It should come as little surprise that Chevrolet’s new Bolt EV is now the best-selling electric vehicle in Canada. It went on sale in January and has accumulated 697 buyers, although according to one…

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Meet one of the most talked about new cars of 2017, Chevy’s new long-range Bolt EV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It should come as little surprise that Chevrolet’s new Bolt EV is now the best-selling electric vehicle in Canada.

It went on sale in January and has accumulated 697 buyers, although according to one of my local dealers that’s been turning away potential customers regularly, they could’ve sold many more if any were still available.

Nissan’s slightly larger Leaf was second, by the way, selling 586 units during the same five months (still respectable considering its age), while the Tesla Model S found 397 buyers, that brand’s Model X another 372, BMW i Series 156 (mostly made up of i3s, but marginally boosted by the i8 supercar), and Mitsubishi lured in 29 new i-MiEV owners (that’s it for available EV sales numbers).

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The Bolt can achieve a claimed 383 km of EV range between charges. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of note, the Bolt has been available south of the 49th since December of last year when it accumulated a considerable 579 sales, but over the first five months of 2017 it’s managed to garner more than 10 times that amount with 5,950 units down the road.

In comparison, the Tesla Model S walked away with the EV sales crown with 8,900 sold during the same time period, followed closely by the brand’s new Model X at 7,000 units. The more directly comparative Nissan Leaf found just 5,742 American buyers during the same five months, while the more comparably sized and shaped BMW i3 sold 1,919 units. Almost taking up the rear was Mercedes’ B250e with 271 sales, a pure electric not available here (but they don’t get the gasoline-powered B-Class), while dragging its tail (is it technically still available?) was the i-MiEV with 6 sales.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
With digital interfaces to rival a Tesla, the new Bolt moves the subcompact hatchback class up a notch or three. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Either General Motors underestimated the demand for its little subcompact plug-in or they just don’t have the capacity to build more at their Orion Township, Michigan assembly plant, where they also produce the Euro-spec version dubbed Opel Ampera-e, as well as the Chevy Sonic (that’s similarly sized albeit built on the new BEV II platform architecture instead of the Sonic’s Gamma II).

GM may want to cut back production of the Opel Ampera-e now that they’ve sold off their European division (it’s doing especially well in Norway) in order to support their North American markets more, or even better they could turn that soon to be phased out model into a Buick Bolt and build/sell it in China where EVs are taking over city streets, and then bring it back here like they’re doing with the Envision compact SUV, but with a new name, a few Buick styling tweaks, and a fancier interior. See, I’ve got it all sussed out. GM just needs to give me a call to sort out the details.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
That’s not a mirror. Instead, the Bolt gets a wide rearview camera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If it were only so easy, but the General is certainly on the right track with its new Bolt. In fact, one of the reasons GM’s stock price has risen over the past month, year, and five-year intervals, and Ford’s has been on the decline for all of the above (except the five-year), is its success in the plug-in arena, first with the Volt, the number one selling PHEV period, and now the Bolt, which could very well zip into the top North American sales spot once availability matches demand.

And no, I’m not about the digress (too far) into the upcoming Tesla Model 3 despite presales humbling any current or past EV, because it’s not yet available and may not be for some time. Of course, most of us are hoping it will succeed, as Tesla is a modern-day success story that’s truly shaken the old guard to its knees (especially on the markets, where real-world results aren’t as important as “fingers crossed” projections), so we’ll cross that bridge (hopefully while driving a Model 3) when we come to it.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Comfortable? Come back and read the review to find out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press) 

The Bolt EV is in the here and now (or at least it was before selling out—talk to your Chevy dealer as I know there’s at least one available in the near future, and it’s sitting in my driveway), and can be had for $43,095 before freight and dealer fees, discounts (good luck with that), and government rebates (up to $5,000 in BC, $14,000 in Ontario, and $8,000 in Quebec).

I know that price is mighty close to BMW’s i3, but despite the Bimmer’s near F1-tech levels of carbon-fibre construction, better handling, mostly nicer finishings inside, and that all-important blue and white roundel, it’s not in the same EV class as the Bolt, at least if the main goal is going as far as you possible can on a single charge, and hardly worrying one whit about how much throttle you use getting there.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Roomy in back? You know the drill… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Where the 2017 i3 has been boosted to an impressive 200-km range (183-km as per the EPA) thanks to a new 33.0-kWh lithium-ion battery (10.0-kWh more than the previous one), the Bolt uses a much more convincing 60-kWh lithium-ion battery for a claimed range of 383 km! That’s right, almost twice the range of the i3. There’s no gasoline-powered range extender (REx) engine, mind you, but with the ability to cover such distances on a single charge, does anyone really need the added weight and complexity of a tiny putt-putt motor? Hardly. The Leaf, incidentally, can cover an estimated 172 km between charges.

Tesla Model S owners are giggling right about now, or at least those who spent upwards of $170k on a P100D that can manage up to 542 km after a full charge (even the base 75 is good for 426 km), but the Model S starts out at about twice the price of the Bolt and that aforementioned model quickly escalates to nearly $200,000 with options, so it’s just as silly as comparing the go-fast performance of a Porsche Panamera Turbo to Sonic.

