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Honda Civic and Mazda CX-3 take home top Canadian awards

For the fourth year in a row, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) has chosen a Japanese automaker as the Canadian Car of the Year winner.

For 2016, the highly popular Honda Civic sedan takes home top honours for the second time in its history over four worthy German competitors in the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon, Volkswagen Golf R, Mercedes-AMG C63 S and the Mercedes-AMG GT S.

For Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year, it was the Mazda CX-3 winning the day. It was the third time Mazda won an overall AJAC award, but the first time in the Utility category. The CX-3 beat out the Volvo XC90, Kia Sorento and Chevrolet Silverado for the award.

The all-new 2016 Honda Civic, currently the Canadian car sales champ for 18 consecutive years was built from the ground up on a new platform for its tenth-generation. It's wider, longer and sits lower to the ground for a sportier, athletic stance. The cabin has added some premium touches and added technology, while the drive is more peaceful and quiet with minimal road noise.

 

Mazda's Kodo “Soul of Motion” works masterfully on the brand new CX-3 compact crossover. Under the hood, it receives a 146-hp 2.0-litre inline four engine that doesn't seem like much, but it handles like a champ in front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Its combination of looks and excellent fuel economy helped the CX-3 stand out from the crowd.

Voting for the award took place last fall in Bowmanville, Ontario as 71 AJAC journalists from across Canada came to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to evaluate a total of 41 eligible vehicles. 22 of those vehicles would be slotted in car categories with the winner of each category becoming eligible for the grand car of the year prize, while 19 of them were slotted for Utility Vehicle of the Year.

The testing for each category is conducted via back-to-back car comparisons on regular roads with some of those more performance-based vehicles hitting the track for extra evaluation.

A detailed scoring system is utilized in order to calculate the vote. There are 21 separate evaluation parameters that include acceleration, braking, handling, styling and ride comfort in order to determine a category winner. Once those winners have been named, the accounting firm of KPMG look to the separate ballot scores that were marked for the Canadian Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year. These categories include: occupant environment, performance, vehicle dynamics, price/value, market significance and emotional appeal.



 



AJAC category award winners announced

 

Toronto, ON – It was a great day for a few German automakers at the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada's (AJAC) “Best New” category winner awards.

Out of the nine awards handed out, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz won two each, as the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen 1.8TSI took the award for Family Car and the Volkswagen Golf R won for Sports/Performance vehicle under $50K; while the Mercedes-AMG C-Class (C 63 S) and Mercedes-AMG GT (S Coupe) won for Sports/Performance over $50K and the Prestige/Performance category, respectively.



“After such a challenging year, it is particularly rewarding that the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada has recognized both the Volkswagen Golf R and Golf Sportwagen for what they really are – great cars in a very competitive market,” said Thomas Tetzlaff, Manager of Media Relations for Volkswagen Canada.

“This double win for Mercedes-AMG represents an important and valuable validation by the top automotive journalists in Canada,” said Nathalie Gravel, public relations supervisor at Mercedes-Benz Canada. “Mercedes-AMG, the high performance division of Mercedes-Benz, has been producing some of the most sought-after vehicles in the world. They're the product of skilled craftsmen, designers and engineers that work tirelessly to create a driving experience that is unique.”

All of the other winners were spread out and are as follows: Honda Civic Sedan for Small Car, Mazda CX-3 for SUV/CUV under $35K, Kia Sorento for SUV/CUV $35K-$60K, Volvo XC90 for SUV/CUV over $60K and the Chevrolet Silverado for Pickup.



The closest race came in the SUV/CUV $35K-$60K category that saw the top four finishers separated by only eight points. The Kia Sorento edged out the Honda Pilot by one point to take the award, while the Hyundai Tucson and BMW X1 were right on the South Korean's heels.

The voting for these category winners were conducted by AJAC journalists, who gathered this October at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Clarington, Ontario for a four-day test drive evaluation of brand-new or significantly changed models. 



All of the category winners will now compete for Canadian Car of the Year and Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. Last year's winner came out of the Family car category, as the Subaru Legacy took top honours as Canadian Car of the Year beating out the Volkswagen Golf and Hyundai Genesis. The Ford F-150 won for Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year besting the Subaru Outback and Porsche Macan S.



The two overall winners will be announced at a morning press conference at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto on February 11, 2016.

LA Auto Show: 2017 Buick LaCrosse

 

Los Angeles, CA – When the cover was pulled off the 2017 third-generation Buick LaCrosse in Los Angeles at the 2015 edition, Buick continued on its journey to dispel any lingering notions of this General Motors brand being preferred by your Father. No more.

