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CAR REVIEWS

First Drive – 2018 Buick Enclave

Vernon, BC – For the past few years, Buick has reshaped its luxury division. The last vehicle in need of a major shakeup was its biggest SUV, the Enclave that was starting to get long in the tooth. With a new 2018 second-generation Enclave, the 114-year-old Buick brand becomes the newest showroom in the auto industry.

Back in 2008, the Enclave was a seven-seat welcomed addition, but after close to a decade into its first generation, it started to lose steam in its segment. Considering the current SUV sales boom, it became essential for Buick – a brand with 80 percent of its volume coming from SUVs in 2017 – to get the Enclave to a competitive level against the likes of the Infiniti QX60, Acura MDX and Volvo XC90.



Refreshed start with no common parts

The second-generation Enclave has no common parts from its previous iteration. In attempt to make it look less overwhelming in size, the Enclave comes off as leaner overall, even with an increase in length and height.

It's all about new proportions and a new demeanour, something Buick likes to call: “Smart Made Stylish.” That design language results in a more sleek, aggressive approach with expansion occurring in areas of consumer need, such as cargo space and legroom. It serves as a lesson that one can expand for comfort without having its entire form shaped like a gigantic boat.

Its most prominent parts are up front with a redesigned new front end featuring a chrome-filled vertical slat grille. The grille is enhanced with cool-looking wings complemented by Evonik Acrylite technology in its headlights sporting over 100 LED lights. The Evonik signature accents may be taken for granted, but it serves as the clearest and cleanest light offered in the market.



That specialized theme continues on the inside with an all-new Air Ionizer that improves air flow throughout the cockpit. We're not talking about a simple air freshener, but a device that reduces unwanted odours both inside and out, along with bacteria, viruses, dust, debris and pollen.

For this first drive program, I received a new top-of-the-line Avenir vehicle. Avenir is considered 'the highest expression of Buick luxury,' and those customers wishing to dole our $63,690 will enjoy a unique black-ice finish wings and grille, dual panel sunroof, 20-inch wheels and Avenir badging. Premium touches and materials continue with open-pore wood and a beautiful chestnut colour on the dash and seats, upping the refinement of the whole environment.



As for space, the Enclave does well in the first two rows with Captain's chairs that provide plenty of headroom and legroom; power seats come standard only in the front. It should be noted that as cushiony as the front row chairs were, it took time for a comfortable seating position to be found, and the ideal position was never fully met. This may just be a 'me' thing, but that's truly how I felt.



For the third row, the right side slides forward for easier access, albeit not better than its top three-row competitors. Once inside, the bench seating can be a bit cramped and not suited for individuals 6'0” or up. Regardless, it's much improved and a bonus for large families.

When those rows don't need to be filled, the Enclave has a total of 2,764 litres of cargo space, 1,642 litres behind the second row, 668 litres behind the third row with an additional 90 litres in the underfloor. That's a 10 percent improvement over the outgoing model.

A quiet and expected ride

The 2018 Enclave drives well in a quiet, relaxed manner. There's nothing exceptional that stands out about it; rather a smooth drive that you come to expect from a new SUV. Whether that's perceived as a positive or negative comment, that's the best way I can describe it.

Buick doesn't bombard you with engine choices. The Enclave has a single powertrain unit: a 3.6-litre V6 that delivers 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The one choice you do get is whether you opt for the standard front-wheel drive (FWD) or an active twin-clutch all-wheel drive (AWD) that eventually comes standard beyond the base Essence trim.



Power delivery is both smooth and quick. The Enclave was able to power ahead when needed and showed off decent handling skills through the side winding Vernon roads. Its nine-speed gearshift is constantly on the move, but mostly seamless as it's calibrated for better fuel economy. According to Buick, the AWD is rated at 13.8 L/100 km in the city and 9.4 L/100 km on the highway. For FWD, those numbers are reduced to 12.9 and 9.0, respectively.

During the drive, additional pros and cons were found. On the positive end as with all Buicks, the active noise cancellation setup works wonders to block and absorb all noises. In addition, this 2018 model has upped its towing game with a tow rating at 5,000 lbs, and that was shown off by a sport boat hitched to the Enclave. On the more critical side, if I had to be picky, more steering input was needed on those sweeping curves and you could feel the size and width of the SUV during those manoeuvres. Nowadays, many SUVS can feel like a crossover or hatchback, but the Enclave still retains that larger SUV-feel.
 
In Conclusion

At a starting price of $49,690 for FWD or $52,690 in AWD, the Enclave serves as a reasonably priced choice amongst its competition. The Air Ionizer, an eight-inch easy-to-use digital touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a hands-free liftgate come standard, but you would have to move up to receive heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row, a power-folding third row seat and a plethora of safety technology.

All in all, the 2018 Buick Enclave has improved immensely from its more modern exterior silhouette to its more spacious cabin filled with plenty of technological goodies. Its new Avenir sub-brand places Buick into the luxury discussion with premium touches previously not found.






 

 

First Drive – 2018 Range Rover Velar

Palm Springs, CA – The modern re-branding of Land Rover is under way. The 67-year-run of Defender has ended and is soon start anew; the all-new Discovery has taken a shift away from boxiness into a more typical rounded-silhouette SUV; and now the Velar, the newest vehicle creation from the British brand, stamps that transformation away from boxy with a rakish roofline.

The 2018 Range Rover Velar is a mid-size SUV that sits in-between the entry-level Evoque and the larger Range Rover Sport. Its overall shape is long and low, but its ground clearance still remains to retain its capable off-road action synonymous with Land Rover Range Rover history.

The width of the Velar is the only measurement that places is it in the middle of its siblings. On one hand, the Velar is only 33 mm longer than Sport, but 455 mm longer than Evoque; while its height is 135 mm shorter than Sport and only 5 mm shorter than Evoque.



Styling takes on a refined, simplistic approach

The California desert destination of Palm Springs wasn't chosen by accident as the location for the Velar's first drive program.

“Palm Springs is a mecca for desert modernism, and that's similar to the design philosophy of the Velar: reduction of lines, simplicity and cleanliness,” explains Gerry McGovern, Chief Design Officer, Land Rover.

The Velar resembles the look of the Jaguar F-Pace – built on the same platform – but takes it to another level of refinement. This is most evident by its standard super-slim LED headlights and flush door handles that allow the Velar's fluid motion to be paramount. These specific touches create a solid design foundation, also contributing to its driving capabilities with a drag coefficient of 0.32 – the best aerodynamic mark ever for the brand.