The Bolt is surprisingly quick, by the way, and even includes a Sport mode to liven up acceleration. I’ll likely go on at length about its performance credentials and other driving dynamics during my upcoming review, as well as pour over the differences between the base model and my tester’s top-line Premier trim, plus the car’s overall liveability and other attributes/drawbacks (no car is perfect). So stay tuned for all the road test review…

I remember when this third-generation 2011 Sienna was brand new, and in sporty SE trim it was the coolest minivan to ever hit the road. I was on the press launch and specifically chose to focus on the…

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD
The Sienna still looks good after all these years, but it’s still time for an update. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I remember when this third-generation 2011 Sienna was brand new, and in sporty SE trim it was the coolest minivan to ever hit the road.

I was on the press launch and specifically chose to focus on the SE after driving the majority of trims during the national launch program in early 2010, and soon after I tested a four-cylinder LE model at home (that engine since discontinued in the Sienna), another four-cylinder the following year in 2012 trim while visiting my daughter at her university in Sackville, New Brunswick (a comfortable and economical trip from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Moncton, where I stayed), and after that a well-equipped 2012 XLE model at home, a 2013 LE V6 likewise, a 2014 XLE Limited, the mid-cycle updated 2015 in LE AWD guise, and finally an XLE AWD version of the same vintage, so it feels good to get back in the Sienna saddle once again, this time in an XLE AWD with the Limited package (we’ll just call it the Limited AWD).

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD
The Sienna’s rear styling hasn’t changed much in seven years. Good for Toyota it was initially an advanced design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

You may have noticed something about that list, of all the trims tested and reviewed I’ve only ever covered the top-line Limited model once before. Strange as that may be, it’s good to enjoy this van with all of its many splendoured features, especially now that it’s no longer the newest minivan parked on Canada’s suburban cul-de-sac.

Seven years is a long time for any vehicle to remain fundamentally unchanged, even one that was as good as the Sienna when introduced. Certainly its extensive 2015 update helped breathe new life into the old gal, but compared to the new Chrysler Pacifica, introduced for 2017 to replace the aging Town and Country, the almost as impressive Kia Sedona that was updated for 2015, and the now available all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey, the Sienna is starting to show its age. Ok, it’s not aging as noticeably as the Dodge Grand Caravan (the launch of which I attended in the fall of 2007), but that model sells so cheaply and is so conveniently equipped with second-row seats that fold completely into the floor that it hardly matters how old it is.

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD
Toyota enhanced the interior in 2015, which made a big difference in refinement and electronic interfaces. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Before delving into this top-line Limited AWD model, the 2017 Sienna comes standard with a 3.5-litre V6, and can be had in either front-wheel or optional all-wheel drivetrains. In fact the Sienna is the only minivan offered with AWD, making it a favourite for cold Canadian winters.

The engine, which made a healthy 266 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque last year, gets bumped to 296 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque for 2017 thanks to a new D4-S direct-injection and port injection combination, not to mention a new lean-burn Atkinson cycle design that aids fuel efficiency. What’s more, Toyota added two gears to the standard automatic for a total of eight, which improves both performance and fuel economy.

The numbers you’re likely looking for are 12.5 L/100km city and 8.9 highway for the FWD model, or 13.4 L/100km city and 9.6 highway for the as-tested AWD version, making it the minivan segment’s most efficient non-hybrid competitor (the plug-in Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid gets a difficult to compare rating of 2.6 Le/100km combined city/highway), and I should also add it’s most powerful.

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD
Toyota seats don’t get too many complaints about comfort, these covered in high-end leather. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Where the modifications under the hood modernize the powertrain, the changes for 2015 gave the Sienna a more upscale cabin with much better materials quality, especially in top-tier trims, with an additional focus on enhancing its infotainment systems to surpass the best in the class for the time. Now, three years later, its newer rivals are starting to outclass the Sienna in most every respect, powertrain aside.

Still, at just $33,690 plus freight and fees in base no-name trim, the Sienna sits directly in the middle of the minivan pricing hierarchy (the Sedona and Grand Caravan still sell for less), which, along with its great reputation for reliability and high resale value (along with Toyota’s overall reputation), gives it a major selling advantage.

Even that base model comes stocked with a higher level of standard features than most rivals, including heated power-adjustable side mirrors, tri-zone auto climate control, high-resolution colour touchscreen infotainment, a backup camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, multiple USB ports, Siri Eyes-Free, second-row captain’s chairs, and no shortage of active and passive safety equipment.

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD
Second-row captain’s chairs limit seating to seven, although an available bench (depending on trim) can add one more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The base model can manage seven occupants, although you can optimize the second-rung LE or the sportier SE with a second-row bench seat if you need room for eight, while that LE model gets 17-inch alloy wheels, a larger infotainment display, satellite radio, eight-way powered heatable front seats, power sliding side doors, and more.

Toyota will have to loan me an SE in order to get me to spend too much time going over its details (that’s a snub their way in hopes of snagging an SE tester, because it’s been way too long since they’ve put one on the fleet and it’s still amongst my favourite minivans), but suffice to say it features sporty 19-inch alloys, a specially tuned sport suspension (that’s a bit firmer), recalibrated (read sharper) steering, a really attractive aero body kit, a unique primary gauge package, and plenty more.

Of note, like the base model the $40,505 SE can only be had with FWD, AWD reserved for the LE and XLE alone. This is where it gets confusing, as Toyota refers to the Limited FWD model without any mention of XLE trim, but the top-line model I’m driving is actually an XLE with a Limited package, with Limited not officially included in the name. It seems to be a lot of nothing, but needs mentioning if you plan to build it on Toyota’s website.

