only NASCAR Canada driver to race in all 166 Pinty’s races – he won the pole for the very first one – chalking up 21 wins, 99 top 10 finishes and the series championship in 2010 and 2012. He also raced
Castrol-branded trucks in the NASCAR Camping World Series and the Xfinity stock-car series. In 2017, he raced his way into the Daytona 500, becoming just the eighth Canadian to make the field for that prestigious race.

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series races are broadcast on TSN. Broadcast details will be available once the season schedule is announced.

Devlin Defrancesco, the smallest baby ever to be born at Sunnybrook Hospital, has gone on to become one hell of a good racing driver. He announced last week that after several years in Europe, he’ll be running in the Indy Lights Series next season. More about Devlin, of Toronto and West Palm Beach, in the new year.

Todd Gibson of Richwood, Ohio (see photo below), a supermodified racer who drove at Oswego Speedway in New York before going on to race Indianapolis cars as well as USAC sprint cars – Bentley Warren, Sammy Sessions and Gordon Johncock were other Oswego drivers who took the same route – died last week at age 83. In the Indy cars, a top five finish in the Molson Diamond Indy at Mosport in 1977 was one of his best finishes. He crashed hard at Indy during practice in 1979 and decided to retire. Todd’s sons Gene Lee, Larry, Terry and grandson Zach all raced supers, with Gene Lee having the most success. Gene Lee had his father’s aggression. One time at the legendary Winchester Speedway in Indiana, he had a little coming together in a USAC sprint car race with another driver, so got out of his car and went over and slugged the guy. Track owner Roger Holdeman wanted to throw him off the property but was overruled by USAC. There’s nothing like a little punch-up to get a sprint car crowd excited and they let Gibson know what they thought of him. Gene Lee didn’t care. He had a top five finish in the feature, which meant good money.

George Russell

Ice racing, a 43-year winter tradition in Minden, will continue in the new year, pending approval by the township. The Minden Kin Club and a group including SportCup Inc., a subsidiary of the Russ Bond Agency, will run the races after the CASC pulled out because of COVID-19. The Kin Club will proceed with the building of the skid pad and the ice track next month when the cold weather settles in.

What’s going on with Formula Electric? Or, Formula E as they like to call themselves. For several years it was the darling of manufacturers who couldn’t afford, or didn’t want, to get involved in Formula One. But now Audi has announced it will leave the series after 2021 to return to top flight sports car racing and it will also take a shot at the Dakar Rally. Audi says it will continue to support customer teams but will withdraw its works team. Other OEMs are also reportedly considering a future without FE.

AND FINALLY . . .

We are less than three weeks away from Christmas, Yes, it’s that close. Christmas always sneaks up on me but this year it seems to be coming out of nowhere because of the COVID-19 crisis. COVID, with working at home and all, seemed to steal time. I could never remember if it was Tuesday or Thursday. I looked at a calendar the other day and thought, “Holy smoke! It’s here.” Not quite, but you get my drift.

Tom Brokaw, the old NBC Evening News anchor, always did it right. He took a month off in summer to rest up and get some sun and then he took December off to go to all the Washington parties, do some shopping and recharge his batteries. Another one who got it right was the late Zalman Yanovsky. After retiring from the rock band Lovin’ Spoonful, he moved to Kingston to cook, first at the Prince George Hotel and later at Chez Piggy, which he opened with his wife, Rose Richardson. Chez Piggy was so successful that Zal could afford to close for two weeks over Christmas. Other restaurateurs could hardly wait for the holidays to make their money; Zal would lock up, put a sign on the door that said Aloha, and go to the Cataraqui Town Centre to have lunch at the Food Court. Both those guys knew how to live.

So my parting shot to you today is that following Abu Dhabi next weekend, put your feet up, relax and enjoy the Christmas season. If you think you have it rough – not being able to go shopping or getting together with family over Christmas – think of many of your fathers and grandfathers who missed four or five years of their lives when they were off in Europe or elsewhere, fighting in a little something called the Second World War.

Now, that was sacrifice. That was tough. As a guy said the other day, all we have to do is stay home. And visit on Zoom.

The post Racing Roundup: Russell’s run backs Lewis into a corner appeared first on WHEELS.ca.

When someone asks me what crossover I think is best, I quickly point to the nearest station wagon.

Maybe it isn’t the most popular advice and it likely isn’t what they want to hear. A point quickly proven when their eyes glaze over as I discuss the merits of a lower centre of gravity and the negative effects size and weight have on fuel economy.