Its exterior presence may be the initial draw, but its insides equal in impressiveness and continues the visually reductive approach. Inside is where the entire brand needed the most work and the Velar takes on that challenge with an elegant simplicity and sophisticated sanctuary.

The insides are based on a strong horizontal emphasis that centres around twin 10-inch touchscreens that Range Rover is calling the Touch Pro Duo system. The two screens sit on top of one another flanked by two scroll buttons and a central volume knob. It's all done in a clean, organized fashion that's easy-to-understand and responsively quick.



A standout feature is below the top screen. With a touch of your finger, the driver or passenger can switch from controlling his or her massaging seats to switching radio stations, all the while keeping navigation on the main screen. Swipes are effortless with sophisticated technology as its core. In addition, a 12.3-inch TFT cluster (5-inch for the base model) adds to the its refined look with an available heads-up display with four customizable modes.

The rest of the insides are treated with a clean soft-leather dash, while the heated and ventilated seats are adorned with the same leather treatment or Kvadrat, a premium alternative made primarily of wool. Fine details, such as dual flat-surface armrests aid in a comfortable ride that allows you to sit back, relax and take in a massage.



The Velar's design is unquestionably classy, but at times that gets in the way of practicality. One improvement that should be looked into is the size of its glove box and cubby compartments. Even though, there's a little opening behind the centre console, there's no spot in the front that was big enough to fit my DSLR camera. And what does that say for iPads or larger items? Considering this is an SUV built for families, and potential road trips, Land Rover should have shied away from sleekness all around on the inside and allowed for more storage.

In the rear, passengers receive standard headroom and legroom despite its rakish roofline. As for cargo space, the Velar opens up to 1,985 litres when the second row is folded down, and 558 litres for just the trunk.



Powertrain choices and off-road chops

Like most Jaguar Land Rover vehicles, the Velar receives both a gasoline and diesel powertrain. In Canada, the turbodiesel inline-four acts as the base option – a 247-hp turbo, 2.0-litre inline-four gas version takes on that role in the United States – with 180 hp and an impressive 317 lb-ft of torque. The single gas version is a horsepower-heavy 3.0-litre V6 that produces 380 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Both options are matched to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and an all-wheel-drive setup with Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD).

The diesel may be optimal from a price standpoint that begins at $62,000, but the V6, starting at $69,000, comes standard with a class-leading air suspension that raises the SUV up to 9.9-inches from 8, which can also come down to 6, if needed. Additionally, it enables the Velar to ford through 25.6-inches of water. 



On this day, its wading depth wouldn't be tested, but we were sent off in the V6 to a long stretch of off-road trails through the San Bernadino National Forest. That's where this vehicles shined; not for being the best in the off-road business – other Land Rover Range Rover products can take that medal – but because its shorter and sleeker SUV-package can still climb over mid-size rocks and get through harsh dirt trails without breaking too much of a sweat. Its rear design is so sophisticated, it even keeps dirt in most situations from landing on the back screen.

During the more flat off-road surfaces, the Velar was placed in regular terrain mode, but as the route became trickier, the Terrain Response Control system came into play. It can be optimized for the likes of sand, mud and snow, along with customizable suspension and steering features such as Dynamic, Comfort and Eco that significantly change the feeling behind the wheel.



It's nice to see the Velar in an off-road setting with other Rovers and Jeeps, but its main use by its customer base will be on the paved road. If you're looking for more power and clearance – the V6 will do the job; while the diesel excels in initial acceleration and better fuel economy (8.7 L/100 km was observed on the drive). However in both respects, the Velar isn't the most powerful SUV on the market, nor the most fuel efficient; it sits in a middle-of-the-road comfort zone.

As for steering, the Velar only needed small inputs to guide through a curvy slalom drive. The reaction of the vehicle was crisp and direct without much body roll when it's not off-roading. On the highway, both rides were fairly quiet, blocking out most of the outside noise mirroring the calmness of its interior.

Verdict

The all-new 2018 Range Rover Velar certainly fills a gap at a time when consumers are in desperate need of an SUV fix. Diesel may be the more frugal and fuel-efficient option, but the British brand expects more loaded V6s to be purchased at a rate of eight in ten.

The Velar can be summed up as one of the best overall mid-size SUVs in its segment. Outside of its off-roading abilities, the Velar stands out on design both inside and out, with a little towing on the side. Those features form a great package that places it in a good spot as it competes with the likes of the Porsche Macan and Cayenne, Audi Q5, BMW X4 and X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLC and GLE.

First Drive: 2018 Chevrolet Traverse

Moncton, NB – As consumers move from sedans to SUVs, Chevrolet is stepping up its game with the all-new 2018 mid-size Chevrolet Traverse. It's been a forgotten nameplate since its inception in 2009 save for a 2013 facelift, and dwindling sales have followed suit. 

In a market where perception can quickly become reality, the Traverse couldn't get by with minor adjustments. Even though SUV sales are booming, the three-row Traverse needed a complete overhaul to compete against segment-heavyweights including the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Hyundai Santa Fe, and that's not even the whole lot.

The 2018 Traverse has shed its past starting with a new platform, shape, engine, transmission, suspension and technology. Most importantly the words 'best-in-class' can now be thrown around, as it provides plenty of interior comforts along with space and versatility.



More modern, more spacious

The new Traverse takes on a more boxy frame compared to the more rounded hatchback-y look it used to own. It's not as bold and in-your-face as the Ford Explorer – the vehicle Chevrolet is calling its direct competitor – rather, it takes on body creases, a larger two-stack grille and sleeker headlights. The new look won't wow, nor does it offend. All-in-all its an attractive, more truck-like vehicle that can now places itself in the middle of the mid-size SUV conversation.



Overall length stays pretty much in tact, except for an two-inch expansion of its wheelbase. It may seem minor, but that little extra room allows for best-in-class maximum passenger volume (4,485 litres), legroom in the third row (856 mm), and cargo space beyond the first row (2,789 litres). That expansion is most evident in the third row with plenty of headroom to spare and enough legroom to get by. Yes, I know it says best-in-class third row legroom, I just wouldn't get overly excited about it. On the flip side, sliding second-row seats tip the seat up and move forward to allow for easy passenger access into the third row.

