BMW is the ultimate niche filler. Seriously. The Munich-based premium marque manages to create obscure niches within the unique niches few other luxury rivals dare tap into, and when others don’t work…

2017 BMW X4 M40i

2017 BMW X4 M40i
For those who can’t make up their minds between a sport coupe and an SUV, BMW makes the fabulous X4. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

BMW is the ultimate niche filler. Seriously. The Munich-based premium marque manages to create obscure niches within the unique niches few other luxury rivals dare tap into, and when others don’t work for their namesake brand they adapt them for Mini or Rolls-Royce?

The X4 was the obvious result of downsizing the already successful X6, the result of which sees even more sales than the larger mid-size model. Last year the X4 found 1,236 Canadians who liked the idea of a five-door sports coupe mixed with a compact SUV, whereas 1,178 BMW buyers chose the larger of the two. These aren’t game-changing sales compared to 5,417 X3s and 6,942 X5s sold within the same 12 months, but every little bit adds up, as BMW has also learned with its multiple 3 Series, 4 Series and 6 Series body styles.

2017 BMW X4 M40i
The X4’s low profile is sporty, and its M40i upgrades even more so. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Regarding the five-door coupe-cum-SUV (or whatever you want to call it), a nod should be given to Infiniti for its original FX that more or less originated the idea and subsequent QX70 (still available, albeit rare), while Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque took the concept down one size to the entry-level SUV class, and even went so far to create a three-door SUV coupe and now a two-door convertible variant (it’s a lot cooler than it sounds).

Hitting even more at BMW’s core, Mercedes recently responded directly with the compact GLC Coupe and mid-size GLE Coupe, while a special mention should go out to Acura and its ill-fated ZDX, a model most people loathed (hence its cancellation) and I happen to still love.

2017 BMW X4 M40i
The X4 cabin is superbly crafted and M40i detailing particularly nice. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

BMW makes two versions of the X4, starting with the more fuel-friendly $48,700 X4 xDrive28i and topped off with the bahn-storming $60,700 X4 M40i. That means the X4 xDrive35i has been discontinued, but due to the latter, which entered the scene last year, no one should shed any tears.

Where the xDrive35i was a blast to drive due to its twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six that made 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, the M40i takes the same engine and puts a much more engaging 355 horsepower and 343 lb-ft down to its four torque-vectoring wheels. Like the less potent model, the M40i utilizes an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters; a version of that transmission also incorporated into the entry-level X4 xDrive28i, which incidentally is good for 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.

2017 BMW X4 M40i
A sports car profile mixed with the heightened visibility of an SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, there’s a lot more than extra oomph behind the top-line model’s “M” badge. Along with some unique styling details, larger wheels and tires, bigger brakes, a sport suspension, exclusive interior trim, and more, the M40i also includes launch control for a blistering 4.9-second standing start to 100km/h.

Important news that just can’t wait for my upcoming review is the inclusion of BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment across the line, which features an ultra high-resolution display filled with a completely new menu design, faster processing, and enhanced graphics.

There’s so much more to tell you about, so make sure to come back and find out why adventuresome kid-less couples should consider an X4 over an X3…

Why does the Chrysler 300 outsell every mid- and full-size premium-branded luxury sedan as well as all the mainstream volume branded luxury four-doors in the U.S. and Canada? Because it’s been so very…

2017 Chrysler 300 AWD Limited

2017 Chrysler 300 AWD Limited
The 300 still has plenty of presence after all these years. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Why does the Chrysler 300 outsell every mid- and full-size premium-branded luxury sedan as well as all the mainstream volume branded luxury four-doors in the U.S. and Canada? Because it’s been so very good for so very long that it’s developed a near cult-like following.

Let’s be honest for a moment. Chrysler hasn’t done much particularly well over the past dozen or so years. In fact, since its 2005 high of 695,546 unit sales, its annual tally in the two northernmost North American countries plunged to just 248,023 models last year, which has as much to do with consumers’ waning interest in mid- to full-size four-door sedans and high-end minivans, as the winged blue ribbon brand’s succession of multinational parents starving it of investment.

2017 Chrysler 300 AWD Limited
The 300’s upright stance gives it a solid, masculine look that’s remained very appealing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

When I started out as a fledgling car writer at the turn of the millennia, Chrysler was a very hot property with a host of cab-forward designs that were the envy of every domestic brand and a number of imports. These included the compact Neon (it was a Dodge in the U.S.), the mid-size Cirrus sedan, the Sebring Coupe and Convertible, and the full-size Intrepid (also a Dodge in the U.S.), Concorde, 300M (this model’s front-drive predecessor) and LHS (yes, four unique luxury sedans under one brand name), plus the Town and Country minivan.

