Test Drives | CarEnvy.ca - Part 2

Archive for category: Test Drives

How The Acura RDX Got Swallowed Whole By A $9200 Tuscan Villa

By Peter Dushenski @carenvy

Do you remember the old Acura RDX? The cute one? With the turbo?

Well, forget it.

This, what you see above, is the new Acura RDX. It no longer looks like a bolder and distinctively taller Honda Fit from the future. It’s now gentler, less boyish than before. Acura’s latest tweaks are their most comprehensive yet, but they’ve lead to a far more anonymous iteration of their smallest crossover.

Where the 2007 model was discretely handsome, the 2010 facelift scarred that beauty with silver bird bits. Now, for 2013, the RDX is back to being discrete, except the square chin and dimples have been buffed out by design committees. With renewed inoffensiveness, it would blend seamlessly next to the Equinox at the Chevy dealer. Having found that unique appearances and thirsty turbo engines don’t move metal, the new RDX is more mainstream from beak to tail. It seems like a withdrawal, a reversal of tactics, from more aggressive to more defensive. But where the old RDX swam in a pond of one, the new one is being plopped in the middle of the Atlantic.

So can this softer bird swim?

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Chasing Rabbits And Ilanaaq In The Nissan 370Z

by Peter Dushenski @carenvy

August Long Weekend was coming up and I didn’t have plans. The firstest of first world problems, this was.

Spontaneous if nothing else, I booked flights to Vancouver, about 75 minutes west of my home base by air. Such impromptu weekend excursions benefit naturally from road trips, so I called the nice people at Nissan and they offered me a 2013 370Z with spangly LEDs. I took it.

From Vancouver’s English Bay, it would be about an hour of walking and Skytraining just to get to the car, waiting for me in a residential car port in the southeast corner of Greater Vancouver. I was up early that Sunday morning for no particular reason, other than perhaps the coily old hydabed on the 22nd floor of our hotel. Every hotel in the city was booked solid so I couldn’t really complain. It was Pride Week in Vancouver and today was the Parade.

As I walked through the still-tranquil streets towards the Skytrain, I smiled politely at the uniformed officers blocking off roads along the parade route. The big coastal sun shot rays of warmth between the forest of skyscrapers as I ducked into the Burrard Street Station. Leaving the West End, the train floated past glass-clad condos of decreasing size.

I’d been to Vancouver maybe a dozen times before, but I’d never explored it widely. When the most beautiful markets, restaurants, parks, and real estate are all centrally located and within walking distance, why bother? Because adventure! From three storeys up on the train, the badminton training centres, schools, and industrial-looking malls of Vancouver’s edges were like unplugged, uncut bonus tracks hidden 20 minutes past the end of your favourite high school CD. Kinda raw, but integral to the story.

Ten stops later, eyes wide with a new appreciation for the host city of the 2010 Olympic Games, I hopped off the train. Walking down to ground level, I listened to the quiet suburb as it woke up. Some people were gardening, others jogging in colourful groups, other yet standing on the curb waiting for a ride to what could have only been Church.

I followed my directions for about 800m and voila! There, under an open-air awning, was the mysteriously coloured Nissan that I’d reserved for the weekend. It wasn’t quite brown, but probably not purple either. All I could say for certain was that it was sparkly and all mine. I unlocked it, remarked at the plethora of interior upgrades since my 350Z, and set off towards I knew not what.

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2012 Mercedes CLS63 AMG: There’s No Hiding

by Peter Dushenski @carenvy

More pronounced in every way from its slippery predecessor, the new CLS is simply bold to behold. You might even say that it’s the essence of the current Mercedes design language. With a pure and unmistakable curbside presence, it manages to be aspirational without being insecure. Even ignoring the tapered silhouette, the lighting alone, as in so many German cars today, tells much of the design story. The refined lighting and creasy bodywork make the CLS, particularly in buff AMG trim, look like a Mercedes from 2035.

Thanks to an old friend in Vancouver, I had the opportunity to spend 20 minutes behind the wheel of the fastest (4.4 seconds to 60) and most expensive (~CDN$115,000) car I’ve yet piloted. I was only hoping for a passenger ride, but by the time I showed up to his weekend abode at the Four Seasons in Whistler, he’d had a few and was feeling generous. Hell to the yes.

He tossed me the key fob, I nestled into the driver’s throne, adjusted my seat is sixty bajillion ways, and fired up the new Bi-Turbo 5.5L. I twisted a dial by my right hand towards “S” for Sport, thinking this a fine compromise between “C” and “S+”, fumbled with the Atari-inspired gear lever, and gingerly backed out of the dimly-lit parkade stall.

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What Does The 2012 Buick Verano Mean For GM? [Review]

By Peter Dushenski @carenvy

What does this compact car mean for Buick, a company renowned for staid near-luxury and burdened by associations to bailouts? It means that Buick has succeeded.

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Part 2: Finding Black Swan Robustness with the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, and Chevy Aveo

by Peter Dushenski @carenvy

In Part 1 of this two-part exploration, three nimble hatchbacks mounted a front against the best selling vehicle in the world: the Ford F-150. In Part 1, the unassuming hatches took an early 1-0 lead by being more humble on a first date. Let’s see how the trio fares for the final two points of this competition: moving and commuting.

2. Helping Your Friend Move To A New Apartment:

You might have more Facebook friends than Mark Zuckerberg but being that awesome has its drawbacks, especially when you’ve been bragging to your friends about 1) how robust you are, and 2) your new car(s). It’s only a matter of time before one of your minions legion is knocking at your door on a hungover Saturday morning, begging you to help a bro out. If you spent your 67 large on the King Ranch, with its handy tailgate step (aka Man Step), side access steps, and cargo bed extender, you’ll be a prime target every. single. time. Thankfully, the F-150 will impress even your most demanding friends … Beds, furniture, and those uselessly heavy old tube TVs will all find room in the back. There’s nothing quite like a sturdy pick-up for moving trash from one ratty apartment to another. It’s truly tough to beat.