On the base model, eight seats are standard with a bench in both the second and third row. Our testers for this first drive program in Moncton – a second-tier LT and top-of-the-line High Country – both sported the volume-selling, seven-seater with captain's chairs in the middle row, a configuration that comes standard starting at the LT trim.

As for interior materials, it naturally gets better as you move up the trim line. The High Country version is draped in a stunning tan leather and complemented with wood and suede accents. It doesn't feel like a Chevy, but it also doesn't cost like a Chevy either coming in at $60,390. On the LT Cloth trim, you're treated to simple, yet comfortable cloth seats. There are plastic touches around, but it's all done in a modern and organized fashion pleasing to the eye.



Like all Chevrolet products, the Traverse comes with a wide array of technologies that include standard features in 4G LTE WiFi with hotspot capability, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, Teen Driver, Rear Vision Camera, and a Rear Seat Reminder chime to go along with its seven-inch Multi-Link infotainment unit.

Other notable features that become available beyond the base LS are a hidden storage slot that opens up behind the infotainment screen, a hands-free liftgate that emits a bowtie sign signalling where to kick for the trunk to open, wireless charging, ventilated seats, heated rear seats, and a plethora of safety technologies.

New engine, smooth drive

As aforementioned, under the hood of the Traverse is a new 3.6-litre V6 engine that ups its output to 305 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque that's matched to a new nine-speed automatic transmission with options of front- and all-wheel drive available. Later this year, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder will enter the fray, but only for the upcoming sporty RS version.

The new engine not only improves on power – previous hp was rated at 281 – it improves on fuel economy with ratings of 13.7 L/100 km in the city and 9.4 L/100 km on the highway in all-wheel-drive; while front-wheel-drive clocks in at 12.9 and 8.7, respectively. The Traverse is able to save on gas through a seven percent weight reduction with the use of high-strength steel and computer-aided designs.

The weight savings factor into the drive, as the Traverse felt nimble and ready-to-go throughout the journey. Initial acceleration is more brisk than expected with a lot of torque kicking in. Otherwise, the transmission is a dream with seamless transitions that reflect the quiet nature of the ride. If there's one standout in the Traverse's ride quality it has to be its peaceful ride, something a family might desperately need during those oh so rare moments of family silence.

Other technical features include electric power steering, towing up to 5,000 lbs on all trims except LS, traction mode selection that includes off-roading on AWD models, and Active Return, a system that assists the driver in keeping the vehicle centred through slight steering adjustments. 

Verdict

The Chevrolet Traverse was in major need of an overhaul after getting a bit old in the tooth. At a starting cost of $36,790, the Traverse packs in plenty of value to go along with better styling and more interior space. There also are only a few combinations to choose from to not confuse customers, a total of 136 build possibilities have been simplified down to 11.

With the rise of SUV sales, the Traverse shouldn't have a problem reaching more customers, as its all-new second-generation version touches all the key boxes of what families look for: size, versatility, connectivity, comfort and performance. It even adds a sizable amount of towing and off-roading prowess when needed.

First Drive – 2018 Honda Odyssey: the modernized minivan

Charlottetown, PEI – The stigma that comes with owning a minivan can be harsh. Most of it is mental, as parents battle a full-on “soccer mom” image, while jealousy of friends without kids or empty nesters rage on.

Regardless whether that's a reality or not, families with multiple kids can benefit from the versatility and convenience a minivan brings. And that's why Chrysler re-branded and re-designed its Pacifica minivan in 2016 – formerly the Chrysler Town & Country – and for this year, it was Honda's turn to showcase how good a minivan can be with its all-new 2018 Odyssey.

“The 2018 Honda Odyssey has everything you need in a minivan,” explains Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Honda Canada, at a first drive program in Charlottetown, PEI.

With the surge in new mid- and full-size SUVs on the market, more options have been presented, making the choice of a full-size SUV or minivan not so clear cut. With automakers sprucing up their minivan offerings, it's hard to argue with Leclerc. Honda has made it easy for families to live with a minivan by packing the eight-passenger hauler with new technologies, more connectivity, better fuel economy, easy entry and exit, more interior and cargo space, as well as standard safety features not seen anywhere else.

As for its looks – it's hard to change a boxy behemoth, but Honda has found a way – like the Pacifica – to round out its frame and give it more character with sharper edges and cut lines. It's front fascia led by its chrome grille is reminiscent of the Honda Pilot, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's styling is safe, but in the end, it's a minivan, so safe is probably the right way to go.

Comfort and entertainment awaits inside

Pull on the door handle, and let those sliding doors work their magic. Sliding doors are the most recognizable staple in any minivan, and no longer do we have to manually slide them with force. And with no all-wheel-drive option, that step up is low-to-the-ground – 35 mm lower than the previous iteration – allowing children to easily hop in and out.

But that's not all, as my commercial voice takes over. Honda's second row seating are called “Magic Seats.” With a seven-seat configuration (only two seats in the second row), the magic seats can slide side-to-side or forward-and-back for people to access the back row with plenty of room, and this can be done with a child seat still attached. In addition, these second row seats can either slide together or further apart, which could be crucial to surviving the squabbles that way take place on a lengthy road trip. The only catch is the middle second-row seat has to be physically removed by pulling a few latches, so as easy as this all sounds, there's still a little work to be done.

New high-resolution technology screens modernize the cockpit with a seven-inch TFT unit and an eight-inch touchscreen situated on the leather-filled dash. The navigation system can be finicky at times, but that can be avoided by using Apple Car Play and Android Auto functions through your mobile device, saving you money by moving down a trim or two. A 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability comes in the top Touring trim allowing everyone to stay connected while on the road.

Also featured in the top trims are large and comfortable soft leather seating in the front row, as well as an abundance of technology. Two new technology features: CabinWatch (on Touring trim) and CabinTalk (starting at EX-L trim) aim at easing parental worries and allowing for better communication without causing driver distraction through the press of a button. For CabinWatch, a ceiling-mounted camera keeps an eye on both back rows; while CabinTalk allows the front-row occupants to talk to the back row passengers through the rear speakers, muting audio in their headphones.

Safety is imperative for family hauling, and the Odyssey ticks many boxes with a standard suite of Honda Sensing safety technology that includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, Collision Mitigation Braking System for vehicles and pedestrians, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning. Lane Watch and Blind Spot Information System is available as you go up trim levels.