That already sizeable model lineup grew to include the PT Cruiser (a massive hit) and Prowler (this latter one due to the demise of Plymouth) in 2001, plus the Cirrus was swapped out for the new Sebring Sedan that year as well, while 2004 added the Mercedes SLK-derived Crossfire sports coupe (soon to include a roadster) and Pacifica mid-size crossover SUV. A key reason for Chrysler’s ultra-strong 2005 sales was the introduction of the model shown on this page. The 300 took North American roads by storm, while the Dodge Durango-based Aspen SUV was added in 2007.

2017 Chrysler 300 AWD Limited
The 300 may be getting on in years, but its standard tech is impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To help paint a picture of just how far Chrysler has fallen, back in the day the place to be at a major auto show was the Chrysler stage, with concepts like the 1993 300 four-door coupe (it made me this import fan want to own a Chrysler), 1995 Atlantic coupe, 1996 LHX luxury sedan, 1997 Phaeton four-door convertible, 1998 Chronos four-door coupe (to die for gorgeous), 1999 Java (the small car they should’ve built), 2000 300 Hemi C Convertible (absolutely stunning), 2004 ME Four-Twelve mid-engine supercar (we were all shocked beyond belief at this well-kept secret), 2005 Firepower (possibly my favourite of all), and 2006 Imperial (you can’t win ‘em all, but it showed the premium vision Chrysler’s powers that be had for the brand at the time).

2017 Chrysler 300 AWD Limited
Gorgeous primary gauges are filled with a large colour TFT multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

After that it was as if Chrysler lost its ability to dream, with the awkward 2007 Nassau, the boring 2008 EcoVoyager, the pretty albeit too production-ready 200C EV, the Lancia-based “Design Study Concept” (even the name was boring… it’s written up as one of the 25 worst concepts ever created, and actually became the Euro-only 2012 Chrysler Delta), nothing at all for 2011, and the strangely contorted 700C minivan concept for 2012. Sadly, the most exciting Chrysler concepts to come along in years were the 2012 Chrysler Review GT and 2013 Imperial, which were only renderings and not even penned by Chrysler.

Not a single notable Chrysler concept was created from 2013 through 2016, with this year’s Portal being a boxy electric people mover that could’ve just as easily been imported from the wacky Tokyo auto show. If it weren’t for the new Pacifica minivan, I’d say Chrysler has lost its vision as a brand.

2017 Chrysler 300 AWD Limited
Limited trim adds leather upholstery and much more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This said Chrysler’s entire future is riding on a handsome and very well built minivan, but a minivan just the same. If it were a compact or mid-size crossover SUV, that would be something to really build on in today’s market, but minivan numbers (other than the budget priced Dodge Grand Caravan) are stable at best.

The mid-size 200 family sedan is still available as a 2017 model, but according to FCA it’s being cancelled to make way for more SUVs. A shame as it’s selling fairly well (just below the Nissan Altima and ahead of the Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat/CC, Subaru Legacy, and Mazda6 in Canada), which means when it gets discontinued later this year its 64,213 collective U.S. and Canadian sales (188,850 in 2015 before they announced the cancellation) will make a significant dent in Chrysler’s total head count.

2017 Chrysler 300 AWD Limited
How do the rear seats measure up? Check back to find out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A minivan and well-seasoned full-size luxury sedan won’t make up for those kind of numbers (56,903 last year and probably about 100,000 this year, respectively), which means the brand’s sales could even fall below Mitsubishi in the immediate future (and that would be very low).

I know I paint a bleak picture, but I’m stating nothing new to anyone who follows the auto industry. Chrysler’s been kept alive thanks to Dodge branded models that have, up until now, shared underpinnings, and most often sold in greater numbers. With the Avenger gone the 200 wasn’t able to sustain itself, so we’ll have to wait and see if FCA allows the Pacifica (which no longer shares anything other than the powertrain with the Grand Caravan) to remain solely a Chrysler, or if the automaker finally breaks down and builds a cheaper Dodge version in order to pull up sales volumes.

2017 Chrysler 300 AWD Limited
That’s a Beats Audio boombox on the right side of the trunk. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Charger sedan, which attracted 76 more buyers last year than the 300, and to some extent the Challenger sports coupe that also shares the LX architecture, allows Chrysler’s flagship to exist. The two sedans will probably run mostly unchanged through 2018, at which point we’ll find out if replacements are currently in the works or not.