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD
There’s no SUV better suited to third-row comfort than a minivan, the Sienna no exception. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The EXL AWD without the Limited package, priced at $44,400, includes sound a unique silver painted grille, LED daytime running lamps, fog lamps, chrome door handles, deadening acoustic glass for the windshield, powered flip-out rear side windows, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 4.2-inch colour multi-information display, chrome interior door handles, woodgrain inlays on the dash, doors and centre console, voice activation, SMS- and email-to-speech, navigation with detailed mapping, leather upholstery, a powered moonroof, a powered rear liftgate, rear parking sensors, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and an anti-theft system.

The $7,315 Limited package, which pushes the Sienna’s price up to $51,715 before freight and fees, adds HID headlamps with auto high beams, heatable, power-folding, auto-dimming side mirrors with integrated turn signals, puddle lamps, and reverse tilt, a heatable steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, driver’s seat memory, a larger 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, a wide-angle backup camera, a 10-speaker JBL Synthesis audio system, a large 16.4-inch widescreen Blu-Ray rear entertainment system, household-style 120-volt power outlets, upgraded premium leather upholstery, and a dual powered panoramic moonroof.

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD
As roomy and convenient for cargo as minivans get? Come back and find out more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While this sounds like a ton of gear, the Sienna is missing some high-tech safety equipment like autonomous front braking, dynamic cruise control, lane keep assist, etcetera that would allow for a better IIHS rating. As it is only the Pacifica achieves Top Safety Pick Plus status, whereas the Sedona gets a Top Safety Pick rating.

It sounds like I’m knocking what is an excellent van made even better for 2017, but that’s far from how I felt while at the wheel. To get my full review including a critique on the new engine and transmission, the user-friendliness of other upgrades, just how well the suspension compares to newer designs, how convenient the Sienna is to live with next to other minivans, and much more, check out these pages regularly…

Just how competitive are GM’s new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickup trucks on the Canadian market? Toyota’s longtime best-selling Tacoma is still ahead, but so far this year we’re…

2017 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD

2017 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD
If this 2017 Chevy Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD looks familiar, we tested near identical versions in 2016 and 2015. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Just how competitive are GM’s new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickup trucks on the Canadian market? Toyota’s longtime best-selling Tacoma is still ahead, but so far this year we’re talking about a sales lead of the finest of margins possible.

Are you sitting down? The Tacoma is just one single solitary truck more popular than the GM twins, with Toyota’s small truck sales at 5,041 units from January 1 to May 31, 2017, and Chevrolet/GMC’s twosome at 5,040 deliveries during the same five months. What are the chances of this? And how much did missing the sales lead by just two trucks hurt at GM Canada’s Oshawa HQ?

Then again, GM Canada can be plenty happy about providing a mid-size truck that’s so impressive they’ve managed to gain an incredible amount of ground against the once totally dominant Toyota since arriving back on the scene in 2014. In fact, the two GM trucks managed to outsell the Tacoma last year with 12,652 sales compared to 12,618, which is again very close.

2017 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD
A great looking truck, it gets a body-colour rear bumper and trim when upgraded to the LT or Z71. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Their U.S. counterparts haven’t been so successful due to the GMC variant dragging its heels against the much more popular Chevy, the former brand’s year-to-date sales just 12,372 units compared to the bowtie brand’s 40,670, which combined equal 53,042 units compared to the Toyota USA’s 78,153 Tacomas. Likewise, last year’s total sales were 108,725 units for the Colorado and 37,449 for the Canyon resulting in total combined deliveries of 146,174, which sounds great until compared to the Tacoma’s 191,631 sales.

On a per capita basis it’s quite clear Canadians are much bigger mid-size GM pickup truck fans than our friends to the south—so much for the heartbeat of America.

Having recently driven every new 2017 truck on the market, except for the GMC version (I’ve got one booked for later this month, but it’s mostly the same if you hadn’t already figured that out) and the Nissan Frontier (it’s way too old to consider calling new despite being dubbed with the 2017 model year, although it had its strongest 12 months of sales in more than a decade last year), I can understand why the GM trucks are selling so well. They’ve got styling, performance, efficiency, interior design and execution, infotainment excellence, and those brilliant rear bumper corner steps going for them. And I haven’t even driven the recently added 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel yet (hopefully that’ll be in the upcoming Canyon).

2017 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD
Yikes! This truck needs a bed liner something bad, as its box paint is still perfect. Fortunately GM offers multiple types, but I’d hate to scratch it up so I had better refrain from hauling anything. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Behind my 2017 Chevy Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD tester’s smiling grille is GM’s 3.6-litre DOHC, direct-injection V6 with a variable intake manifold and variable valve timing making 308 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 275 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, which is three horsepower and six lb-ft of torque more than last year. Suffice to say it moves along quickly enough, but it’s also quite efficient due in part to cylinder deactivation that temporarily cuts fuel to three of its cylinders when coasting or otherwise not required, and auto start/stop that shuts the engine off entirely when it would otherwise be idling, both new to this V6.

Fuel economy remains the same at 13.6 L/100km city, 9.9 highway and 11.9 combined, which is par for the course (the Tacoma 4X4 Double Cab V6 with a similar configuration is good for an estimated 13.1 L/100km city, 10.5 highway and an identical 11.9 combined, despite just 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque), although that segment-exclusive four-cylinder turbo-diesel mentioned earlier, which puts out 181 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm, gets a claimed 12.0 L/100km city, 8.2 highway and 10.3 combined.