How does it drive?

Driving is always secondary when it comes to a minivan. It won't be the sole reason one chooses a model, but it plays a part in the decision making process.

The 2018 Odyssey has one engine offering: a direct-injected 3.5-litre V6 that produces 280 hp and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. Both numbers are up from the 2017 model by 30 hp and 12 lb.-ft. of torque, but the interesting story comes in the form of a 10-speed automatic transmission for the upper trims (a nine-speed automatic is the standard option).



The 10-speed gearbox is pretty seamless on the road helping it achieve a class-leading 12.2/8.5/10.6 fuel economy split (city/highway/combined in L/100 km) with the aid of a variable cylinder management system. But it's not just the gearbox that's non-disruptive; the whole vehicle is a quiet sanctuary when cruising with no floor vibrations and the placement of acoustic glass and windshield to allow conversation to flow effortlessly.

When pushed, especially uphill, the Odyssey – like many other larger utes – blurts out faint huffing noises to lug its 2,086 kg frame. It's not the quickest vehicle in the lot, but it's not supposed to be, and the ride stays comfortable and relaxed whether on the highway or in the city, and even stays composed on shoddy roads. The electronic steering corners more like an SUV or crossover with precision and decent road feel.

The only thing that needs to go is its electronic gear shift. It's situated below the touchscreen in order to provide more room for cubby holes, but ends up only being an irritant for the driver. It doesn't even look good with its blocky buttons, and most importantly, it's difficult and slow to use due to its “trigger-type” reverse button, especially on three-point turns.

Verdict

The all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey does have everything you need in a minivan. It really just comes down to whether you can cope with the stigma attached to these minivans, but these automakers are making it easy to shed those worries with better styling, added comfort and technology, versatility and cargo space, and class-leading fuel economy numbers that saw me achieve a combined 9.5 L/100 km on my tour of Charlottetown.

It's starting price of $34,890 is higher than others on the market, but it also comes standard with many features including heated seats and a suite of safety equipment not found at the base trim level. For the base price, it's a reasonable package received, and a lot better deal than the Touring model that tops out at $50,290 – a steep price to pay for LED headlamps and fog lights, Wi-Fi, CabinWatch and a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The 2018 Honda Odyssey puts some spice back into the minivan segment and will give the Chrysler Pacifica a run for its money. The Odyssey arrives at dealerships on June 8.

First Drive – 2018 Chevrolet Equinox: it's all about timing

 

Niagara, ON – Whenever a new vehicle goes through a generational cycle, a spike in sales is imperative. With the compact crossover segment in a current sales boom, there's no better time to release the all-new 2018 Equinox and reap the rewards.

The timing of the Equinox's release has thus far panned out. Through March 2017, the Equinox has been on a surge, sitting in sixth position with a 43.7 percent year-over-year Canadian sales jump.

The Equinox has not gone through a major makeover since 2010, making the third-generation model one of the most, if not the most, important vehicle for the Chevrolet brand, as it takes on the likes of the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Toyota Rav4, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, and the list can keep going on.



Chevrolet is going into battle with a product that's shorter and lighter, yet more spacious than its previous iteration. Weight has been reduced by 181 kg (400 lbs.), thanks in large part to its shorter frame, as well as its chassis being made of high-strength steel. But Chevrolet used a little ingenuity to find more cargo space with an added 3 cu.-ft. of storage space underneath the trunk for a maximum cargo space (while the second row is folded flat) of 1,798 litres.

Another major change comes under the hood with three new engine choices being offered – two gas versions and a diesel. They will all be released at different times, starting with the currently available turbocharged, 1.5-litre four-cylinder that produces 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque. The base unit is matched only to a six-speed automatic transmission with a choice of standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) or the optional all-wheel-drive (AWD).

If those numbers seem a bit odd – they are. The 2018 version's horsepower gets lowered 12 hp, while its torque gets a boost of 31 lb-ft. The reduction in weight and additional torque create the necessary power for the Equinox to keep pace with other vehicles on the road, as well as those in its segment.



In June, production will begin on the 2.0-litre four-cylinder that has 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission geared for impressive fuel economy. To be followed in the fall with a segment-first 1.5-litre diesel powertrain that generates 136 hp and a whopping 236 lb-ft of torque paired to that same six-speed automatic unit. According to Chevrolet Canada, the diesel will achieve segment-leading highway and combined fuel economy rated at 7.4 L/100 km in the city, 5.7 L/100 km on the highway and a 6.9 L/100 km combined.



But for this first drive program around the scenic roads of Niagara, Ontario, our chariot was the volume-selling 1.5-litre unit. The drive was quiet, unassuming and smooth – a perfect companion around the equally-smooth roads of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls. Everything about it was comfortable from its two-tone leather seats (a Premier trim addition) to its decent amount of headroom and legroom in both rows. Even its centre console acted as the perfect armrest while navigating through city traffic or on the highway.

 

When cruising, the Equinox proved its worth as an errands-soldier for families. However, when pushed, the gearbox gets a little noisy with some high revving, but that comes with the crossover territory. Even though, it won't set any speed records, the ute handles sharp turns effectively without need for correction or much body roll. Steering finds a nice, middle-of-the-road balanced setting that's not to loose, allowing you to fully keep control on turns.

According to Chevrolet Canada's presentation, the Equinox is being labelled as the 'perfect balance of style and function' – and it totally makes sense. Not only is its interior well crafted with soft-touch materials (especially noticeable in the Premier trim provided), it's versatile with room to fit five passengers comfortably, carry a big load with the second row folded flat, or tow up to 1,500 pounds. In addition, I was able to achieve a 7.8 L/100 combined fuel economy rating – a notch below its official combined AWD rating of 7.9.



As smooth as it drives, one of its best attributes comes down to value. Like other Chevrolet products, the Equinox possesses many standard features such as a rear vision camera, On Star with 4G LTE WiFi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a parental control safety system called Teen Driver, a seven-inch touchscreen with MyLink, standard stop/start technology, heated front seats and heated rear view mirrors. It's a lot to receive starting at a price of $26,995 that already includes freight and A/C tax.

As you move up the ladder, the prices go up – all the way to a starting price of $35,395 for the Premier AWD, but that even comes at a discount from the previous iteration that didn't possess even close to the amount of technology and elevated design.