Wagons tend to be much more fun to drive and, granted, that’s typically not what shoppers in this segment prioritize, there are a few crossovers and SUVs that provide driving enjoyment in addition to everything else that makes them so appealing to the masses.

The Mazda CX-5 is one of them and it competes in one of the most crowded and competitive segments in the industry. There are some big players here like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, both bread and butter vehicles for their respective automakers.

While not quite the sales juggernaut in the segment, the CX-5 is Mazda’s best-seller and it deserves consideration not just because it drives well, but as an overall package I find myself comparing it to vehicles from Lexus and Volvo, rather than Ford and Nissan. There’s a premium air to it, and when equipped with the turbo drivetrain and Nappa leather upholstery, you’ll be checking the key fob to make sure that you’re actually in a Mazda.

With a firm push towards upmarket waters, Mazda has been injecting a healthy dose of luxury into all of their products. They’ve realized that customers looking for affordable vehicles still want the niceties that the premium brands enjoy and they’re willing to pay for it as echoed by Mazda’s sales charts showing more of their customers are skipping the base models and springing for higher trim levels.

The 100th Anniversary edition tester I was in commemorates 100 years of the company’s existence and pays homage to their very first passenger car, the cute-as-a-button R360 coupe. This trim package can also be had on the MX-5, Mazda3, and CX-9.

All 100th Anniversary models are fully loaded and feature Snowflake white paint, and Garnet red leather interiors

The CX-5 I was in had 100th-anniversary logos on the headrest, fenders and wheel centre caps, as well as on the floor mats. On the inside, red Nappa leather with contrasting white leather on the armrests and centre console is sure to impress just about anyone that gets in.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition

Like most of the products Mazda makes, simplicity and ease of use are paramount. Driving is the main focus and all of the controls are within easy reach and allow you to keep your attention on the road. Even the infotainment, for example, might be viewed as stark or lacklustre compared to some of the competition but it still does everything, and Mazda’s simple rotary knob, much like the controller in BMWs is one of the easiest and least distracting ways to interact with a complex screen.

The 2.5-L turbo 4-cylinder under the hood develops 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque from just 2000 rpm when running on premium fuel. On regular gas that rating drops to 227 hp and 310 lb-ft. Either way, it’s more than you’ll find in any of its competition and more than even what many of the premium brands are offering.

The Mazda designed 6-speed automatic is programmed to keep you in the meat of the powerband with minimal hunting between gears. Shifts are seamless and the transmission downshifts with alacrity so you can get up and go on a whim. Additional gears would be nice for highway driving where the boost to fuel economy would be welcome. Expect high 9s to low 10s on the highway with my overall efficiency after a week of mixed driving coming in at just over 12.2L per 100 km.

The real benefits to choosing a CX-5 are revealed the moment you grip the leather-wrapped steering wheel and take a corner. The steering itself will be heavier than what you might be used to but it offers a solid, reassuring feel and actually communicates with the driver. The ride is just the right amount of firm and never gets jarring. Nothing in this segment comes close in this respect and you’re going to need to spend at least $20,000 more to find a crossover that is this composed on windy roads.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition

Sure the Honda CRV has a bigger cargo capacity and slightly more room inside but for the most part you’re not going to notice. The CX-5’s cargo hold is comparable to the Chevy Equinox but there’s little doubt as to what I would rather be driving.

There’s not much to fault here. Fuel economy is a bit disappointing and falls about mid-pack but the non-turbo trims fare better here. The ride is just right for me, but might be too firm for some, and, lastly, locking out the touchscreen when moving should be on the customer and not a decision that Mazda should make for them. If the customer wants to have this functionality then they should be able to.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition

Do you need to climb all the way up to this 100th anniversary trim to experience what I’ve been talking about? Not at all. That premium feel of the CX-5 is baked in. If you don’t need the additional power from the turbo engine, the CX-5 GT will give you pretty much all of this, minus the badging and the fancy red interior.

If there’s one takeaway here, it’s that the CX-5 feels more like a well-sorted wagon than it does your typical crossover. It also feels more expensive than it actually is and that’s a neat trick to pull off. There’s so much choice here, it can be hard to make a decision. But if you haven’t yet considered the Mazda, add it to your list. I apologize in advance for making your decision just a little bit harder.

The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

The post Review: 2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition appeared first on WHEELS.ca.

When the 2021 Cadillac Escalade Platinum was delivered to my home, my first reaction was ‘Oh, boy. This is one big vehicle.’ And soon followed by asking if this is really a luxury vehicle. Nothing this big, I thought, could be a luxury vehicle.