My tester’s advanced mode-selectable eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability has much to do with its efficiency, this having the most forward speeds of any pickup truck in the class, plus when the Trailering Package is added it now includes a standard trailer brake controller (previously only available with the diesel), helping it achieve up to 3,175 kilos (7,000 lbs) of trailering weight as tested, whereas the diesel 4×4 can pull up to 3,447 kg (7,600 lbs).

2017 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD
The Z71 gets a very nice interior that’s highlighted by an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with the impressive Chevrolet MyLink interface. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also notable, GM’s AutoTrac automatic four-wheel drive system is now standard fare with the V6, the old system requiring users to manually select 2WD, 4WD Hi or 4WD Lo.

Strangely, of all the potential variations of cab size (there are three), bed length (there are two), engines (there are three), transmissions (there are two), drivelines (two again), and trim levels (there are many), all of the Colorados loaned to me over the past three years have been almost identical in configuration. The first two Z71 Crew Cab Short Box V6 4WD models were even the same Red Hot colour, while this latest 2017 model is trimmed out nearly the same once again other than its new for 2017 Cajun Red Tintcoat paintjob, although even that’s another shade of red (Graphite grey is also new for 2017, while Laser Blue and Orange Burst were late additions to the 2016 model).

Even their interiors have been the same, with carbon copy black and grey, leatherette and cloth upholstery. They’ve all been very nice, but how about some variety GM? I’d like to try a base truck with the 2.5-litre four, or for that matter the diesel I’ve been going on and on about. The new ZR2, Chevy’s mid-size answer to Ford’s off-road racing replica Raptor, would be a wonderful change. That model with the diesel might be just about perfect.

2017 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD
From this angle it’s the exact same interior that I’ve tested three years in a row, despite Chevy offering many more Colorado options. It’s still nice, however. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The diesel was new last year, by the way, with this latest 2017 model having some additions of its own. These include the aforementioned nudge upward in V6 performance, plus a new larger 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen incorporating an updated Chevrolet MyLink interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, available with the base WT (Work Truck) and standard in mid-range LT trim.

My tester received the same impressive 8.0-inch Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system as last year’s version, complete with the previously mentioned features in the 7.0-inch system as well as Bluetooth streaming audio, voice activation, satellite radio, four USB ports, and more.

If you’re wondering what you get for the upgrade to Z71 trim, the features list includes an automatic locking rear diff, hill descent control, an upgraded twin-tube shock infused off-road suspension, a transfer case shield, 17-inch Dark Argent metallic cast aluminum alloys on 255/65 all-terrain tires, a full-size 16-inch spare, projector style headlights, fog lamps, remote start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, single-zone auto climate control, a powered front passenger seat, powered lumbar support for both front seats, heatable front seats, a sliding rear window, an EZ-Lift and Lower tailgate, and more.

2017 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD
Spacious and comfortable in back? Come back to find out in an upcoming review. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Z71 gets most everything from LT trim too, including the two-speed AutoTrac transfer case noted earlier, body-colour side mirror housings, door handles and rear bumper, remote entry, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, chrome interior door handles, an overhead console, illuminated vanity mirrors, a colour multi-information display, cruise control, the larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and more.

Lastly, some notable items that get pulled up to Z71 trim from the base WT (when equipped with the Crew Cab, Short Box, and 4WD) include the V6, eight-speed, four-wheel discs with ABW, traction control and StabiliTrak stability control, front recovery hooks, black beltline mouldings, a cargo box light, GM’s exclusive (and brilliant) CornerStep rear bumper, powered door locks, a locking tailgate, colour-keyed carpeting, carpeted floor mats front and rear, powered windows, front bucket seats, a powered driver’s seat, a split-folding rear bench seat, a floor-mounted centre console, air conditioning, a backup camera, a six-speaker audio system, tire pressure monitoring, all the expected airbags front and rear, and more.

That 2017 Colorado Z71 Crew Cab Short Box 4WD starts at $38,545 plus freight and fees, but was outfitted with yet more gear as-tested including the Cajun paint at $595, upgraded cargo area lamps at $310, and four cargo tie-down rings at $125, pushing the total price up to $39,575.

How do I like it? Have I experienced any problems so far? What would I change? Does it deserve its success? I’ll answer these questions and more in an upcoming review. Until then I recommend you come back for more…

Convertible time is here now that spring has sprung and summer is on the way, or at least we’re hoping we get a steady flow of sunbeams soon. Always optimists, we’ve reviewed the recently refreshed…

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik Road Test

Now that we're well into spring, with hopes of a long and warm summer just around the corner (Farmer's Almanac be damned), 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.