The all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox has all the tools to be a successful crossover at a time when crossovers are in high demand. It's not the most exciting crossover offered, but it offers a complete package of design, value and reasonable fuel economy, only to be made better by the soon-to-market diesel in the fall that will resonate with many families.

First Drive – 2017 Land Rover Discovery: still the all-versatile warrior

St. George, UT – Snow-covered mountain peaks, large red rock formations and a deep sand dune were all part of a playground for the all-new 2017 Land Rover Discovery. Seems fitting for the capabilities of a Land Rover product, even though they're customers rarely taken to task. On this two-day journey through the heart of both Utah and Arizona desert country that saw us cross into Zion National Park and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Land Rover aimed to prove how capable the newly-sculpted Discovery still is.

The Discovery nameplate may not be new globally, but in North America, it's taking over for the LR4. A refreshing change to an off-roading SUV that needed a complete overhaul from its mundane name to its aging boxy style. Canadian sales stayed status quo for the LR4 in 2016, but the British brand needed to aspire for more than triple digit sales numbers, which meant being niche in its off-road capabilities and not in the looks department as well.



A transformation in design

At 2,080 kg – 20 percent lighter (480 kg) than the LR4 with most of its construction out of aluminum – the Discovery resembles other luxury SUVs with a rounded, more aggressively-sculpted appearance. According to Phil Simmons, Land Rover’s Studio Director for Exterior Design, Land Rover wanted to “build on the [Range Rover] Evoque's styling cues that resonated emotionally with customers. A progressive more adventurous design that goes along with the brand's heritage.”

The driving force behind the sleek look comes down to aerodynamics – the 2017 model achieves a coefficient drag of 0.33. The smooth front corners remove bulk in front of the wheel allowing it to not only look planted, but have air flow around the sides to the back of the wheel arch, reducing wind noise and fuel economy in the process. The rear end takes on a whole new look with horizontal LED taillights and an off-centred license plate that bucks the trend.



Its exterior takes a while to get used to, but don't judge a book by its cover. This Discovery can still sit seven, has class leading ground clearance of 283 mm, 900 mm of wading depth when in need of some refreshment, can climb large mountains and tow up to 3,500 kg. And outside of the towing, that's exactly what we accomplished, and all of that with ease.

Conquering challenges along the way

Before we get into its on-road and off-road prowess, let's go over the two engine choices offered: a supercharged, 340-hp 3.0-litre V6 gas unit with 332 lb.-ft. of torque and a turbocharged, 254-hp 3.0-litre diesel V-6 with an impressive 443 lb.-ft. of torque. Both are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission and a top-of-the-line four-wheel-drive (4x4) system.

That 4x4 system is what separates the contenders from the pretenders and Land Rover has numerous drive modes that include: Auto, Rock/Crawl, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts and Sand. Land Rover didn't hold back on the Discovery's capabilities, putting on a first class presentation of its skills with no stone left unturned.



Sandy trails were just an appetizer for the Discovery, as the diesel unit powered through those quicksand dips, turns and inclines with only minor moments of fear, but that was more to do with the driver getting acquainted with the sandy terrain.

Once settled in, it was those Coral Pink Dunes that teleported us to a scene in a modernized movie version of Lawrence of Arabia. The sand was deep, the inclines steep, and the Discovery had to find its own lines to gain any traction. After watching the lead instructor get bogged down in some heavy sand twice, it was clear this was no easy task, but this is why our tire pressure was lowered. Amazingly, every single Discovery made its way up, down and sideways through the dunes. The key was keeping momentum and powering ahead, and when done successfully without driver error, the Discovery made it past every challenge.

The last major off-road obstacle was a rock crawl. Once again, this wasn't your typical trail, but plenty of instructors were on-hand. The rocks were large, edgy, and at times, they appeared never ending. The Discovery was put in low-range and outside of a little slip right at the beginning, yours truly made a slow crawl through the most difficult rocks without any second attempts. I've been with other capable off-roaders, granted not on the same course nor with these amount of instructors, but that typically comes with a few gear shifts to get the job accomplished.



Calm, composed and quiet

The off-road obstacles were clearly the highlight of this first drive. But on reflection, it was the on-road component that became the most impressive part. And before you roll your eyes, give me a second to explain.

We expect a Land Rover to be able to be an off-road warrior – it's been doing that since its inception. What makes this new version unique is that it turns into a quiet and composed drive that allows all occupants to sit back and enjoy the plush luxuries of its cockpit. It's all about versatility and the fact that it can transform into a regular SUV with improved fuel economy – we managed a combined 10.5 L/100 km in the diesel version and 8.9 L/100 in the gas model in mostly highway driving – gives it an edge over its luxury competitors.



The LR4 never had great handling skills, but for a girthy SUV, that comes with the territory. For 2017, the Discovery still isn't the easiest to manoeuvre, but advancements have been made with turning more direct and in less need of wheel correction. In addition, braking tended to be a little slow and in need of additional pressure, but that's something that can be worked out over time.

Overall, the gas and diesel powertrains were similar rides. A few key differences of note came down to acceleration and off-road climbs. The gas version showed better chops when in need of some acceleration on the highway or while navigating city streets. On the other hand, the diesel accessed that extra amount of torque to perform some difficult rock climbs at an easier rate.

Tech-savvy interior

The technology used in its off-roading capabilities may be equal to the ones found inside. The layout is easy to understand and filled with gadgets that include 21 storage bins, nine USB ports, six 12-volt power outlets, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a rotary transmission dial. The only downside was its new 10-inch touchscreen that may use vibrant colours and graphics, but became difficult to use with slow reaction times and buttons too small to accurately press when scrolling through radio stations and other functions.

 

As frustrating as the touchscreen can be, Land Rover makes up for it in the cargo department. A one-piece liftgate breaks away from the previous split setup and supplies a handy hop-on shelf that can hold three people. In total, there is 2,500 litres of cargo space with both rows folded down, which reduces to 2,406 litres in the seven-passenger setup. Seat folding controls are made easy with electronic switches in the trunk or on the touchscreen that fold in 14 seconds. If only the third row needs to be flattened, the second row intelligently slides forward to allow for a fully flat canvass.

Conclusion

The 2017 Land Rover Discovery turns a chapter on the boxy-look we've all grown accustomed to. Its new sleek and rounded exterior may resemble a similar tone like most luxury SUVs on the market, but it's a whole lot more. The Discovery showed its strengths during rock climbs and sand dunes, but its transformation into a quiet and comfortable street cruiser makes it the total package.