Well, let’s get one thing straight right away. This fifth-generation Cadillac Escalade is a straight-up luxury vehicle, and it takes luxury to a whole new level. If one’s memory goes back to the late 1990s when the first Cadillac Escalade was introduced, this 2021 Cadillac Escalade sibling is heads-and-shoulders above its distant 90s brethren.

While the exterior has what some may call a distinctive truck look, a closer inspection finds that Cadillac has refined the lines to smooth them out. The LED vertical front and rear lights seem to be ‘organically’ part of the vehicle, and enhances the overall smart design. The front grille and lights gave a solid presence without being aggressive or overwhelming. And the 22-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels did not seem out of place, perfectly matched to the both the size and look of this Escalade, and visually firmly plant the vehicle to the ground.

It is obvious the designers put a lot of thought to how the 2021 Cadillac Escalade Platinum wants to present itself. There is no mistaking this vehicle for anything else, for example, the 2021 GMC Yukon that is what most would wish to compare it against.

The real ‘ wow’ factor, however, comes when you open the door and sit down. Here Cadillac outdoes itself, as it takes interior luxury up several notches. It is quite obvious the interior design team wanted to send a message and that this Escalade is the equal to any luxury car brand out there. The one I drove came with full-leather front bucket seats with semi-aniline leather surfaces and with 18-way seat adjustment for both the driver and passenger. Included was heating and a massage function for both.

Behind these seats were two captain’s chairs and then a more traditional third-row 60/40-split seating. There was plenty of legroom throughout the whole vehicle so there should be no complaints from anyone about feeling cramped or boxed in. Cadillac claims this Escalade has 41 per cent more legroom than the previous version, and I believe it. The rear seats and the captain’s chairs can be dropped and stowed away with a press of a button located in the trunk area, and deployed again the same way.

Another nice touch is the climate control. It is a tri-zone system that offers individual climate settings for the driver, passenger and those sitting in the back, including rear air vents.

Because today phones are now coming equipped with wireless charging capabilities, Cadillac has included a wireless charger located in the console just in front of the bin lid. As well, this Escalade comes with wireless smartphone linking, so when you step into the vehicle, your phone will automatically link to the infotainment system.

So now, let’s talk for a moment about the infotainment system. What one gets is what Cadillac claims is the first curved 16.9-inch OLED 4K infotainment screen to be placed in a vehicle, one built right into the dashboard so that it seamlessly connects to a 14.2-inch digital instrument cluster and to ta 7.2-inch side touch screen for access to such functions as the heads-up display, augmented reality with an active route display that connects to the navigation system and night vision display. The central gauge view displays critical vehicle information without it ever seeming to be crowded or in too small a manner as to make it difficult to read.

While the sharpness of the infotainment screen was something to behold, I was glad to find that I could access functions with the large control knob located on the central console below the shifter. A quick turn of the knob or toggle allowed me to bring up Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or SiriusXM, for example. Do keep one thing in mind tough. If you are going to access such features by touch, fingerprints are going to show up. So you should probably keep a screen cleaning cloth handy.

An added bonus is the AKG Studio Reference audio system with 36 speakers. Does it sound amazing? Yes it does . . . and Schoenberg’s Moses Und Aron never sounded so good in a vehicle.

Passengers in the two captains chairs get access to their own infotainment screens. Included USB and HDMI ports will let them watch movies and listen to them through Bluetooth supported headphones. Be warned though, the screens gives one the ability to use the navigation function. My son was overjoyed that he could find where the nearest Starbucks was located on our road trip and from his screen send me a request to navigate to the location. It pops up on the infotainment system and you can accept or decline. The first couple of times it was fun . . . after the 10th request, not so much.

Review 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Platinum

The tester I had came with a 6.2-litre V8 engine with Dynamic Fuel Management and Direct Injection and can put out a solid 420 hp with 460 lb-ft of torque. It proved more than capable of supplying all the power I needed, especially on the highway where I found the acceleration to be there when I put my foot down. Because of the size of the vehicle, don’t expect to be flying out of the stocks when you hit the gas when the light turns green, however, but I can assure you that you will get up to speed quick enough when driving the in the city. But be warned, the size and weight of this 2021 Cadillac Escalade means you are going through quite a bit of gas, especially in the city with stop-and-go traffic. But one the highway, I was able to get near the rated 12.4 l/100 km.