For model year 2017 with the LaCrosse, Buick has taken their previously presented concept vehicle, the Avenir, and “smoothed” out most of the “rougher” edges and presented a more refined-looking automobile. From the front end at least, the LaCrosse has a distinct look and stance, suggesting elegance, refinement and perhaps even some restraint while promising a family-style sedan that will appeal, as Buicks tend to do these days, to a much broader target purchaser. The LaCrosse’s rear, however, will likely never be a topic of poems or sonnets; it’s disappointing – especially if this model is indeed based upon the concept Avenir.

Regardless, until such time as we have an opportunity to sit behind the wheel, we’ll talk in brief generalities about its new lithe look. Overall, Buick’s engineers have worked hard to shape this four door sedan into a pleasing looking vehicle that few suburban driveways would shun. Buick has managed to trim nearly 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of body fat, the bulk of which, pun intended, has been achieved in a non-invasive manner, from the vehicle's actual structure. The loss of weight is largely due to the use of press-hardened, high-strength steel that contributes to greater efficiency and more responsive handling. Putting that weight into perspective, enthusiastic engineers advise that’s roughly equivalent to a fancy modern French-door refrigerator. However, like most current marvels of automotive engineering, this reduction has increased the vehicle’s overall torsional rigidity by some 15%.

The new LaCrosse cabin features a strong, cockpit-like design with a high, floating-bridge-style centre console. This is a direct result of Buick's adaption of the electronic precision shift system, introduced in early November on the brand new Cadillac XT5 crossover. Interesting, in spite of the console, designers have maintained the popular wraparound cabin style we saw when gen two of the LaCrosse was first unleashed.

Based upon an initial and hurried scramble, the front and rear cabin appears fairly roomy, although the sloping rear roofline may present initial minor challenges upon exit for some. Further, the interior doesn’t stray too far away from GM’s current design standards; think of an abundance of leather and decorative wood accents throughout. The dashboard is fairly uncluttered with a frameless eight-inch-diagonal colour touchscreen located on the centre console.

Buick has chosen to adopt the very same powertrain as the aforementioned Cadillac XT5, with a standard 3.6-litre V6 producing 305 hp and 268 lb-ft. of torque. Just like the more expensive, oft-aspirational marque, this engine is equipped with active cylinder management and a stop-start system which apparently inspires awe from Buick’s own engineers. We’ll reserve personal judgement until such time as we have an opportunity to drive this vehicle. The powertrain, we are advised, is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, while the standard front-wheel-drive layout can be reportedly swapped for an optional twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system later in 2016 when the vehicle literally – and figuratively – rolls out. An interesting option is the availability of Buick’s continuous damping control, which is paired with GM’s already-tested HiPer strut front suspension – instead of the standard MacPherson struts – and 20-inch alloy wheels.



From a comfort and driveability standpoint, one imagines more purchasers will select this – unless it’s priced in a mean-spirited manner.

LA Auto Show: 2017 Mazda CX-9

Los Angeles, CA – Mazda Motor Corporation today revealed the all-new Mazda CX-9 at the Los Angeles Auto Show. A three-row midsized crossover SUV featuring the latest SKYACTIV technology and KODO—Soul of Motion design, the all-new CX-9 is a high-end model of Mazda's new-generation line-up. The model has been tailored for the North American market, which is expected to account for 80 percent of global sales forecast at 50,000 units annually. Sales launches start from North America in spring 2016.

With the all-new CX-9, Mazda is proposing a new kind of a crossover SUV aimed at more mature families. Offering an indulgent experience of quality and comfort, the model goes beyond specs and functionality to support and enhance every aspect of customers' busy and multi-faceted lives—not just their role as a parent. The latest in KODO design portrays a more premium image and the all-new CX-9 offers quieter, more refined Jinba-ittai driving with superb fuel economy performance. Designed to meet the needs of the modern family, the model offers a comfortable and well-thought-out cabin space, i-ACTIVSENSE advanced safety features and the i-ACTIV AWD all-wheel-drive system. It is the first model to feature Mazda's new 2.5-litre direct-injection turbocharged gasoline engine, SKYACTIV-G 2.5T.

"Introducing the all-new CX-9 into the midsize SUV segment will strengthen our new-generation line-up, and we expect a big boost and sustained growth in North America," said Masamichi Kogai, Representative Director, President and CEO of Mazda. "Moving forward, Mazda will continue working to advance our entire product line-up, raise the appeal of the Mazda brand and build a strong emotional bond with customers."