Take a look at 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. 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 Read Full Story
The original Focus ST dates back to the model’s first-generation when it became the blue-oval brand’s VW GTI killer in 2005, but like so many fabulous cars offered in other markets it was never brought…

2017 Ford Focus ST

2017 Ford Focus ST
The Focus ST continues its strong challenge against the hot hatch crowd. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The original Focus ST dates back to the model’s first-generation when it became the blue-oval brand’s VW GTI killer in 2005, but like so many fabulous cars offered in other markets it was never brought across the Atlantic to play in our sandbox. Sure we had the 2002–2004 SVT Focus with a significant 170 horsepower, but that was still 52 ponies shy of the KKK-Warner turbocharged Euro version, whereas the ST variant of the Focus ZX4 built from 2005–2007 hardly deserves mention due to just 151 horsepower. We’d have to wait a total of six years after ex-Boeing CEO Alan Mulally took the reigns in Dearborn so that his “One Ford” strategy could be more fully implemented before the 2013 Focus ST made its U.S. and Canadian debuts, followed quickly by the equally entertaining 2014 Fiesta ST (ironically the year Mulally was ousted).
2017 Ford Focus ST
The Focus ST makes a striking pose no matter which angle you see it. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Forget for a moment that the both small Fords are some of the most outdated models in their respective classes, or maybe I should call them two of the oldest models in their subcompact and compact car segments, because despite being in our market for five and four years apiece they’re still more advanced than many of their peers. It’s just that they’re up against a phenomenally good new Honda Civic (that now comes in four body styles as well as a duo of new high performance Si models and an ultra-aggressive Type R), a much-improved Hyundai Elantra (in sedan and GT hatchback trims), and a better-than-ever Toyota Corolla (now with the Scion iM joining its ranks), while most others in the class than have been redesigned more recently.
2017 Ford Focus ST
The centre-mounted dual exhaust is an ST exclusive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Nevertheless, one glance at the 2017 Focus ST ¬(or its insanely powerful Focus RS sibling—another previously Euro-only model introduced here last year, but available since 2002 in Europe) and you probably won’t care, as it looks fabulous, comes stuffed full of two of the best Recaro sport seats in the entire compact class, and scoots like someone lit its tail on fire. I half expect to see flames thrown from its tailpipes in between shifts when I see one burning up the street in my import-tuner and supercar dominated neighbourhood, and yes the Focus ST should be considered an import despite wearing a decidedly domestic badge due to the cooperative group of global Ford performance divisions that came up with the idea, incubated it, brought it to life, kept it on life support when bean counters wanted it killed, and resuscitated it for this current generation. Let’s hope it remains, along with the aforementioned RS, to top off the next-gen Focus, which is expected sometime next year.
2017 Ford Focus ST
The performance-oriented cockpit is plenty luxurious too, plus filled with the latest tech. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Before sharing most of the reasons why I love the Focus ST in an upcoming review of this exact car, let me fill you in on some cold, hard facts: 252 horsepower, 270 lb-ft of torque, a 2.0-litre turbocharged, direct-injected Ecoboost I-4, a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox, a unique lightweight fully independent sport suspension design, lightweight 18-inch alloys on low profile summer performance tires, and a 1,462-kilo (3,223-lb) curb weight. Does that sound like something that’s got what it takes to get a move on? You betcha! Strap yourself into those deeply sculpted leather Recaro sport seats, grab hold of its leather-wrapped flat-bottomed sport steering wheel, give a firm tug on its carbon-fibre trimmed parking brake lever, take hold of its carbon-fibre and leather-clad shift knob, find your footing on its ideally placed aluminum pedals, glance over at its trio of ancillary mini-gauges with turbo boost pressure atop the dash (just for fun), and don’t forget to select your favourite tunes on the 10-speaker Sony audio system. You’re now ready to rhumba! Believe me, it may not be the 350 horsepower Focus RS, but time well spent with a Focus ST won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
2017 Ford Focus ST
These leather-covered Recaro sport seats are some of the best in the biz. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Keep in mind the $33,698 2017 Focus ST is also $14,720 more affordable than the RS, so you’ll still have enough to buy a new Fiesta for a family member or friend. Seriously though, it’s a great value as far as brilliantly fun super hatches go. Plus it’s not exactly all go and now show either. As mentioned earlier, its unique front grille and fascia, extended rocker panels, larger rear rooftop spoiler, and redesigned rear bumper cap with exclusive centre-mounted chromed tailpipes totally set the Focus ST apart, while other standard exterior features include auto on/off LED signature enhanced HID headlamps, black bezeled fog lights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, and more.
2017 Ford Focus ST
A sports car with room for five. Something you could live with? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Proximity-sensing keyless access gets you inside while pushbutton start gets the little turbo-four percolating, the Focus ST receiving most of the items previously mentioned as standard equipment, as well as the nicer soft touch interior panels of the Focus Titanium, plus metal “ST” branded scuff plates, ambient lighting, one-touch up/down powered windows all-round, a 4.2-inch high-resolution colour TFT multi-information display, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, a heated steering wheel rim, heatable front seats, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, leather upholstery, an overhead console, a powered moonroof, and dual-zone auto climate control, while the carbon-fibre trim mentioned earlier can also be found on the door grab handle inserts and the bezel surrounding the dash-top mini gauges.
2017 Ford Focus ST
The practical theme continues with a large cargo area and split-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Tech fans will love the ST’s standard 8.0-inch centre stack-mounted touchscreen incorporating a backup camera with active guidelines and Ford’s new Sync 3 infotainment interface featuring tap, pinch and swipe capability, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity, the previously noted Sony audio system, enhanced voice recognition, satellite radio, dual smart-charging USB ports, etcetera. Additionally, standard safety features include a perimeter alarm, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, sport-tuned ABS, traction and stability control, a full assortment of advanced airbags including one for the driver’s knees, plus plenty more. My tester is fully loaded, which means navigation with detailed mapping adds $800, the machine-finished alloys with black painted pockets are an additional $600, and that eye-searing Triple Yellow paint increases the bottom line by $550, the total options coming to $1,950. You might gather from my enthusiasm that I’m in for a very good week, so if you don’t hear much from me in the coming days you’ll know why. I’ll have a full review on this sensational little road rocket soon…
I’m always fascinated by how different the Canadian market is from our friends to the south. We speak the same language (accents and colloquialisms aside), watch most of the same TV shows and films…