As it is, the second-generation Chrysler 300 before you is now a seven-year old model, which is pretty ancient for this day and age. The fact that it’s still so very good is testament to how advanced it was when it came out in 2011, not to mention how phenomenal the original 2005 model was when it arrived in 2004. Why does that 13-year old model matter? Because the LX platform architecture the current model rides upon is the same. To the 300’s credit, many of the original car’s components were shared with the 2003–2009 W211 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (Chrysler was previously owned by Daimler), hence why it’s so damn good.

Of course, the new model was massaged significantly for its 2011 update, so much so that it looked, drove and felt like a completely new car. Its refinement was over-the-top back then, and while still fairly good compared to cars of that era, it’s falling behind now.

I’ll go into more detail in my upcoming review, but I’ll also be fair in my judgment as this 2017 300 AWD Limited model packs a lot of value for the money asked. Stay tuned my full report…

You’d think for a car available non-stop since 1965 there’d be more than six generations to the legendary Mustang’s credit, but Ford ran the first generation (the many iterations of which any genuine…

2017 Ford Mustang GT Convertible

2017 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
A week with a Mustang is always good, and one with a GT Convertible even better. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

You’d think for a car available non-stop since 1965 there’d be more than six generations to the legendary Mustang’s credit, but Ford ran the first generation (the many iterations of which any genuine car enthusiast equally loves and lusts after) for eight years and made even better use of the 1979–1993 third-gen Fox bodied model. I don’t think you’d get much argument from all but drag racing fans that the current rear independent suspension-enhanced sixth-gen model, available since 2015, is the best Mustang ever.

2017 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
The side most competitors had better get used to seeing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It takes little coaxing for us to accept a week in any of its trims, the first of this type being a 2015 Mustang GT Premium Convertible, which was followed by the new 2.3-litre turbo four-cylinder 2016 Ecoboost Fastback and a 2016 GT Convertible, the latter much like our most recent tester other than its eye-searing Triple Yellow paintjob.

2017 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
Love the GT’s available red on black interior detailing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Actually, this 2017 GT Convertible Premium is coated in the same Ruby Red exterior paintwork and its seats covered in identical Red Line leather as the 2015 example (the Ecoboost Fastback was finished in Oxford White on black, if you must know), these two cars appearing near identical if it weren’t for the same GT Performance Package as added to the Ecoboost Fastback, that upgrade beefing up the wheels to glossy black 19s, plus a whole lot more.

2017 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
This is how we like to roll. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At the heart of the GT is a 435 horsepower 5.0-litre V8 with 400 lb-ft of torque, capable of sling-shooting the 1,756-kilo (3,863-lb) ragtop to 100km/h in less than five seconds with standard launch control engaged. Ford was kind enough to include its six-speed manual transmission in this tester, which is the best way to go if you don’t mind a lot of DIY activity in city traffic.

I’ll comment on its refinement and all of the car’s other driving dynamic details in my upcoming review, plus remind you of the many improvements Ford made to this model when introduced as a 2015 model, while filling you in on specific 2017 upgrades (and downgrades) as well…

When you go to Honda’s retail website and click on “Hybrids” you’re presented with the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid. That’s it. For the first automaker to ever produce a modern-day hybrid for consumer…

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The stylish 2017 Accord Hybrid is Honda’s best HEV yet, and one of the most enticing in its mid-size class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

When you go to Honda’s retail website and click on “Hybrids” you’re presented with the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid. That’s it. For the first automaker to ever produce a modern-day hybrid for consumer sale, not to mention a company that’s created two different versions of that dedicated Insight compact hatchback (1999–2006 and 2009–2014), a long-running Civic Hybrid compact sedan (2002–2015), another dedicated CR-Z hybrid sports model (2010–2016), it’s strange to see just one electrified model in the current lineup.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Attractive from front to back, the Accord Hybrid isn’t only about saving fuel. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Click on the “Hybrid” pull-down menu at Toyota Canada’s site and you’ll find six completely different HEVs, including three that wear Prius badges (subcompact, compact and near full-size), two SUVs, and the Camry Hybrid that does battle with this Accord Hybrid, while Toyota’s U.S. division offers two more including the Prius Prime plug-in and the full-size Avalon Hybrid, not to mention a Camry/Accord-sized hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle dubbed Mirai.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Touring trim adds full LED headlamps, LED fogs and stylish machine-finished alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Then skip over to Toyota’s luxury division, Lexus, and you’ll find six more, including the entry-level CT 200h dedicated hybrid, the ES 300h, the GS 450h, the NX 300h, the RX 450h, and new LC 500h (the LS 600h appears to be temporarily discontinued… who knew?).