LA Auto Show: 2017 Hyundai Elantra

Los Angeles, CA – The all-new 2017 Hyundai Elantra was revealed today at the Los Angeles Auto Show. As one of Hyundai’s all time best-selling models, the new Elantra enters its sixth-generation building on the momentum and success of its predecessor’s proven, award-winning formula and strong value proposition by offering a bold aerodynamic design, sophisticated styling, an all-new efficient powertrain, better ride quality, improved noise insulation, and comprehensive safety with class-above features.

Assembled in both Montgomery, Alabama and Ulsan, South Korea, the 2017 Elantra distinguishes itself from the compact car class with the addition of segment-first premium convenience and safety technologies, and is expected to receive a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and a 5-Star Safety Rating from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2017 Elantra will arrive at Hyundai dealers in February and pricing will be announced at a later date.

STRIKING EXTERIOR DESIGN

The new Elantra design projects confidence with sculpted body forms complimented by smoothly contoured lines that reveal the underlying inspiration of Hyundai designers. Inspired by the dynamic precision found in fighter jets, Elantra’s architecture was a perfect platform for collaboration between designers and engineers to blend styling with functional aerodynamics.
From the front, the Elantra is defined by Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille that projects a distinctive character when combined with its modern lighting signatures, including available Adaptive HID headlights and unique vertical LED daytime running lights, which are firsts for Elantra. Elantra’s sporty lower front fascia integrates functional front wheel air curtains, a component that is derived from the Sonata Hybrid that helps manage air flow from the front of the vehicle and around the wheel to minimize wind resistance. In addition, a full underbody cover, an aerodynamic rear bumper bottom spoiler and rear deck lid designed with an expanded trunk edge contribute to an ultra-efficient 0.27 coefficient of drag, better than the Nissan Leaf.

Elantra features a sleek body-side character line that accentuates a sweeping side window silhouette and striking side profile that is slightly elongated with its increased overall length. Available premium features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, all-new LED door handle approach lights, side mirror LED turn signal indicators and LED taillights with high tech graphics add a level of sophistication and detail to this compact sedan. Elantra’s overall length has increased by 20mm, with width and height up by 5mm.

MODERN INTERIOR DESIGN

On the inside, Elantra’s “fighter jet” inspiration continues with a modern driver-oriented design that is optimized for intuitive control, improved interior roominess, high-quality materials and premium technology features. The contemporary interior design integrates premium soft-touch materials in key points and high-tech details to create an inviting and comfortable environment for all passengers.

The wide instrument panel provides a feeling of spaciousness and is available with a new 4.2-inch colour TFT LCD instrument display. The rest of the center stack is laid out in a horizontal design with buttons and controls logically grouped by function, and a slight seven degree ergonomic tilt towards the driver. Available premium convenience features such as a segment-first memory system for the power driver seat and side mirrors, heated steering wheel, dual automatic climate control and auto-dimming rear-view mirror further enhance driving comfort, as does a new driver seat. The driver seat features a high-tension, lightweight seat frame for improved performance against collisions and a multi-firmness seat pad to help reduce driver fatigue over long distances.

In fact, all Elantra seats are made with SoyFoam, an environmentally friendly seating foam that substitutes hydroxyl-functionalized soybean oil for petroleum based products. For added comfort and convenience, passengers enjoy standard heated front seats and available heated rear seats with a versatile 60/40 split-folding rear seat. Elantra also offers class-above total interior volume with improved rear headroom and legroom. At 3,120 L of total interior volume, the 2017 Elantra is classified as a Midsize car, which is a class above Mazda3, Ford Focus and some premium models.

In addition to passenger comfort, improving interior cabin noise insulation and reducing road noise were top development priorities for Hyundai engineers. To reduce engine sound a hood insulator is now available on core Elantra trims. Engineers also reduced the aperture size in the front dash panel by 25 percent, increased the thickness of the front door and rear window glass, and added sound absorption materials in all pillars, inner fenders and floorpan. In an effort to further improve NVH characteristics, engineers also applied rubber bushings to the front sub-frame and reinforced the lower control arm.

REFINED & RESPONSIVE CHASSIS

The 2017 Elantra’s rigid chassis is now reinforced with 53 percent Advanced High-Strength Steel (up from 21 percent). This increased utilization results in a 29.5 percent improvement in torsional rigidity, which helps make fundamental improvements in vehicle ride and handling, quietness, and durability. The all-new Elantra features strategic use of structural adhesives for improved safety. Compared to the previous model, the 2017 Elantra has increased structural adhesives by forty times those found in the previous model. Special attention was placed at higher stress points on the chassis and reinforced welding areas, all in an effort to target top safety ratings by the IIHS and NHTSA.