Not only will it appeal to more consumers, it has everything that was rugged and versatile about the LR4 carried over along with more technology and improved fuel economy. The Discovery will start at $61,500 and go up to $82,500 with Canadian sales to begin in May.



 

A Ford showcase of winter performance

Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci, QC – Depending on where you live, winters in Canada can be harsh with snow- and ice-covered roads to tackle on everyday commutes. 2017 has taken that a step further as piles of snow have touched down across the country from the west to east coast.

Some may see this cold and snowy weather as a negative, but there's another side to this coin, and that's how much fun you can have in it. Snowboarding or tobogganing are always great choices, but Ford had a different plan in mind, and that was to show off two very distinct vehicles in its production line – the Ford F-150 Raptor pickup and the Ford Focus RS.



The Raptor and Focus RS are high-performance variants, and Ford wanted a host of journalists to see how well they can tackle the snow, ice and even muddy tracks of the Mecaglisse Motorsport Complex, a few hours north of Montreal.

Both products were fitted with winter foot gear: BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s for the Raptor and Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4s for the RS, which switched to studded tires for a closed-course off-road session.

The all-conquering Ford F-150 Raptor

The Raptor is all about conquering various terrain, and the ice and snow of Mecaglisse would be no exception. To fully test the truck out, a street and off-road trail section were set up. We won't get too much into the street portion, as it did its business in routine fashion. The few takeaways were a quieter ride than expected, as well as a smooth transition of gear changes up and down its new 10-speed unit. Outside of that, it charged through the snow and handled those skinny roads gracefully. When needing to back out or make a three-point turn, it was still as challenging as any truck would be.

The true test came down to the off-road trail that was littered with icy patches and a splashy mud pit. With its 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 engine producing 450 hp and 510 lb.-ft. of torque – increased numbers from the outgoing V-8 – the Raptor had no issues getting going; it was just a matter of staying on track.



Most of the time, staying balanced on ice has more to do with the driver than the vehicle. If the driver understands the proper techniques of lifting and accelerating when necessary to gain traction, the truck will do the proper work. However, all of that was achieved with once again, a smooth determination that stayed relatively balanced and comfortable at all times. There was no bouncing, sliding or vibrating around the cockpit, leading to a composed ride that felt lighter, thanks to a weight savings of 227 kg from the use of military grade, aluminum alloy for the body and high strength steel for the frame.

The driver's decisions could be key in any icy situation, but it was the Raptor that cut through those divots like a champ, especially the mud pit. With exceptional ground clearance and absorbent FOX Racing Shox under the chassis that stiffen the suspension, the Raptor powered through without any damage to the underbody. We even put it in Sport mode on the second run, and the same results were achieved at a quicker pace.

Slip and sliding with the Focus RS

The Ford Focus RS was made for extreme conditions. Perhaps, Ford had in mind some race tracks and rally courses littered with pavement and dirt, but the icy and drift-worthy track of Mecaglisse fits right in. The combination of the RS' 2.3-litre EcoBoost inline-four that produces an impressive 350 hp and 350 lb.-ft. of torque, a standard six-speed manual gearbox, and an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system with torque vectoring, makes for one eventful day in a hot hatch.

On this particular day, we wouldn't be testing out its straight line speed; rather we would see first hand its handling prowess, stability, braking abilities and pure fun factor. Just like the Raptor, the Focus RS handled a different closed off course with ease. Its twin-scroll turbocharger assisted on initial acceleration which quickly responded and pushed ahead, never getting bogged down in the snow. Furthermore, it was able to stop in a quick fashion when needed.

There are four drive modes: Normal, Sport, Track and Drift, but drift would be the only option on this day. The most notable moment was around an icy circle without any traction. The RS slid its way tippy-toeing at first and then gradually finding traction on the outside snow in pure drift style. Much of this balance is due to the AWD and torque vectoring that can send 70 of its engine power to its rear wheels, and 100 percent of that to either side, eliminating any understeer. The system works in such a rapid pace through the monitoring of multiple vehicle sensors 100 times per second.

Conclusion

It's rare for the Ford F-150 Raptor and Focus RS to come together at one event, but this true winter test showed the extreme capabilities of both variant products. The Raptor and Focus RS stayed balanced and wanting more, and the best part about it was, you knew both machines could be pushed even further.

The starting prices of $48,418 for the Focus RS and $68,399 for the Raptor won't be the cheapest out there, but that's what makes them variants. This was only a winter test, but if they can be so smooth and effective in these situations, can you imagine what both are capable of the rest of the time?

First Drive – 2017 Hyundai Ioniq: the power of three

Kelowna, BC – It seems like each month another automaker rolls out a new alternative powertrain vehicle. It's simply the wave of the future, but one that hasn't caught on in the sales department.

Hyundai is hoping to change that static trajectory with its first dedicated electrified vehicle – the Ioniq. The name sounds a bit futuristic, but this will be one of many new eco models – 28 to be exact between Hyundai, Genesis, and sister brand Kia – by 2020. According to Hyundai CEO and president Don Romano, “we're in this alternative powertrain for the long haul...we don't know what that ultimate solution will be, and it may just be a combination of all.”

And with the Ioniq, it's clear Hyundai isn't putting its eggs in just one basket with three drivetrains: hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric. The first two to be released to the public are the hybrid and electric, and those versions were available to test on this exclusive test drive in Kelowna, BC. The plug-in hybrid will be released closer to the end of the year.



It can be tricky to find a mild climate in February, especially in Canada, and that would be the case on the snowy streets of Kelowna after a 20 cms snowfall. Not an ideal setting for an electrified vehicle, but sometimes that's the unexpected way life is, and the one positive it provided was the opportunity for a practical situational weather test.

As much as the Ioniq was built for optimal fuel efficiency, Hyundai made sure that the look and feel of the vehicle would appeal to everyday consumers. Therefore, we see the combination of style and substance that Hyundai is calling 'Visual Aero.'  Both the hybrid and all-electric versions start with a forward-moving aerodynamic silhouette that provides some nice curves and visuals for the hatch, along with a class-leading drag coefficient of 0.24 that is supported by air curtains that divert airflow.