Alternatively, you could take the robust Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, AND Chevy Sonic.

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Part 1: Finding Black Swan Robustness with the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, and Chevy Aveo


by Peter Dushenski @carenvy

In our lifetimes, certainly in my quarter century, the global economy has never been less predictable and the future has never seemed more opaque. It’s been more than four years since the housing bubble burst in the US  and Credit Default Swaps entered popular parlance, yet little seems to have changed. Governments are even deeper in fragilizing debt, global currencies are teetering on the brink, and the world’s largest banking institutions are back to making record profits. If that weren’t enough, education is increasingly incapable of ensuring employment and job prospects in general continue to haunt hopes of lasting recovery. Even if you’re personally unaffected by this, watching any amount of TV news will surely make the world seem a bit bleak.

And yet, we still eat out, we still go to movies and to the bar, and we still buy new cars. Borrowing rates remain low and the luxury market has never been hungrier. By most any measure, the lives of those of us in the western world have never been better. But because the larger picture remains so unsure, we’ve never been more exposed to what the (justifiably arrogant) investor-philosopher Nassim Taleb calls “Black Swans”: highly consequential and equally unpredictable events. Black Swans get more severe the more complex a society and economy become, which is perhaps the only sure bet there is. Their effects become more devastating than we can imagine and, ironically, we’ve never been more vulnerable. It’s about time that we think about ways in which we can protect ourselves, ways in which we can remain robust even when the world goes crazier than Christopher Nolan’s gruesome Gotham.

Being robust means being unharmed by (or better yet, benefiting from) volatility. It’s being agile and ready for anything, like a blogger-ninja hybrid. Robustness can be a state of mind, and it should be, but we can also build our lives to be more robust. Reducing or eliminating debt is a great place to start, as is having cash on hand. Diversification, hamstering your assets a little here and a little there, will ensure that when Black Friday returns, you won’t have all your eggs in one basket. Certain forms of insurance can also be used to provide protection from these crippling curveballs.

But let’s say that you want to maintain robustness while also spending $67,000 on your next vehicle (we’re imagining here that you have a healthy income and are already contributing a fair share to savings), where do you start? How can you protect yourself from the next big economic catastrophe while still being ready to go on blind dates, help your friend move, and survive your commute?

For a mere sixty-seven large, you could drive off the lot in the vaquero-flustering Ford F-150 King Ranch EcoBoost, an unimpeachable tool for life on the Prairies with enough charisma to charm milk out of a cow, eggs out of chickens, and wheat out of flour. Hauling your friends to the lake, commanding rush hour traffic, going on a date, off-roading like a high-roller, or dragging your parents’ old furniture to the city dump (like I did) could all be easily accomplished with a visit to your local Ford store. And you could do much, much worse for that kind of money (Z4, anyone?), but is that the best way to spend all that money? Perhaps we should listen to our grandfathers and not spend it all in one place, spending it instead on a trio of (don’t laugh) hatchbacks? Let’s look at a few real life scenarios and decide for ourselves, like big boys.

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2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Highline: The Best Kind Of Devil

by Peter Dushenski @carenvy

The Devil is Christianity’s disincentive manifest.

For followers of the infinitely compassionate Jesus, lusting after your neighbour’s new Cayman S is punished with an eternity of soot and sweat in your eyes. It’s that severe. For followers of Gautama Buddha, the shadowy tempter Mara provides a similar embodiment of evil action. He’s also not very nice. Judaism and Hinduism lack such a manifestation of poor behaviour, perhaps because they both prefer to trade in intangibles, but the notion of the Devil has now permeated global culture. Transcending boundaries, Satan, Lucifer, and The Prince of Darkness are synonyms for the absolute pinnacle of perversion.

If you’ve ever watched Top Gear, you were probably appalled when Jeremy, James, and Richard referred to diesel as the “Devil’s Fuel”. Could they have been talking about the same torquey elixir that motivates our trailer-pulling trucks up the steepest of slopes? Wasn’t diesel a fun way of being efficient? Not for European folk, it seems. For them, regardless of religious background, diesel is the devil.

Ironically, we Canadians hold it in the highest of regards. Our finest and most capable trucks, plastered with iconic nameplates like “Cummins”, “PowerStroke”, and “Duramax”, all swill the stuff. And that’s just the domestics, the German companies that sell diesels here can’t import them fast enough. Mercedes Canada could stop selling their gas-powered SUVs tomorrow and their salesmen wouldn’t even notice. And we all have a friend with a diesel-powered Golf or Jetta who drove cross-country on 3 tanks, making the kind of history he won’t shut up about.

Jean jacket-wearing Canucks look at the efficiency figures, feel the rich kick of torque, and book summer flights to Europe just for the chance to see the bloody things. Compared to granola-pounding Prii, diesel cars offer an unmatched sense of Eurochicness and pump-hopping pride. Surprise, surprise, we can’t get enough!

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2012 Ford F-250 Lariat: Casting Long Shadows

By Peter Dushenski @carenvy

Strawberry-peach skies blend into the violet-soaked horizon. Renewed trees bud with green intent, spreading millions of hopeful seeds into the wind. Brightly coloured runners bounce off their treadmills and onto jagged, pockmarked pavement. Our cats resume their hunting ways, free from their purgatory of winter solitude once more.

Close your eyes and listen to hypnotic motorcycles as they fizz and grumble, echoing into the mesmerizing Sunday evening. It’s a time of beauty unknowable in the rest of the dark starry cosmos. It’s spring on the High Prairies and the shadows are getting longer.

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