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
There’s no shortage of premium-like features inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In the U.S. the Accord Hybrid is joined by the old CR-Z (killed off here last year), the 100-percent electric Fit EV (never offered here), and the hydrogen fuel cell-powered Clarity mid-size sedan (what a 10-times larger market allows), whereas Acura is showing off its fabulous new NSX Sport Hybrid, the excellent albeit long-in-tooth RLX Sport Hybrid, and the brand new MDX Sport Hybrid on both sides of the 49th parallel. Yes, things are looking a lot better for electrification at Acura than Honda.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Touring trim adds leather and much more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The 2017 model shown on this page is actually the second Accord Hybrid, the first introduced in 2005 and sold only through 2007, which sported (literally) a powerful 3.5-litre V6 combined with extra electrical boost that provided 255 net horsepower and 232 net lb-ft of torque for a 6.7-second sprint to 100km/h. It was a fun car to drive, but the market, which wanted fuel-efficiency first and foremost in this class, wasn’t interested and therefore it was killed after just two model years. Truly, if Honda had dropped this power unit into the Acura TL of the time it might’ve been a hit, or at least it might still be around a la Lexus GS 450h.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Hybrids in the mid-size sedan class offer plenty of rear seat room. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

After introducing a particularly good 2014 Accord Hybrid (I named it “one of the best hybrids yet”) and toying with an even more enticing Accord Plug-in Hybrid (not available in Canada), both reviewed by yours truly three years ago, Honda seems more tuned in to the market these days, especially because this new-generation Accord Hybrid has been focused more on saving at the pump than leaving its competitors behind at the stoplight (although, as you’ll soon find out, it still does that quite handily).

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The Accord Hybrid beats some competitors for trunk space and passenger/cargo versatility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At $31,300 the Accord Hybrid is priced $1,500 and change higher than the Camry Hybrid, which might affect the decision of some, but to my mind it’s a moot point because the Accord, on the whole, is a much more enticing prospect.

I’ll soon share with you exactly why in a future road test review, but 12 additional horsepower certainly doesn’t hurt. The Accord Hybrid’s 500-cc smaller 2.0-litre four-cylinder makes just 143 horsepower, but the 181 horsepower electric motor connected to it increases total output to 212 net horsepower resulting in more oomph off the line, while its 4.9 L/100km city, 5.1 highway and 5.0 combined claimed fuel economy is much better than the Camry Hybrid’s 5.6 city, 6.2 highway and 5.9 combined rating as well.

Check back soon for my complete review, as there’s a lot more to the Accord’s performance advantage to contemplate, while there’s also much more to consider regarding the car in general, such as styling, interior materials quality, fit and finish, features, roominess and overall liveability, and the list goes on…

Remember when the Camry was the poster child for conservatively shaped mobile wallflowers? Its soul mission seemed to be: provide roomy, comfortable, reliable transportation to people who purposely want…

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
The 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid has had sportier lines since its 2015 refresh, along with a much larger maw. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Remember when the Camry was the poster child for conservatively shaped mobile wallflowers? Its soul mission seemed to be: provide roomy, comfortable, reliable transportation to people who purposely want to attract as little attention as possible.

Camry owners can’t fly under the radar anymore. The only four-door sedan with a more conspicuous grille is the slightly larger Toyota Avalon (although not for long as the 2018 Camry will boast the ultimate dog catcher) that shares much of the Camry’s componentry, but the mainstream family sedan’s flashy new attitude certainly hasn’t eroded sales.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
I must admit to missing the previous model’s more interesting taillights, but the current design is clean and uncluttered. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Last year the Camry remained number one in its class in both the U.S. and Canada, and by a considerable margin. Certainly sales in the mid-size family sedan segment have been slowing in recent years, the Camry falling victim to crossover SUV growth that includes the ever more popular Toyota Highlander, a mid-size SUV that also shares underpinnings with this bestselling sedan, but the Camry is still king of cars… no scratch that… king of family vehicles (including trucks not sold for commercial purposes).