2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport

2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
Lexus gives the IS 350 F Sport a more aggressive front fascia for 2017. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
I’m always fascinated by how different the Canadian market is from our friends to the south. We speak the same language (accents and colloquialisms aside), watch most of the same TV shows and films (albeit skewed more towards all things hockey), and listen to much of the same music on the same brands of TVs, tablets and phones, buy most of our clothes from the same popular branded stores, and eat at many of the same fast food restaurants (although you can’t get poutine or a McLobster at McDonald’s U.S. locations), yet we still have unique national traits that show up in the types of things we purchase. Canadians tend to like hatchbacks, wagons and minivans more than Americans, and when we opt for four-door sedans we lean more towards smaller sport models than larger luxurious ones. Take Lexus, for instance. In the U.S. the mid-size front-wheel drive ES has long been one of the most popular luxury sedans in existence, more than doubling IS sales in 2012 and selling tens of thousands more every other year.
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
New taillight lenses are no less dramatic than the old ones, but a new diffuser-style lower bumper and new tailpipes look great. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Here in Canada, however, the IS is the Lexus sales leader, albeit not at such a wide spread. Last year Lexus Canada sold 3,033 IS series sedans compared to 2,153 ES models, whereas the year prior it found 3,401 customers for the IS compared to 2,305 for the ES. The IS’ best year was 2014 when it sold 3,945 units, while you’ll need to go way back to 2007 to find the ES’ best sales results of 4,251 deliveries. While I like the ES 350 and ES 300h, my feelings are more lukewarm than anything remotely fiery hot. It’s an excellent car from a mid-size family sedan perspective, but exactly how much better it is than any of the large mainstream volume-branded flagship models such as Toyota’s own Avalon, Nissan’s Maxima, Chrysler’s 300, Chevy’s Impala, Buick’s LaCrosse, and Kia’s Cadenza is difficult to surmise. The IS, however, has nothing from the lower class to compare it to. Perhaps Kia’s upcoming Stinger will measure up premium status, but for the time being we can only draw comparison to D-segment sport-luxury car leaders like BMW’s 3 Series,
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
An F Sport steering wheel, fully configurable TFT gauge cluster, 10.3-inch infotainment, and more make the IS 350 F Sport special. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Mercedes’ C-Class, Audi’s A4, Acura’s TLX, Infiniti’s Q50, Cadillac’s ATS, Volvo’s S60, Jaguar’s XE, and Alfa Romeo’s new Giulia, if I ever get my hands on one. In this way it’s a true premium product, unlike the ES that only really competes with Lincoln’s MKX and Buick’s Regal or LaCrosse in the near-premium sector. As for where the IS stacks up against those German, Japanese, American, Swedish, British and Italian competitors, Lexus can feel pretty good with its fifth place amongst 11 direct rivals (I included the Buick Regal due to its size). The only non-German car to beat it is the TLX, while the Q50 remains just behind nipping at its rear tires. I don’t necessarily want you to read performance into that last comment, as the Q50 is now the get-up-and-go leader amongst Japanese entries when kitted out in top trim. That would be the 400 horsepower Q50 Red Sport 400, that crushes the top-line 290 horsepower TLX as well as this top-tier 306 horsepower IS 350 (the mighty V8-powered IS F no longer part of Lexus’ “F” performance branded lineup).
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
The contoured F Sport seats are leather covered, powered, heated and ventilated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Amongst the Germans, you’ll need to move up to the 354 horsepower S4 to get near the Q50’s highest level of boost, as the top-line A4’s 252 horsepower four won’t light a fire under any serious stoplight warrior, whereas BMW’s 340i now makes a heady 320 (but if feels like so much more), while Mercedes’ C 43 AMG sizzles with 362 horsepower. To keep you from bothering me with emails, the quickest non-Quadrifoglio Giulia makes 276 horsepower, the fastest non-Polestar S60 puts out 302 horses, the speediest non-V ATS puts out 335, and the hottest XE maxes out at 340; I’m not even going to go into the M3 and V8-powered AMG. So, to make a short story long, the IS 350 doesn’t pull in its buyers on performance alone. In fact, while 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque is nothing to be shy about, nor its bettering the already enjoyable IS 300 by a significant 51 hp and 41 lb-ft, its six-speed automatic is no more advanced than the ES 350’s identically cogged autobox. Where it deviates is in its aforementioned smaller size and rear-wheel biased standard all-wheel drive layout. I’ll delve into its overall driving dynamics in an upcoming review, so for now we’ll leave its drivetrain specifics at that.