Like all vehicles today, you get a full-range of driver assistance and safety features, such as parking assist, blind-spot warnings, rear cross traffic and pedestrian alert and such. The adaptive cruise control worked like a charm. I was impressed that even as traffic began to get heavy the adaptive cruise control easily maintained safe driving distances and speeds, even as drivers turned into my lane. Over time, I grew confident enough to just let the system do its job without always wanting to put my foot on the brake each time I saw brake lights come on from others in front of me.

Simply, Cadillac has bought forward an impressive luxury vehicle that can now stand next to the best the competition has to offer, and worth every penny you will spend to acquire it.

The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

The post Review: 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Platinum appeared first on WHEELS.ca.

The year is 2021 and, yes, you can still buy a brand-new car for a mite over $10,000 from the folks at Chevy. With many of its direct competitors either having increased in price or departed the market entirely, this is one of the least expensive ways to get that intoxicating new car smell.

A row-yer-own manual transmission is connected to a 1.4-litre Ecotec four cylinder engine, making 98 horsepower and roughly the same amount of torque. If this doesn’t seem like a lot, you’re absolutely correct but it is worth noting a base model Spark isn’t even 12 feet long and weighs just a hair over 1,000 kilograms. If one happens to lose their on-street parking thanks to an overzealous snow plow operator, simply pick up the Spark and hang it on a wall or put it in your pocket.

Ok, so it isn’t really that small. It is, however, decently roomy inside for a quartet of reasonably sized humans. Front head- and legroom actually measures on par with that of the much larger Malibu, though passengers will feel the pinch in their shoulders and hips thanks to the Spark’s narrow body. Once inside, passengers will find a large 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with USB inputs, Apple CarPlay, and – stunningly at this price – capability for 4G LTE WiFi. A tilt steering column and cloth seats helps the driver get comfy. Note at this end of the price pool the windows are manual and there is no air conditioning.

Review 2021 Chevrolet Spark LS

Spotting a base model Spark isn’t all that difficult, thanks to a set of 15-inch steel teacups masquerading as wheels covered with plastic hubcaps. Black side mirrors are manually adjusted though there is a rear wiper, something for which Porsche charges extra on its 911 sports car. A trio of paint colours are offered at zero dollars, including the natty Red Hot hue shown here.

What We’d Choose

There is always room for an entry-level subcompact car at our table, especially in pockets of a Canadian market that puts an admittedly odd emphasis on cheap and cheerful hatchbacks. There is a definite allure to being the first owner of a vehicle, one that is fully covered under warranty and has only been driven by your own right foot. Finding that experience for roughly $10,000 is becoming vanishingly rare.

Still, the base model Spark is absent equipment some drivers rightfully refuse to do without, and air conditioning is at the top of that list. Adding that feature means walking to either an automatic-equipped or next-level LT car, both of which represent a price jump of roughly $4500. At this level, that’s adding nearly 50 per cent to the base car’s purchase price.

If you’re content with 2/60 air conditioning (two windows down, travelling 60km/h), then the Spark LS represents a unique value proposition for folks seeking a new car wearing a decidedly used-car price tag.

Find rest of the Base Camp series here

The post Base Camp: 2021 Chevrolet Spark LS appeared first on WHEELS.ca.

Walking up to the 2021 Toyota Avalon for the first time, I couldn’t help but wonder how much – if any – it had advanced past the point of it being a stretched and comfier Camry. This is how I had always thought of the Avalon from way back. One my Grandpa would like. Or Grandma, if either of them needed to ferry other adults to the golf course, with a back seat and trunk that could accommodate a foursome and their clubs.

In reality, I’m fairly sure both my grandparents never saw a single golf course or even a golf club in person, back on the tiny island on which they were born and never left. And these days, the latest Avalon is actually a lower and more aggressively styled sedan than the Camry. Plus the Avalon Limited is now up to date with Android Auto (finally) as well as Apply CarPlay, and becomes the only Avalon to offer all-wheel drive for 2021.

It thus takes on the more conservative luxury jacket, with its standard four-cylinder engine and AWD, versus the sportier Avalon XSE’s more powerful V6 with actual shift paddles – yes, shift paddles! In an Avalon!

Upon entering this Ruby Flare pearl-coloured Avalon Limited AWD, it was clear this was no mere full-size comfort machine: umm, why is my head brushing this headliner? Is this powered seat all the way up? Being a full inch shy of six feet tall, this is not what you’d expect when you hop into a full-size sedan. There’s also a steeply raked windshield and relatively shallow windows, for a tight window greenhouse that’s not Camaro-tight, but surprisingly so for a car like this.