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Complex headlamps, deep grille, sculpted fascia, vertical DRLs, and big chromed alloys, this Camry is no wallflower. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Toyota sold 404,301 Camrys in Canada and the U.S. last year, compared to just 204,343 Highlanders, and 2016 was a particularly poor year for the four-door sedan. By comparison, Camry sales for calendar year 2015 totaled 446,160 in the two jurisdictions, while Highlanders only accounted for 169,327 units. 2014? A few more Camrys at 446,851 units compared to considerably less Highlanders at 155,876.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
The Camry Hybrid’s cabin has come a long way since 2007, in style, materials quality, and execution. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That’s not quite the high of 2007 which witnessed 501,326 Camrys leave Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky production facility, a year that saw just 132,930 Highlanders roll off the assembly line in Kurate-gun, Japan (production has since moved to Princeton, Indiana, other than the Highlander Hybrid that’s now built in Miyawaka City, Japan), which shows what we all now know, the current upward trend is in favour of SUVs instead of mid-size sedans, but whether or not the two vehicle types’ sales numbers will eventually even out is anyone’s guess.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Hybrid info is on the left and within the colour multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While the Camry was nearly twice as popular as the Highlander in North America’s two northernmost countries last year, this isn’t at all the case in Canada. In fact, Camry just barely edged out Highlander with 15,683 deliveries compared to 12,964. And 2016 was the Highlander’s best year ever, whereas Camry rode its biggest wave in 2007 with more than twice as many sales at 28,218 units.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
The large touchscreen infotainment system includes the usual backup camera, navigation, audio, phone, and system features, plus exclusive hybrid info. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Compacts are much stronger here than in the U.S. (at the close of Q1, 2017, the Camry was the fifth most popular vehicle in the States and 28th in Canada), where the Corolla led Toyota Canada’s four-door sedan sales with 45,626 units last year (currently fifth most popular in Canada and seventh in the U.S.), and the RAV4 led the entire compact SUV segment as well as every other Toyota model with 49,103 deliveries (currently tenth in Canada and eighth in the U.S.).

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Use this for extracting more performance or more fuel economy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So why should Toyota Canada bother giving me a Camry Hybrid to drive and tell you all about? Of course, 15,000-plus Camry sales is nothing to sneeze at, and the Hybrid adds the positive element of greening society, something that Toyota’s been trying to do since introducing its Prius in 2000, and the first Camry Hybrid in March of 2006 for the 2007 model year.

I was on that launch program, part of which included side-by-side drag races against conventionally powered four-cylinder Camrys down an airport runway on Toronto Island (not during spring floodwaters, mind you). The Camry Hybrids came out ahead as you might expect, the exercise helping to dispel a common belief that HEVs were boring to drive.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Sportier looking seats than Camry Hybrids used to receive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At the time I noted the 2007 Camry “HV” (the abbreviation then used by Toyota for Hybrid Vehicle, since globally standardized to HEV) sprinted to 100km/h in under nine seconds thanks to 187 net horsepower; provided city and highway mileage of 5.7 L/100km (remember that our old two-cycle rating system was haplessly inaccurate); and had a starting price of $31,900; so other than the styling, a much more refined interior with more features, and a starting price of (are you sitting down?) $29,770, some $2.1k less than a decade ago, not much has changed.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Rear seat roominess has long been a Camry attribute, whether conventionally powered or electrified. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Granted, performance has improved thanks to an updated 2.5-litre Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder internal combustion engine (ICE) that, when combined with the same Hybrid Synergy Drive technology that incorporates an identical 105-kW rating for its permanent magnet electric motor and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery combination, is rated at 200 net horsepower now, an increase of 13 horsepower since inception.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
What about trunk space? Smaller? Less flexible? Check back for our review to find out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While older tech than Lithium-ion (Li-ion), NiMH batteries have served Toyota well over the years; powering some Prius taxi cabs more than a million kilometers before needing replacement. Despite the power upgrade and a change by Transport Canada to a new more realistic five-cycle testing method, the 2017 Camry Hybrid’s fuel economy is actually better than the 2007 model in the city at 5.6 L/100km, and not much worse on the highway (on paper) at 6.2 L/100km (I’m sure it’s improved for real; its combined rating is 5.9 L/100km, incidentally), while the car itself is miles more impressive.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system is the stuff of HEV legend. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’m not just talking about its styling (I’m more of a “fan” of the current generation’s pre-facelift 2012–2015 model anyway), but more so of the attention to detail Toyota spent on interior design and quality, plus the way it drives. As you’ll know by now, I won’t discuss either point here in this abbreviated “Garage” review, but will be sure to fill you in on the experiential details in my upcoming road test.

For now, enjoy the photos and prepare for the good, the bad and the ugly of this popular electrified four-door (ok, there really is no bad and ugly about the Camry Hybrid, but it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to mention one of my favourite Westerns and the best Clint movie).

As for what will happen to you if you don’t take advantage of the great fuel economy and advantageous pricing of the 2017 Camry Hybrid, as Blondie once said, “If you do that, you’ll always be poor… just like the crazy rat that you are.”