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
Enough space in the back for you? Check out our road test review to find out what we think. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Hard to believe but I drove the original IS 300 soon after its 1998 launch, and was on the press launch for the second-generation 2006 model in Toronto, where we put it through its paces on a makeshift autocross course at the old Downsview Airport, owned by Bombardier incidentally. That was a breakthrough car for Lexus, but other than the sensational 416 horsepower IS F I mentioned earlier and tested in the spring of 2008, that second-gen car doesn’t come close to measuring up to this third-generation model. This latest IS was introduced in 2013 as a 2014 model, and thanks to dramatic styling and dynamic performance has garnered more fans than ever before. This year marks the current third-gen’s mid-cycle update, which includes subtly reworked styling from front to rear. Following a pattern already set out by its siblings, the front grille grows in size, especially in F Sport trim, as do new larger air intakes integrated into a totally reworked lower fascia. These details are even more pronounced in F Sport trim thanks to a glossy black grille surround and side vent strakes, these matching the grille and vent inserts ideally.
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
The trunk gets 60/40-split rear seatbacks to expand cargo space when needed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The checkmark LED driving lights remain unchanged, but the headlamps above truly catch the eye as they get a totally new shape and inner assembly, whereas the LED taillights are identically shaped yet receive new lenses and innards. A new lower fascia incorporates a new matte black diffuser style cap and new angular tailpipes, this latter upgrade winning my wholehearted approval. I’ll give you my honest opinion about changes up front in my upcoming review, but suffice to say bigger and bolder doesn’t necessarily translate into better. That said some changes inside are nice, including new “hairline” instrument panel trim and a gorgeous analog clock. As for feature details, the F Sport package mentioned earlier is the Series 2 version, which comes standard with the $53,350 IS 350 (it’s optional on lesser IS models). It boasts the previously noted styling enhancements as well as unique 18-inch alloys on 225/40 front and 255/35 rear tires, an adaptive variable suspension, an LFA supercar-inspired fully configurable colour TFT primary gauge cluster, a heatable three-spoke F Sport leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, an F Sport shift knob, scuff plates, F Sport performance seats, heat and ventilation for those front seats, auto-dimming side mirrors, a massive 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, a single in-dash DVD, remote control, satellite radio, USB and aux ports, Siri-Eyes-Free, a powered sunroof, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and more.
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
Does this smooth performing V6 make enough power compared to competitors? Check out our upcoming review for a full critique after first-hand experience. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Other features pulled up from lesser trims include aluminum sport pedals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, filtered dual-zone auto climate control, a reverse camera with active guidelines, eight-way powered front seats, rear seat heater ducts, all the usual active and passive safety features, and more. Of note, standard with on all IS trims for 2017 are LED headlamps with automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, dynamic radar cruise control, and other Lexus Safety Sense+ features such as a pre-collision system and lane departure alert with autonomous steering assist, which would all come together to earn a best-possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating if it weren’t for a merely “Acceptable” rating for its small overlap front crash test and another “A” for its headlights. It scores best-possible “Good” marks in every other category, and a “Superior” rating in the area of Crash Avoidance and Mitigation under front crash prevention. Being that most other Lexus models earn top IIHS marks, they’ll want to modify whatever needs fixing in order to make this car qualify. Not safety related, unless trying to find your way, finding the optimal driving position, or getting the sun off the necks of rear passengers, my Atomic Silver painted tester included the reasonably priced $1,300 upgrade to the F Sport 3 package that added a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio upgrade and a powered rear window sunshade. I’ll go over all-important driving dynamics in my upcoming road test review, plus talk about styling, interior materials quality and refinement, roominess, how all the features work, and more. Stay tuned…
If you were to ask most car shoppers to name the top three most reliable brands in the industry, Lexus would likely earn the popular vote as it’s been touted as most dependable for decades. Once again…