Improved ride comfort, handling and stability are achieved through Elantra’s redesigned rear suspension geometry that modifies the angle of the rear shock absorbers and coil springs on the coupled torsion beam axle. Additionally, an increase in rear bushing diameter helps to improve long term durability. Elantra’s front suspension uses an optimally designed McPherson strut with coil springs and gas shock absorbers along with a standard 22.0 mm diameter front stabilizer bar to help reduce body roll when cornering. The standard Motor-Driven Power Steering (MDPS) system instantly adjusts to changing driving conditions for greater precision and steering feel while improving fuel economy.

NEW EFFICIENT POWERTRAIN

For 2017, the all-new Elantra receives a new powertrain designed for improved fuel efficiency and everyday drivability performance. The all-new 2.0-liter “Nu” MPI Atkinson four-cylinder engine produces 147 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 132 lb. ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm (est.). It is the only Atkinson cycle engine to be combined with multi-port injection in the compact class.
This Atkinson cycle type engine reduces pumping loss by delaying the close timing of the intake valves in the compression point, therefore maximizing the expansion ratio. The greater expansion ratio is more efficient by allowing additional energy to be used as mechanical energy – this results in a 1.6 percent improvement in fuel economy. Other enhancements include intermediate valve cam phasing which increases the operating area of the intake valve and results in a 0.7 percent increase in fuel economy. High energy ignition coils are also adopted to increase fuel economy 0.7 percent through increasing spark energy from 30mJ to 80mJ. An electronically controlled thermostat is also new to decrease friction and allows the thermostat opening at a higher temperature which increases fuel economy by 0.4 percent. Finally, piston cooling jets are added to cool down the piston by spraying oil at the lower position of the piston resulting in a 0.3 percent fuel economy improvement. Fuel consumption estimates will be released at a later date.

This 2.0-liter Nu four-cylinder engine is paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or a new six-speed automatic transmission. The new automatic transmission helps deliver dynamic performance with an overall 4.4 percent increase in efficiency for optimized fuel economy. A new valve body improves gear shift responsiveness and control, while a 34 percent reduction in oil pump size aids in improving operating efficiency. A multi-clutch torque converter is also a new addition that allows more control over lock-up. Finally, piston resistance and friction is minimized by adopting double angular ball bearings.

In addition, all Elantra trims are equipped with the new Drive Mode Select feature which adjusts both powertrain performance and steering calibration, allowing the driver to customize the driving character by selecting from three modes: Eco, Normal or Sport, by simply touching a button on the center console.

COMPREHENSIVE SAFETY

In addition to the strengthened chassis, the 2017 Elantra makes structural improvements to the front side members which are now a hexagonal design and the dash-to-cowl connection has also been reinforced. The front apron to the A-pillar now features a straight and continuous load path and has hot stamping applied. B-pillar assemblies feature local softening hot stamping that starts with a reinforcement section (150kgf grade) and then transitions into a softening section (100kgf grade) to help absorb side impact forces. The rear doors also feature dual impact beams. A seven airbag system is standard, including a new driver’s knee airbag, along with Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management, Traction Control, and ABS. The 2017 Elantra is expected to receive top marks from the IIHS and NHTSA.

New for 2017, the Elantra also offers a wide array of advanced safety technologies, often reserved for luxury cars, to provide another layer of protection for passengers beyond the standard safety system. Available Autonomous Emergency Braking with class-exclusive Pedestrian Detection is a technology that utilizes both front forward facing radar and camera to detect a vehicle or pedestrian, and warn the driver of a potential collision. If the driver does not react to avoid the impact, the system will apply emergency braking.

Additional Elantra-first safety technologies include available Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist, and a rearview camera, now with dynamic guidance. Lane Keep Assist uses a forward-facing camera to detect lane markings and will alert the driver if the vehicle drifts outside without signaling. The system will apply corrective steering assistance if necessary, and is another active safety tool to assist Elantra drivers and help prevent collisions.

ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY & FEATURES

The 2017 Elantra truly advances ahead of the compact car class with innovative technology that enhances driver confidence and convenience, without the premium price. Another segment-exclusive feature, Hand-Free Proximity Trunk, allows drivers to conveniently open their trunk if their hands are full by simply approaching the rear of the vehicle with the key fob in a purse or pocket. An audible beep will sound three times, and the trunk will automatically open.