You know you want it. Spring is here and summer is just around the corner (or at least we hope), so there’s no better time to contemplate a new convertible. Fortunately, Audi has the ideal answer to…

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet Quattro Technik

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
We’re driving the new 2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro in top-line Technik trim. Like it? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

You know you want it. Spring is here and summer is just around the corner (or at least we hope), so there’s no better time to contemplate a new convertible. Fortunately, Audi has the ideal answer to your newfound dilemma of which drop-top to buy.

Say hi to the recently updated 2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet, a refreshed version of the entry-level luxury convertible that’s made a comfortable home for itself just below the A5 Cabriolet since it debuted for the 2015 model year.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Blade-shaped taillights incorporate new LEDs and the updated lower fascia gets nice diffuser-style styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Audi isn’t alone in this category thanks to BMW’s 2 Series Cabriolet, which gets an even more subtle facelift and interior improvements as part of an early 2018 release (the former appearing to be nothing more than body-colour lower fascia paintwork added where matte black used to be, some chrome splashed onto the top edge of the corner vents, and an interesting new hexagonal take on the corona LEDs within the headlamps, plus more of an M2 design added to the Sport package fascia), but the four-ringed Ingolstadt, Germany-based luxury brand offers plenty of reasons for considering its open-top offering over its Munich-sourced countryman.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The A3’s new scalloped headlamps get updated with full LEDs in Technik trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

First and foremost it looks every bit an Audi and a particularly attractive one at that. While Audi’s horseshoe-shaped singleframe grille is big and imposing, most find it difficult to figure out exactly which model is heading toward them from a distance. This is done intentionally, and while some competitors have attempted to add near full-size versions of their grilles to compact models with questionable effect, none has succeeded as wholly as Audi. As it is, all Audi cars, from the full-size A8 to the comparatively tiny A3, are obvious siblings.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Love these 19-inch rims, optional with the Technik. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In total, the A3/S3 sedans, the five-door A3 Sportback (only available with the e-tron plug-in hybrid powertrain), and this A3 Cabriolet were refreshed for 2017, the result being a win-win-win aesthetically. I’ve driven and reviewed the other two already, so this convertible version will complete my coverage of the entry-level luxury segment’s bestselling triumvirate.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Audi interiors almost always impress. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All receive a new chiseled edginess to their designs in the form of new sharply scalloped standard HID and as-tested optional full LED headlamp clusters bookending a broader more angular grille frame, this latter item visually floating above a variety of reshaped lower fascias; the differing fascia designs dependent on whether the S Line sport package is added or not (my loaner has it). New lenses and a revised array of standard LEDs update the look of the already stunning blade-shaped tail lamps, whereas the bumper below gets a few tweaks to make it new.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The A3’s driver-centric cockpit gets enhanced in S Line trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On that note, the just mentioned S Line package not only enhances the front fascia, but also provides rocker extensions down each side and a new bumper cap with intricately fashioned diffuser-style details for the rear lower fascia, this latter addition worth the price of admission alone.

As always with a mid-cycle update, Audi added new standard and optional wheel choices to the mix, while also on the expected upgrades menu are new exterior paint finishes. All in all the updates modernize the A3 Cabriolet’s look and aligns it more fully with the rest of Audi’s lineup, but I must say the outgoing version didn’t need many changes to bring it up to speed.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The “Virtual Cockpit” configurable gauge package is truly special. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Where Audi often wins against rivals, including BMW, is interior design and execution, and the new A3’s improvements won’t help the Bavarian’s cause. Tasteful minimalism continues, as do high quality surface treatments that include plenty of soft synthetics, genuine aluminum inlays and access, plus rich leathers.