2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD

2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD
Buick’s LaCrosse has come a long way since introduced in 2004 as the Allure. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
If you were to ask most car shoppers to name the top three most reliable brands in the industry, Lexus would likely earn the popular vote as it’s been touted as most dependable for decades. Once again it sits up top of the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study as well as first place in Consumer Reports’ most reliable car brands in America. Toyota in second place only makes sense, as it shares many of its components with Lexus models, at least when it comes to the premium brand’s lower end product, but this is only the case with Consumer Reports, J.D. Power giving the runner up position to Porsche. Toyota scores third with the latter third-party analytical firm, whereas CR chooses Buick for its best of the rest, General Motors’ international (North America/China/Europe) offering fourth with J.D. Power.
2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD
A handsome design, the LaCrosse comes loaded with impressive kit in Premium AWD trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Of course, its standing within these organizations’ two surveys moves up if we classify Buick in either the mainstream volume or premium sectors, and which of these two market segments to place the brand into will be up to your own personal viewpoint, and potentially which model we’re talking about. Having driven each Buick model (although admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve been in a Verano or Regal, and have only scheduled the new Envision for a weeklong test). We’ve got the new 2017 LaCrosse in the garage, and from my first few days of poking around and time spent at the wheel it seems to fit neatly in between brands like Toyota and Lexus, filling the entry-level luxury category. In some ways its miles more advanced than the competitive Toyota Avalon, especially with respect to powertrains, which by default gives it the nod over Lexus’ ES 350 as well. It’s nearly as premium-like as the similarly upscale Avalon and ES 350 too, with respect to interior finishings, materials quality, electronic interfaces, comfort, and quietness, while styling, inside and out, will come down to personal taste as always.
2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD
LaCrosse styling is comprised of curving sheetmetal and uniquely shaped lighting elements. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
My LaCrosse tester was finished in top-of-the-line Premium trim, which moves the price up from a base of $37,295 to $46,900, upgraded with AWD for an extra $2,450. The $49,350 model is pretty good value for all you get, the base LaCrosse priced lower than Toyota’s flagship Avalon in base trim, yet this top-tier Buick Premium AWD considerably higher than the fully loaded Toyota, while you can add a few thousand more to the ES 350’s bottom line, while taking a number of features off its roster. I spoke of powertrains, the Toyota and Lexus cousins sharing the same 268 horsepower 3.5-litre V6 with 248 lb-ft of torque, six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode, and large mid-size front-wheel drive architecture, the Buick stepping things up with 3.6-litre V6 featuring 310 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque, an eight-speed automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters, plus in the case of my tester, all-wheel drive. Like I said, the LaCrosse definitely has the advantage in the powertrain department.
2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD
Luxuriously outfitted and filled with high-tech features, the LaCrosse Premium bridges the gap between mainstream and premium. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
I’m going to leave the comparo there, because to pull the Avalon and ES 350 into every aspect of this overview we’d need to do likewise with an impressive list of near full-size mainstream and mid-size E-segment luxury challengers, such as Chrysler’s 300, Nissan’s Maxima, and Kia’s Cadenza amongst volume brands, and Acura’s RLX, Genesis’ G80, Volvo’s S90, Infiniti’s Q70, Lincoln’s MKZ and Continental, Cadillac’s CTS and CT6, Lexus GS’, Jaguar’s XF, Audi’s A6, BMW’s 5 Series, and Mercedes’ E-Class on the higher end of the scale. In many ways the LaCrosse can compete in either class, the powertrain easily falling within premium expectations as noted, while its list of standard features fits more easily within the group of flagship mainstream models, with exterior features including 18-inch alloys on 235/50 all-seasons, active grille shutters, auto on/off articulating HID headlamps, halogen fog lamps, heated and powered side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, laminated acoustic glass for the windshield and front-side windows, and remote start.
2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD
Premium trim includes perforated leather for ventilated cooling when needing to escape the heat. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Proximity-sensing keyless access lets you inside, while pushbutton ignition gets things going, with additional standard features including an electromechanical parking brake, illuminated vanity mirrors, a universal garage door opener, metal sill plates, a leather-wrapped multifunction, steering wheel, dual-zone auto climate control, a large 8.0-inch Buick IntelliLink infotainment touchscreen featuring a backup camera with active guidelines, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration, Bluetooth streaming audio, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, dual USB ports, eight-speaker audio, active noise cancellation, eight-way powered front seats, leatherette upholstery, rear parking sensors, a fuel-saving auto start/stop system for the engine, helping the big Buick achieve a fairly thrifty claimed 11.2 L/100km in the city and 7.5 on the highway. Standard safety items include all the usual active and passive features plus a teen driving mode, tire pressure monitoring, and 10 airbags including side-thorax bags for the rear and knees airbags for both front occupants.
2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD
It’s easy to see there’s no shortage of room back here, but does the LaCrosse Premium measure up to rivals when it comes to rear seat features? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
There are two additional trim levels between base and as-tested Premium, including the $40,130 Preferred Group and $42,790 Essence Group, the former adding “Ultra-Bright” machine-finished 18-inch alloys, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, satellite radio, a cargo net, an emergency tool kit, and the ability to add some option packages, while the latter Essence Group adds perforated leather upholstery, heatable front seats, two-way powered lumbar for the front passenger, driver’s seat and side mirror memory, auto-dimming side mirrors, wireless device charging, and yet more option packages. My Premium-trimmed tester upped the ante yet further with a head-up display, a heatable steering wheel, a massaging driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support, ventilated front seats, a household-style three-prong 120-volt power outlet, storage within the folding rear armrest, the Driver Confidence Package #1 that includes blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change alert, forward collision alert, a following distance indicator, lane keep assist, and a safety alert driver’s seat.
2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD
Large trunks are nothing new for flagship Buick sedans, although you won’t get as much in this one as a ’70s-era Electra Park Avenue. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Believe it or not there are still option packages available, my Black Onyx painted tester further upgraded with the $1,860 Driver Confidence Package #2, which includes adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, front pedestrian detection, and semi-autonomous parallel and perpendicular self-parking; the $2,135 Sun and Shade package that adds a powered panoramic sunroof and a powered rear sunshade; and the $1,450 Sights and Sounds package that features navigation with mapping, and a Bose Centrepoint Surround Sound audio upgrade. Additional options not included include various colour upgrades ranging from $495 to $1,195 (the Black Onyx is no charge), two additional no-cost interior motifs including Light Neutral (beige) with Dark Brown Accents and Brandy (saddle) with Ebony Accents, 20-inch alloy wheels on 245/40 all-seasons that come as part of a $1,495 Dynamic Driver Package that also includes a driver selectable Sport mode and continuously variable real-time damping, $230 sport pedals, a $425 rear spoiler, a $245 Buick Interior Protection Package featuring all-weather floor mats and a cargo mat, a $150 engine block heater, and more. As it is, my tester came to $53,145, not including freight, dealer fees or taxes, which represents very good value for what you get. I’ll go into my thoughts about styling, interior quality, how all the features work, what’s missing, its driving dynamics, its place in the market, sales numbers, and more when I review it in a few weeks, plus you’ll get a much larger and more detail photo gallery to skim through. Until then, enjoy the photos supplied and come back soon to check out the review…