The new Elantra enhances the driver experience with an available Adaptive HID headlight system, that turn-in with the direction of the steering wheel for better night time visibility and safety. Elantra’s Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) makes highway and long distance driving more comfortable. Using a radar sensor mounted on the lower front grille, the ACC system maintains a set distance from the vehicle ahead in varied traffic conditions by automatically adjusting vehicle speed as needed. Vehicles equipped with ACC also gain the additional function of High Beam Assist which automatically dims the high beams when approaching vehicles are detected.

Porsche Mission E concept surprises in Frankfurt

 

Porsche made a big statement at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show with its Mission E Concept.

With over 600 hp and over 500 kilometres of range before needing a charge, the Mission E Concept is staring directly at Tesla. It doesn't have the same speed as the Tesla P90D (0-100km/h in under 3.5 seconds, compared to 2.8 seconds in the Tesla), but it would beat its range. As good as the 500 km range is, the more mind-boggling news is that the Mission E can be 80% charged (around 400 kms) in around 15 minutes. 



The Porsche Mission E concept is a four-door sedan with a low centre of gravity setup that has a sweeping Porsche silhouette, lightweight design, suicide doors with no B-pillars, carbon-fibre wheels and a dynamic driving performance accustomed to all Porsches.

It will be powered by an 800-volt drive system that will feature two synchronous motors, similar to what is in the 919 Hybrid LMP1 racecar that makeup that 600 hp total, and will come in all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering. The lithium-ion battery runs the length of the body between the front and rear axles, allowing uniform weight distribution and balance while driving.



Inside, the Mission E is loaded with technology. Holographic instruments use parallax effect to always keep information in view of the driver. Additionally, it will have an eye-tracking and gesture system via camera to detect which instrument the driver is viewing and will bring it up in the menu without the use of hands.

Clearly, the Porsche Mission E Concept is still well beyond its years with futuristic technology unheard of in the automotive industry. However, it can still get the green light and take on Tesla by 2019 with most likely some more practical changes to come. That decision is expected by the end of this year.

2016 Camaro revealed in front of its many fans

Late last week was a big day for Chevrolet Camaro fans, General Motors and the city of St. Catharines. At the GM Powertrain facility in St. Catharines in front of the many visiting and involved in the 17th annual St. Catharines Show & Shine event, the sixth-generation 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS was revealed for the first time on Canadian soil.

It might not be such a big reveal to those who followed its American reveal in Belle Isle over two months ago, but it truly meant something to the hundreds of Camaro owners in attendance. A reveal is nothing new for us auto journalists, but it's a rarity to do one in front of many of your loyal customers. The owners and visitors in attendance flocked to the svelte and shining red Camaro SS, taking turns to sit inside its leather-filled interior, take a grip of its flat-bottomed steering wheel, and take a glance at the the LT1 6.2-litre V8 engine that produces 455 hp and 455 lb.-ft. of torque.

 

The reveal of the Camaro wasn't the only thing Carlisle was excited to talk about. Earlier that day, General Motors Canada announced a $13-million investment in the St. Catharines Powertrain facility that mostly focuses on V6 and V8 engines, as well as transmissions. The LT1 V8, the most-powerful ever made for the Camaro will soon begin production at the St. Catharines facility.

“We’re proud that GM Canada continues to play an important role in the sixth-generation of the Chevy Camaro, with the LT1 V-8 small-block engine being built right here at St. Catharines Powertrain,” said Steve Carlisle, president and managing director, General Motors of Canada.

The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro will have three engine options including the Ecotec 2.0-litre turbo, a 3.6-litre V6, and the aforementioned 6.2-litre V8. According to General Motors Canada, the 2.0-litre is expected to be the most fuel-efficient engine in a Camaro with a highway rating of 7.8L/100 km. A city or combined rating was not provided.

Away from fuel efficiency, what's impressive is that the base engine can achieve a 0-96 km/h sprint in under six seconds. Regardless of which engine is chosen, consumers will get a choice between a six-speed manual transmission and an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission.

AJAC’s 4th Annual EcoRun returns to Canada’s west coast

On the afternoon of March 24, 2015, Kevin Corrigan, Chair of the Canadian Green Car Committee of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), announced that the Kia Soul EV was declared the AJAC 2015 Canadian Green Car of the Year. This first Canadian Green Car of the Year award, was presented from a final list of four vehicles that also included the Honda Fit, Subaru Legacy and the Toyota Camry Hybrid. 

This was the beginning of the fourth annual (AJAC) EcoRun – the second held in consecutive years in British Columbia.

So it was on an overcast and rainy Wednesday morning in late March at Vancouver’s Jack Poole Plaza, outside the Vancouver Convention Centre, the first of twenty seemingly disparate vehicles slowly splashed through ubiquitous west coast puddles, en route to load up on the ferry, to continue their journey to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. 