It felt like it had less headroom than the new Nissan Sentra I was in just prior to it. And when I checked the Avalon’s official numbers, it did have less front headroom than that Sentra. And also less than the Camry that shares a platform with the Avalon, thanks to a 10 mm lower roof.

In fact, unlike Toyota’s marketing materials, the Avalon is still listed by the Canadian government as a mid-size model, just like the Camry, despite the Avalon’s body that’s roughly 10 cm longer and a centimetre wider (and roughly equal in size to the Lexus ES 350). This extra width and length adds up to extra stretch out legroom in the rear seats and more passenger space overall, plus a roomier cargo bay of 456 litres.

But that lower roof height goes against the taller, crossover-friendly trend these days, which not only means this Avalon may not be the car for taller folk, but it’s also just a little tougher to climb in and out of for those less mobile. We’re not saying it needs a Lamborghini limbo; just something to keep in mind if, say, you’re planning lots of hard leg days…

It’s a very nicely finished interior, with a large sunroof, quilted leather, ventilated and heated seats up front, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel to warm away winter chills. The tan-coloured accents on the steering wheel, centre console and cabin-wide leather on the dash helped give the interior an upmarket feel, with a nice handy place to stash your phone while driving where you won’t see it, or have it slide around.

Review 2021 Toyota Avalon Limited

Unfortunately, this handy little phone cavern doesn’t wirelessly charge your phone, which like the late availability of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, suggests that having the latest conveniences are still not a top Toyota priority, even on the top Toyota sedan. To charge you’ll have to use a cable in the centre console, but it does have newer USB-C and older USB type as well. But it’s that conservatism with technology that helps Toyotas maintain their high reliability scores correct? Likely true, but no brand is infallible.

On this tester, the infotainment center screen froze on me once, just after hopping into the driver’s seat. The screen adjusted, but all stations and modes muted, even after turning the stereo off and on, and calls wouldn’t go through. Upon restarting, the radio and Bluetooth came back, including satellite radio.

From a driver’s perspective, the 2.5-litre four-cylinder that powers all Limited versions of the Avalon is relatively smooth, but especially once dipping your foot into the power, perhaps not as quiet or as powerful as one may fairly expect for a $50,906 luxury-oriented Toyota. Its 205 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque power outputs are sufficient but somewhat middling for a vehicle this size, but under most conditions, it combines well with the standard eight-speed automatic to provide a largely refined and unobtrusive overall driving personality.

The standard all-wheel drive system is largely a slip and grip type system, saving fuel by engaging the rear wheels predominantly when it detects any slippage of the tires up front, sending up to half the power rearward. The power though flows strictly front to back, so no performance-oriented torque-vectoring side-to-side here.

Review 2021 Toyota Avalon Limited

Review 2021 Toyota Avalon Limited

Did I miss the more responsive 301 hp V6 in the sportier Avalon XSE? Yes. Did I occasionally wish for that car’s steering wheel shift paddles, which would help at least drum up whatever power is available from the four a mite quicker? Yes.

Will most potential Avalon owners appreciate the extra security of all-wheel drive more than generous helpings of power? Likely yes. Will the fuel efficiency savings of the four-cylinder Avalon Limited AWD (8.4 L/100 km combined city/highway average) over the sportier Avalon XSE (9.5 average) be worthwhile from a cost perspective? Perhaps eventually, but likely not. Natural Resources Canada numbers estimates an annual fuel cost savings for the Avalon AWD of $275 dollars per year compared to the regular Avalon V6 ($2,100 versus $2,375), though of course, YMMV.

Of course, for folks looking for the smoothest and quietest vehicles with a roughly $50k new car budget, which is where traditionally the Avalon fared well on the lower edge of Lexus territory, there are now various battery electric vehicle options, none with such a roomy rear seat especially.

Considering the Avalon Limited AWD’s roughly $5,700 higher starting price than the Avalon XSE, if it came down to those two, I’d opt for the more powerful and involving XSE, and use the money saved to invest in some good winter rubber, which we should all be doing regardless of drivetrain. But for drivers less concerned on driver engagement, ones that aren’t crossover fans and want a good-looking yet roomy traditional sedan, the 2021 Toyota Avalon is certainly worth a test drive.

The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

The post Review: 2021 Toyota Avalon Limited AWD appeared first on WHEELS.ca.

The question is simple, but will need clarification:

For which position? Technician? Sales representative? Service manager?

For what region? What are you offering?