As for all-important electronic interfaces, the A3’s infotainment system continues to power up out of the dash upon startup, which is a bonus for those who’d rather stow it away during night driving, and a negative to others who prefer larger displays (the A3’s is only 5.8 inches diagonally) with tablet-style pinch, swipe and tap touchscreen convenience.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
This 5.8-inch infotainment display powers up out of the dash at startup. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The A3’s display is controlled via a beautifully finished rotating aluminum dial with classy knurled edges. It’s situated on the lower console, which is common in the premium sector, making it easy to perform handwriting gestures on the knob’s matte black circular top. The Audi MMI system’s brains get filled with much of the latest tech, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus various apps like Spotify and WhatsApp, and more when upgraded to the $600 Audi Smartphone interface (which is standard in second-tier Progressiv and top-line Technik trims), while its new iPhone-inspired graphics and more intelligent interface make it easier to figure out.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
It’s nice details like the MMI infotainment controller that separate the A3 from competitors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Even more impressive is Audi’s fully configurable “Virtual Cockpit” TFT gauge cluster, new for the A3 this year and totally worth the upgrade to Technik trim. It’s a 12.3-inch digital display that completely replaces the base and mid-range models’ traditional dual-dial analog gauge package, and in the process offers a number of driver selectable configurations. The most interesting is a steering wheel-mounted “VIEW” button that reduces the size of the digital tachometer and speedometer before placing them to each side, at which point the centre-mounted colour multi-information display grows to epic proportions. When navigation is chosen, an eye-arresting array of colourful maps takes over most of the primary cluster. By scrolling through the steering wheel controls you can use this feature for enhanced readability of other functions as well, and then when needing to check up on vital driving info you can simply press the view button again.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Like the look of these sport seats? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I could go on talking about the Virtual Cockpit ad nauseam, or for that matter the A3 Cabriolet cabin’s improved switchgear, much of which now utilizes white backlighting for a bright, modern look, or we could all just celebrate that a USB port is now standard across the A3 line (it was Apple or the highway before), but I’ve said too much for a garage report already.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Roomy enough for your friends or family? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In my upcoming review I’ll be sure to spend plenty of time telling you about my on-road driving experience. Just like earlier models, the 2017 A3 Cabriolet automatically upgrades the engine from the A3 Sedan’s base front-drive layout to standard Quattro AWD, which means the drop-top model misses out on the four-door’s all-new 186 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder (which replaced the aging 170 horsepower 1.8-litre turbo mill), the engine now making with 236 lb-ft of torque and improved fuel economy thanks to a new combustion process, auto start/stop, and a new seven-speed dual-clutch “S tronic” automatic, but the A3 Cabriolet’s carryover 2.0-litre four is still competitive thanks to 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, as is its mostly carryover six-speed twin-clutch transmission with paddle shifters, the difference being a new auto start/stop system just like on the lesser drivetrain.

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Cargo space is always an issue with convertibles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

There’s plenty more to comment on, including the general quietness of the car (or loudness) with the top up and down, the ease and speed (or not) of its powered retraction and deployment, its visibility (or lack thereof) with the roof closed, overall refinement, rear seat roominess and comfort levels, cargo capacity, how all the features work (or don’t), and the list goes on, so be sure to come back and check out the road test review…

Let’s not bore each other with mundane luxury and convenience features. The 2017 Subaru WRX Sport-tech gets a 268hp 2.0L turbo 4, a 6-speed manual, active torque vectoring AWD, 18-inch rims, a sport…

2017 Subaru WRX Sport-tech Road Test

WRX? EVO? WRX? EVO? WRX? Hold on… we no longer get to make this argument. Sadly, in a dedicated, systematic effort to transform itself into the most yawn-inducing automaker the world has seen since Daewoo disappeared under the umbrella of General Motors, Mitsubishi has forsaken its countless performance fans along with decades of world rally heritage by giving up on the legendary Lancer Evolution series of compact sport sedans, so now the only Evo that might have a chance of unseating a new WRX will need to come from the pre-owned side of Mitsubishi's dealer lots (or the used lots of Subaru retailers exchanging Evo trade-ins for new WRX STIs). The WRX, on the other hand, is very much alive and better than ever, while its Subaru parent, despite no longer taking part in the World Rally Championship directly, still benefits from its decades of motorsport investment. In fact, Subaru's Canadian division has been growing stronger every year, from just 16,190 sales a decade Read Full Story
Amazingly, Lexus went from having nothing in the compact luxury SUV segment throughout most of 2014 to being one of the top-three players by the end of 2016. The story is even better in the U.S. where…