The EcoRun has evolved since its inception in 2012. The premise has always been to showcase fuel-efficient technologies to the communities it travels through. Journalists and manufacturers engage with interested spectators, eager to discover what is going on, often pleasantly surprised by the mobile technology on their town’s streets. To be clear, however – this is neither a race nor a competition. Having said that, there is an award, the Michelin Green Jersey, presented to the AJAC journalist who proved to be the most eco-friendly driver for the duration of the run itself over six unique legs in two days.

The evolution within the event has been with the types of vehicles that manufacturers wished to “enter”. The one major proviso was and will continue to be that, in their own way, every vehicle, when driven in real world conditions, delivers consistent fuel efficiency – and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

This specific event presented some fascinating variables vis-à-vis powertrains. While there were 20 participating vehicles, there were six distinct powertrains: electric; electric + gas; hydrogen fuel cells; gasoline (hybrid); diesel; and, gasoline-powered internal combustion engines.

All vehicles with the exception of the 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT and the 2016 Mazda6 GT i-Eloop, were model year 2015.

Further, every vehicle, except the Hyundai Tucson FCEV (at the manufacturer’s request) was equipped with a FleetCarma C5 data logger. This sophisticated device uses FleetCarma’s energy monitoring software; data and GPS coordinates were streamed in real-time to FleetCarma’s servers to enable remote monitoring of each vehicle on each leg of the complete event. Alongside each participating vehicle, we have included the actual, real-world average fuel consumption over the course of the event. To enable simple and relative comparison, the electric consumption is converted to a gasoline equivalent, based upon the standard energy content of the fuel.

The showcased vehicles were:

BMW  X3 xDrive turbo diesel           6.85L/100km
Jeep Grand Cherokee Eco Diesel     7.39L/100km
Ford Focus 1.0-L                            6.16L/100km
Ford F-150 2.7-L                          10.67L/100km
Ford Mustang EcoBoost                  8.69L/100km
Chevrolet Volt                               3.81L/100km
Chevrolet Cruze Diesel                  6.70L/100km
Chevrolet Colorado                        8.54L/100km
Acura RLX Sport Hybrid                  7.17L/100km
Hyundai Tucson FCEV                      N/A
Kia Soul EV                                   1.62L/100km
Mazda3 2.5-L                                5.75L/100km
Mazda6 GT i-Eloop                        6.14L/100km
Mazda CX-5 GT                            7.86L/100km
Nissan Leaf EL                              1.46L/100km
Nissan Micra S                              5.54L/100km
Infiniti Q50 Hybrid                         7.05L/100m
Porsche cayenne S E-Hybrid         10.63L/100km
Subaru Legacy                              6.85L/100km
Volkswagen Golf TDI Clean Diesel   5.06L/100km

On the first leg of the EcoRun, our first car was the Nissan Micra. No participating AJAC journalist knew in advance which vehicle we would be driving. All we knew for sure was that there would be an opportunity to drive six of the 20 vehicles over the course of two days.  In the interests of full-disclosure, I was one of the Canadian journalists who participated in the re-launch of the Micra in May 2014 in and around the city of Montreal and rural Quebec settings. A firm favourite then was this very model, the base, no-frills Micra S – manual transmission and absolutely no bells and whistles to speak of. This is what driving is all about. Driver and machine!

Disembarking from the ferry, the colourful convoy took to the Trans-Canada Highway 1 and headed south to the Cowichan Regional Visitors Centre in Duncan. To be clear, the objective of the EcoRun is to drive the vehicles as you normally would – within reason – no stunt driving or rabid attempts at hypermiling! The 50-plus kilometres continued to demonstrate the love for this fun, four-seat hatchback. A great way to start off our EcoRun.

 

Leaving Duncan in the Mazda CX-5 GT, we continued south to the Western Speedway in Victoria where the intent was to have a little fun and see how each vehicle presented itself during a series of dynamic exercises on an autocross and slalom set up. Sidorov Precision Driver Training, an event sponsor, managed this aspect of the day capably.

The final vehicle change for the day occurred and we found ourselves in the Subaru Legacy which, in February, was voted AJAC’s Canadian Car of the Year for 2015. It was only a short distance into the city of Victoria to our hotel for the evening, but it was enough to get the a feel for why the Legacy was part of this event.

The following morning, all 20 freshly-detailed and re-charged vehicles moved as one in a slow, snake-like procession, to park in front of the Legislature Buildings for a press conference in the sun with Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines and Mary Polak, Minister of Environment. There was added buzz to this conference since days before, during the reading of the provincial budget, the government had decided to re-introduce a Clean Energy Vehicle incentive programme.