The big difference between the two is found smack dab in its grille. The hybrid sports Hyundai's signature hexagonal grille with rakish horizontal slats, while the electric has the same shape but with the entire grille blacked out. The blacked out look may stand out more, but it's not the better of the two. The hybrid grille simply adds more character to its exterior and provides a better design flow throughout. The electric version does receive its own styling for its bi-xenon headlights and LED taillights.

Without styling, it's hard to break in any new product, but the key to Ioniq is clearly in its powertrains. The hybrid utilizes a new direct-injection 1.6-litre Atkinson four-cylinder engine that produces 104 hp and 109 lb.-ft. of torque that's matched to a six-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) – the same setup found in the new Kia Niro. When combined with a 32 kW electronic motor that's powered by 1.56 kWh lithium-ion battery, the total performance of the vehicle ramps up to 139 hp and a whopping 195 lb.-ft. of torque. In addition, the hybrid has a world's first consolidated 12-volt battery, which can be accessed when a jump start is needed.

The all-electric version naturally discards the gas engine and runs solely on an 88 kW electric motor in conjunction with a 28 kWh lithium-ion battery and matched to a single-speed reduction gear shifter to a tune of 118 hp and 218 lb.-ft. of torque. The EV can go a fairly long distance, up to 200 km/h on a full charge that takes up to 4.5 hours on a Level 2 charging station and only 30 minutes on a Level 3.



There are several key attributes to the electric system. The first is a battery management system that pre-warms the battery while charging for a 14 percent improvement in quick charge time. Secondly, a new heat pumping system reduces the use of the Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning System (HVAC) that allows an increase of 16.1 percent driving range.

The day started in the electric version that was fully charged up and ready to go. Initial acceleration was championed by its instant torque, as it pushed forward in the hotel complex in a quiet and smooth manner. Once hitting the main roads, it was quickly discovered that this drive would be more about traction than gradual coasting. It was a balancing act for an EV drive, as it's rare to press the accelerator to the max, quickly draining the battery in the process. Sport mode is available, and that's a bonus for those moments when the pace needs to be picked up.



With the heating only slightly on, the initial range was lowered to 184 kms, and after a lengthy hour and a half drive, we managed to still have 96 kms left thanks to a sophisticated regenerative braking system that worked effectively when coasting or braking without the typical EV sounds. For more control of the regenerating process, there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel with three levels that controls the aggression of energy recuperation.

From a gas savings perspective, the Ioniq electric did its job as it's officially rated ahead of some heavy hitters in the Chevrolet Bolt, Volkswagen e-Golf and Nissan Leaf with a combined fuel economy of 1.7 Le/100 km. There were some traction issues, as the weight of the battery is found under the second row, so this car wouldn't be the recommended choice during a cold and heavy snowfall for various reasons.


When switching to the hybrid, an entirely different picture was painted. The hybrid possessed plenty of traction, and it didn't just look like a regular gas car, it drove like one as well. The DCT enhances the drive with a more rapid throttle response and overall lively drive that was demonstrated during a handling exercise. The Ioniq hybrid was placed into Sport mode and accelerated briskly to the stopping zone. After that, it was all about its dutiful handling through a slalom with quick reactions to minor steering inputs from its flat-bottomed steering wheel. It didn't carry the overwhelming speed needed for a exhilarating ride, but in the end, it's a hybrid, and that will always be structured to maximize fuel economy over speed. And when you see a combined 4.9 L/100 km fuel economy rating as I did at the end of the drive, you'll understand why and be happy about it.

The drive through the picturesque roads of Kelowna through the vast wineries was pleasant. Very little road noise or vibrations were felt in an overall comfortable ride in a cabin that was neatly organized, comfortable and easily laid out through its seven- or optional eight-inch screen and LCD information screens. Hyundai uses a host of recycled or eco-friendly materials such as sugar cane and powdered wood that doesn't get noticed, which is a win-win for the owner and the environment. The one thing that became a nuisance while driving was visibility. Yes, the snow had an impact on this, but the split rear window was too narrow causing difficulty at certain times along the drive. 



Technology features are abundant throughout the trim lines, but the Ioniq receives a few standards that include heated front seats, a rear view camera, as well as Apple Car Play and Android Auto. For heated rear seats, you need to go up a trim level from the base; while a heated steering wheel is standard on all trims except for the base hybrid. Other safety technology options include Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection.  

Cargo space in all Ioniq versions are similar with a total of 3,474 litres in the hybrid with the second row down, while the electric gets 3,375. Cargo space is identical in the passenger compartment areas, and it only changes in the trunk with the hybrid receiving 100 litres more for a total of 750.



The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq will be on sale shortly at a starting hybrid price of $24,000. Other prices will follow, as the Ioniq attempts to be the value option that competes head-on with the Toyota Prius for its hybrid and the new Chevrolet Bolt when it comes to all-electric. Hyundai will be hoping that its price advantage, multiple powertrain options and large cargo area become a decisive turning point for buyers.

The concentration of sales will clearly be in the provinces of British Colombia, Ontario and Quebec where government incentives can tip the scale in making the electric version max out in Ontario at $14,000 less than the asking price. The hybrid will only receive a $500 break in Quebec, but when the plug-in version arrives that can save up to $8,200.

Test Drive – 2016 BMW 650i xDrive Cabriolet

The 6-series is a unique proposition from BMW filling the brand’s void of a high-end coupe in its line-up. Making its debut in 1976, the model was discontinued at the end of the 1980’s only to be resurrected in 2003. And what a comeback it was.

The 6-series featured a sporty exterior accentuated by drooping taillights and BMW’s second implementation of the controversial split trunk lid designed by Chris Bangle, after the E65 7-series. The 6-series gave the now-defunct Mercedes CL coupe a run for its money.

The third-generation of the 6-series, launched in 2011, is a physical representation of what a 7-series coupe would look like sans two doors. With its low profile and sweeping styling, the new 6-series is a strong contender against current Mercedes high-end coupes like the SL and the S-class coupe. For those who need more room than the SL’s two seats, and can’t imagine spending over $150,000 on a 2-door S-Class, the 6-series is a perfect blend of space and value in the high-end segment. One might even argue that the 6-series, like the X6, is inventing its own category by providing a unique offering. Luckily, I had the opportunity to get behind the 6-series to put it to the test.