2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive

2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive
The 2017 Lexus NX 300h still looks fabulous despite being in its third year of availability. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Amazingly, Lexus went from having nothing in the compact luxury SUV segment throughout most of 2014 to being one of the top-three players by the end of 2016. The story is even better in the U.S. where the new NX is now number one in the entire class. How the mighty Germans have fallen, not that Lexus is particularly weak and feeble. The Japanese luxury brand is a powerhouse in the crossover sport utility sector where its RX has been the bestselling mid-size luxury SUV in both Canada and the U.S. (by a long shot) for as long as there’s been a mid-size luxury SUV segment, a vehicle class it helped to create. Therefore it only makes sense the NX would do well too.
2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive
Modern angles are everywhere, Lexus no longer the conservative wallflower it was in decades past. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
It helps that it looks fabulous, or at least I like it a lot. The NX’ design hasn’t changed one iota since arriving in December of 2014 as a 2015 model. Lexus didn’t wait long before getting this hybrid variant to market either, joining it up with the NX 200t for the model’s inaugural year and making it an important part of its one, two knockout NX punch ever since.
2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive
The full LED headlamps and 18-inch alloys are part of the Executive package upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Now that the Audi Q5 Hybrid is history, the NX 300h is an anomaly within the compact luxury SUV category. In fact, with Audi also eliminating the Q5 TDI (at least temporarily) and Mercedes-Benz doing likewise with its new GLC (again, just for the time being as far as we know), the only alternative-fuel competitors in the class are BMW’s X3 xDrive28d and the unlikely addition of Jaguar’s F-Pace 20d. Still, being that Dieselgate ruined Rudolf Christian Karl’s most fuel-efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) type, most environmentally oriented consumers won’t be turning to diesel as a way to save the planet, leaving the NX 300h as the only real green choice in this burgeoning market segment.
2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive
The Executive package adds a number of upscale features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Behind the NX 300h’s bold spindle grille is the same ultra-clean powertrain as the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Lexus’ ES 300h, comprised of a 150 horsepower gasoline-fueled 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle ICE with 152 lb-ft of torque driving the front wheels and a 50 kW (67 horsepower) permanent magnet electric motor powering the axle in back, the energy for the latter sourced from a rear-mounted nickel-metal hydride battery that gets recharged via the ICE as well as regenerative braking.
2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive
The 300h gets hybrid info in place of the usual tachometer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
When topped off it has the ability to drive solely on EV power for short distances at low speeds (bumper-to-bumper traffic, parking lots, etcetera), but most of the time it merely assists the ICE for improved performance and reduced fuel consumption. A specially designed continuously variable transmission (CVT) takes care of shifting duties, of sorts, the full result of Lexus Synergy Drive’s combined forces being 194 net horsepower and the same 152 pound-feet of claimed torque (although it feels like a lot more and likely is).
2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive
A Sport mode is standard, as is an all-electric EV mode. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
More importantly the NX 300h is good for estimated fuel economy equaling 7.1 L/100km in the city, 7.7 on the highway, and 7.4 combined, which is far and away the best in its class (the X3 and F-Pace diesels achieve 7.9 and 8.1 combined city/highway respectively). Along with its EV mode, the NX 300h features three selectable drive modes including Eco, Standard, and Sport, these focused on maximizing efficiency or power rather than changing steering and suspension settings.
2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive
This hidden Qi wireless device charger is is part of the Executive upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
This being a niche model in comparison to the NX 200t, Lexus’ Canadian division limits trims to just one and options packages to a singular digit as well. Standard trim, which starts at $54,350, is therefore generously equipped with 18-inch alloys on 225/60R18 all-seasons, LED low-beam headlights with washers, LED DRLs, LED clearance lamps, LED fog lights, LED taillights, aluminum roof rails, a rear rooftop spoiler, auto-dimming power-adjustable heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals and memory, proximity access, and more on the outside.
2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive
The NX 300h now gets standard leather upholstery. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Once inside the base NX 300h includes pushbutton ignition, a heatable leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a powered tilt and telescoping steering column, a colour TFT multi-information display, leather upholstery, heated and cooled power-adjustable front seats with driver’s side memory, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone auto climate control, touchscreen infotainment featuring a reverse camera with active guidelines and navigation, a 120-volt household-style power outlet, an integrated garage door opener, a powered moonroof, a powered tailgate, hill start assist, all the usual active and passive safety features including airbags for the driver’s knees, and more.
2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive
Is the rear seating area roomy enough for your needs? We’ll tell all in our upcoming review. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Our fully decked out tester included the $6,650 Executive Package that adds full LED headlamps with auto-leveling and auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, dynamic radar cruise control, head-up display, Qi wireless device charging, 10-speaker audio, Shimamoku hardwood inlays, powered rear seat releases with switches on the dash and cargo compartment, front and rear parking sensors, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a pre-collision system with emergency autonomous braking, lane departure alert with steering assist, and more, raising the price to $61,000 plus freight and fees. These latter items earn the NX 300h Executive a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS.
2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive
How’s that for size? We’ll provide cargo specs and discuss overall liveability in the review. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Where the conventionally powered NX 200t can be had with the sportier F Sport package, the NX 300h makes do with less aggressive styling and more comfort-oriented suspension settings, although you can upgrade the wheels to a unique set of 19-inch F Sport alloys via the accessories catalog for $2,650 and change. As you may have noticed I haven’t told you diddly squat about my experience behind the wheel, what I think about its overall refinement, or its standard and available feature set, overall roominess, pricing and value proposition, etcetera, etcetera, which means you’ll need to come back for my detailed road test review. Make sure you do, as you may just be surprised at what I have to say…