The newly announced funding will provide incentives for qualifying vehicles. Funding of this programme will help to continue attracting new clean energy vehicles to the BC market. The New Car Dealers Association of BC (NCDA) will administer this on behalf of the provincial government.

Minister Bennett effused that “British Columbia has the highest per-capita electric vehicle sales and the largest charging infrastructure in Canada and we look forward to working with the NCDA on the renewed Clean Energy Vehicle programme and encouraging even more British Columbians to consider clean, green options the next time they visit the showroom looking for a new car.”

Effectively, BC has now re-established itself as a market with high demand and infrastructure in place for manufacturers to offer new electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and fuel cell cars.

With the sun shining and cloudless blue skies overhead, the cavalcade of cars left Victoria for North Saanich. For this leg we were in the premium Infiniti Q50 Hybrid and enjoyed a short road trip before stopping for necessary sustenance and changing vehicles.

The AJAC award-winning Kia Soul EV was to be our penultimate ride. In Sidney, we participated for the second time in the auto ballet of cars, trucks, SUVs – even tractor trailers being boarded with almost precise chaos onto another ferry. There, we crossed the cold, deep waters to Tsawwassen where we drove north briefly to Steveston. Parking en masse, we participated in a guided walking tour and discussion of the former cannery district and learned about the town’s history, specifically the initial settling of migrant Japanese workers who toiled in the canneries.

With the sun beginning to set on our final day and final drive, cars were changed; this time we were in the Ford Focus 1.0L – the four door sedan version. Our second vehicle with a manual transmission during this event.

The drive to our hotel was uneventful – in spite of hitting every red light ever installed on Vancouver’s busy Granville Street while residents were commuting from the city to their homes, and others going north, into the city for a variety of events around the Vancouver Auto Show which at this point, was in full swing.

So, four down EcoRuns in the books – more to go?

Where might future EcoRuns occur?

And the evolution of the event? Well, to be clear it is, as expected, all about the vehicles. In 2012, the “push” appeared to be for an EV solution. Beyond 2015? Is the future fuel cells – or is there a place set at the table for all manner of new and available powertrains that fulfill so-called green mandates?

Time – and technology – will tell.

Preview: 2015 AJAC EcoRun

The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) hosts an annual EcoRun to promote and showcase eco-friendly vehicle offerings. For a second-consecutive year, the EcoRun will be held in British Columbia, one of the more 'Green' provinces in Canada holding the largest charging infrastructure in the nation.

Last year, the EcoRun went from Vancouver to Whistler via the Sea-to-Sky Highway, so to change things up for 2015, the showcase of new eco-friendly vehicles will be headed from Vancouver onto Vancouver Island. All 20 vehicles and AJAC driving journalists from across Canada will board BC Ferries for visits to Nanaimo, Duncan, Langford and Victoria.



Highlights of that journey will be Duncan's Totem Trail Tour, a handling course to test out the vehicles in Langford, and a stop at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria. Victoria will be the place for a special press conference and an invite as guests into the Parliament House. Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines and Mary Polak, Minister of Environment will be on hand to talk about the renewed British Columbia funding through the Clean Energy Vehicle Incentive Program.

Renewed incentives will help to justify sales with many of the 20 vehicles participating in the EcoRun. The vehicles involved represent 13 different auto manufacturers that include compacts, mid-size sedans, premium sports crossovers, SUVs and trucks. Within them, you will find pure electrics, plug-in and conventional hybrids, diesel-fuelled powertrains, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, as well as highly-efficient gasoline options.

The EcoRun has never been about a competition or distributing awards to specific vehicles. It's a way of helping consumers understand the alternative choices and real-life fuel figures when choosing a vehicle.



The 2015 EcoRun kicks off at 9:30am on March 25 at the Jack Poole Plaza, outside the Vancouver Convention Centre during the Vancouver International Auto Show. You can follow along via social media and the website, as our own journalists David Miller (@david_miller11) and David Taylor (@OmemeeOzzie) will be piloting various vehicles throughout the two-day journey.

On a separate note, the 20 leading Canadian journalists driving in the event will be competing for this year's EcoRun Green Jersey, awarded to the most fuel-efficient driver at the end of the six-leg, two-day run.

For more information on the 2015 AJAC EcoRun, please visit: www.ajac.ca/eco-run.