My tester was a 650i convertible equipped with a twin-turbo, 4.4-litre eight-cylinder engine outputting 445 hp at 5,500 rpm. Those wanting a smaller engine would have to trade out two cylinders for two more doors, as the 4-door Gran Coupe is the only 6-series offered with a 3-litre six-cylinder engine.

Both engine choices are paired with ZF-derived eight-speed automatics as standard equipment. This lively transmission shifts rapidly between gears, and does a fantastic job of matching the driver’s throttle requirement with the relevant gear. Those seeking a clutch pedal for some shifting pleasure will be hard-pressed to find one on anything less than an M6.

The 650i has had a mid-cycle refresh since its third-generation launch, but only a true BMW aficionado can point out what’s changed. While the changes are mild, the original futuristic design still proves timeless, and still very much in line with the latest 7-series design language. The minor design changes include a refreshed air intake and an updated kidney grille. The headlights have also been updated, moving the turn signals to the top and aiding to a slimmer profile. Adaptive LED headlamps are now standard and have a beautiful fade effect when they are toggled. All else is consistent with the pre-refresh model, which is a good thing.



Stepping inside, one will notice the flawless blend between design and technology. It’s great that BMW stuck with the myriad of buttons inside the cabin to control everything from the radio to the climate control, instead of assigning it all to the iDrive system. The iDrive system itself has a very executive feel with its slick interface and large dial – all displayed on a 10.2-inch super wide non-touchscreen. The dashboard features another 10.2-inch digital display that's partially covered to make the gauges look realistic. Toggling between the driving modes brings the digital dash to life, displaying different gauges depending on what information is relevant to the driving experience.

What I enjoy most about mid-to-high range BMWs is the configurable and highly responsive driving modes. There are five driving modes: Sport+, Sport, Comfort, Comfort+, and EcoPro. On EcoPro, the on-board computer limits the response level between the throttle and the engine, while also limiting the RPMs. Even under this fuel-efficient mode, pushing hard on the throttle for longer, temporarily disengages the EcoPro mode and the engine outputs more power to meet the driver’s requirement. Sport+ on the other hand just brings out the raw power of the engine and an unadulterated relationship between the engine and the throttle comes to life. The ZF transmission performed consistently fast under all modes, although its quick shifts and high notes were most notable in Sport+.



With its 5-series derived platform and massive twin-turbo V8 engine, the 650i is not a light car by any means. This heavyweight weighs 300 kilograms more than the 449 horsepower V8 Mercedes SL550. Even with its much heavier body, it still manages to do 0-100 km/h run in close to 4.2 seconds, compared to the SL’s 4.1 time.

Overall, the 6-series is a distinct high-end offering for the discerning car buyer in the market for a unique product. With its athletic styling and driver-centric performance – all in a relatively spacious package, it offers the sheer driving pleasure and brand distinction craved by the affluent alike.

2017 Lincoln MKZ review

Lincoln has spent the past few years introducing their crossover and SUV lineup, equipping them with the latest technology and cutting-edge designs. While we have seen these in the new MKC and MKX crossovers, it’s now time for the luxury automaker to rejuvenate the sedan category as well.

With only two sedans being offered, Lincoln doesn’t provide a full offering like BMW, Mercedes and Lexus. Instead, the brand plays in a different luxury space along with Infiniti, Acura and Cadillac.

Its fleet-preferred Continental was discontinued in 2012 and brought back this year, while the alternative MKS has been deemed one of the slowest sellers in the full-size segment. Hence, Lincoln has been heavily reliant on the success of its entry-level offering, the Lincoln MKZ.

The Lincoln MKZ is currently the sole breadwinner for the brand in the sedan segment. Redesigned in 2013, its state-of-the-art technology and futuristic design was lauded by buyers. Arguably, it was the first Lincoln to reposition the entire brand toward a younger market.

For 2017, the MKZ has been redesigned with the most striking changes at the front of the car. The sweeping headlights on the outgoing model have been replaced by multi-element LED headlights. There's nothing conventional about them with five individual HID lighting elements that offer great wide-angle visibility on the road, while the bright LED lighting strip accentuates the sheer width of the headlights. The dual grille has been replaced by a chrome-infused Jaguar-like design that echoes the shape of the Lincoln logo.

When inside, one realizes how modern the interior has gotten. The annoying touch-sensitive buttons on the outgoing model that required you at times to take your eyes off the road, have been replaced by physical dials and knobs to control temperature and audio.

Another welcome change, the old MyLincoln Touch system has been replaced with Sync3 through an eight-inch touchscreen. How is this better? The outgoing Microsoft-based touchscreen was terrible for its performance issues and screen freezing. The completely redesigned Sync3 is based on Blackberry’s QNX system over a Linux platform. Aside from the logo and background, it doesn't differ from the Sync3 system found on Ford vehicles.

The MKZ offers up three performance variants. The base model is offered as a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo outputting a healthy 245 hp (@5,500rpm) and 275 lb.-ft. of torque (@3,000rpm). Step up to the twin-turbo 3.0-litre V-6, and you're in hot-rod territory with a mind blowing 400 hp (@5,500rpm) and 400 lb.-ft. of torque (@2,750rpm) at your disposal. For fuel economy buffs, the MKZ is also offered with a 2.0-litre hybrid engine that puts out 188 hp and a paltry 129 lb.-ft. of torque. The best part about it is you can get the hybrid for the same price as the base model.

It also has some very cool options, some of which have been transported over from Ford. Unfortunately, to get most of these options you would need to upgrade to the Reserve trim and fork over some extra money. For instance, $2,450 can get you the Technology Package with Park Assist which can essentially park the car via a parallel or perpendicular position. Or you can pay an exorbitant $3,450 to turn your car into a four-door convertible. The panoramic roof option replaces the entire roof with one enormous pane of glass that shifts itself over the rear windshield with the push of a button.

Although its tame performance and profile isn't going to turn the heads of Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series or Lexus IS owners; the MKZ’s larger size is attractive to younger family-oriented buyers looking for more space. With 436 litres of cargo space, there's a lot of space in the back, however a narrow profile could cause a bit of stress when travelling. 

The verdict: The 2017 Lincoln MKZ is an attractive entry-level luxury sedan that's perfect for individuals looking for a luxury car with mid-size space at an affordable compact price starting at $42,000. With an outstanding array of luxury, technology and prestige that’s reflected through its rarity, the MKZ is almost as exclusive as any of its German counterparts.

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