Mercedes-Benz shows off Metris van

Mercedes-Benz Vans USA is introducing the "Mercedes-Benz Metris" at the NTEA Work Truck Show. This follows the "Mission: Metris" teaser campaign at SEMA in Las Vegas in November 2014, which featured four custom upfitted Metris concept vans. The Metris, which launches at U.S. dealers in October 2015, is the U.S. and Canadian sibling to the "Vito," which remains the midsize commercial van nameplate for all other global markets.

"We are pleased to debut the Mercedes-Benz Metris at NTEA, which is a major step in launching our midsize commercial van in the U.S. market in October 2015," said Bernie Glaser, Vice President and Managing Director of Daimler Vans USA, LLC. "It is only logical that we adopt the global approach and also expand our successful vans business in the USA. Our SEMA 'Mission: Metris' presence with four distinctive van concepts was an effective way for us to hit the ground running to announce the nameplate 'Mercedes-Benz Metris' and to show off its unmatched versatility, size, and safety. And now, we can't wait to offer our customers and upfitters both the Sprinter and Metris Vans as a full-line vans brand: Mercedes-Benz Vans."

The Metris is a right-sized vehicle: It is larger than the small vans and smaller than the large vans. Its value proposition includes superior craftsmanship, high cargo/towing capacity, and an attractive price. It is designed to thrive in large metropolitan areas with an agile yet spacious presence. The Cargo Van starts at $28,950, and the Passenger Van starts at $32,500 (excluding $995 destination/delivery charge for both vans). Because all Mercedes-Benz Vans feature the advantages of top service at dealerships, top levels of safety and ergonomics, and exemplary Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), the Metris shines in all areas. It can easily fit into a parking garage in a large metropolitan area, and can also meet the needs of those who work out of their homes. In addition, it carries many of the rugged characteristics of the Sprinter.

Upon launching in October 2015 at the 200+ Mercedes-Benz U.S. dealers authorized to sell Vans, the Metris will be available with a powerful and highly efficient 4-cylinder gasoline engine that has 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, mated to a refined, efficient, and robust 7-speed automatic transmission with rear-wheel drive. This powertrain application, with optional ECO start/stop, was developed specifically for the U.S. and Canadian markets to meet the needs of the Mid-Size Commercial Van Segment, and also comes with a service interval of up to 15,000 miles.

Advanced safety features are a hallmark for any Mercedes-Benz vehicle, and the Metris will feature 6 airbags for the Cargo Van variant and 8 airbags for the Passenger Van variant. All models will feature standard ATTENTION ASSIST, standard Crosswind Assist, and standard load-adaptive ESP. Optional safety features will include Active Parking Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, PARKTRONIC, Collision Prevention Assist, Blind Spot Assist, and a rearview camera. Many of the interior features are taken from other recent automotive entrants into the Mercedes-Benz lineup, such as premium touches and overall fit-and-finish. Large cupholders have also been added to the center console on the dashboard to meet North American customer needs of long-haul or local driving.

In the U.S. full-size commercial van segment, sales of the Sprinter continue to be brisk, up 17.4% YTD. Model year 2014 brought new major enhancements such as a fresh and confident new front end exterior design, 4-cylinder BlueTEC clean diesel powertrain that already plays a similar role as its big brother, the V6, and upgrades of safety and infotainment.

Model year 2015 saw many additional enhancements for the Sprinter including:
- Addition of standard Crosswind Assist on all 2500 models.
- Increased service intervals of up to 20,000 miles (MY 2014 service intervals were up to 15,000 miles).
- Optional Sprinter 4x4 version of both Cargo Van and Passenger Van versions will also be added in Q1/2015, which will be the only ex-factory four-wheel drive system on the market for a commercial van in the USA.
- Addition of a third roof option. The new super high roof underlines the benchmark position concerning interior heights by offering an interior roof height of up to 7 feet.
- SULEV option for our standard 4-cylinder BlueTEC engine is the first SULEV diesel engine worldwide and underlines our 'Green Leadership.'
- A Super Single heavy duty package variant is being introduced in early 2015, which is an alternative to the 3500 dually rear wheel setup that allows for a 48.3 in. loading width between wheels.

All of these features highlight the position of the Sprinter as the most innovative large van in the segment. Independent from the model year, over 75% of all Sprinters have upfitter treatment on them, regardless of extra shelving or extensive Recreational Vehicle modifications.
To coincide with the launch of the new Metris midsize commercial van, this year the Daimler Vans USA team is pleased to announce that they will be rolling out a new and improved Upfitter Program in the coming months. Upfitters play a crucial role in meeting the vast array of customer requirements, and the planned enhancements to this already highly successful initiative will help maximize the full potential in the U.S. market.

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