Anyone not cognizant of a steady increase in luxury SUV sales has been focused on other things than the automotive market, but they’ll likely become amply aware when it comes time to trade in their…

New AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ to leave sport ute rivals far behind

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe
New 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe models to dominate compact SUV performance segment with 503-hp apiece. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Anyone not cognizant of a steady increase in luxury SUV sales has been focused on other things than the automotive market, but they’ll likely become amply aware when it comes time to trade in their ride and they visit the showroom of their favourite premium brand.

Along with the usual assortment of sport-luxury sedans, two- and four-door sport coupes, convertibles, and traditional sport wagons, they’ll be met by more new SUVs than they’ve ever seen, filling ever-increasing segments as well as micro niches never before imagined.

The new GLC Coupe is just one of those unusually welcome alternatives within the burgeoning luxury SUV sector, helping to fill out a particularly focused market segment that was previously only occupied by BMW’s X4.

The sporty Mercedes SUV arrived in similar fashion as the German brand’s GLE Coupe, which now handily goes up against BMW’s long-running X6 in the larger mid-size SUV category. The fastback Merc went on sale in 2014, a considerable eight years after the Bimmer, with Stuttgart appearing to have waited in order to judge market reaction to the Bavarian’s entry. Surprising many, Mercedes took no time bringing the smaller GLC Coupe to market the following year as a 2016 model.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV
The AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV is the more practical of the two due to its traditional SUV design. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Now that we’re about to enter model year 2018, things are heating up a lot more thanks to the expected arrival of Mercedes-AMG’s new GLC 63 S 4Matic+ Coupe. It’s a perfect example of how the top German brands lead all premium competitors by filling niches within niches. In this case BMW was first with its X4 M40i, but that sporty model in no way diminishes the impact of this exciting new three-pointed star entry, especially considering that along with the SUV coupe version comes a more practical AMG-tuned compact SUV.

That would be Mercedes-AMG’s GLC 63 S 4Matic+ that first showed up alongside the SUV Coupe variant at the 2017 New York International Auto Show in early April, a model that only has Audi’s SQ5, Jaguar’s F-Pace S and Range Rover’s new Velar for competition, being that BMW has yet to modify its more traditional compact X3 SUV. Just the same, both AMG-tuned M-B SUVs deliver a level of potency that should cause their rivals to shy away from a direct fight on the track.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ Coupe
The sweptback AMG GLC 63 S Coupe 4Matic+ gets a unique “Race” mode for track dominance. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Where the X4 M40i and SQ5 put out a similar 355 and 354 horsepower respectively, plus 343 and 369 lb-ft of torque, and the slightly larger supercharged 3.0-litre V6 powered F-Pace and Velar improve on both with 380 horsepower apiece, albeit only 332 lb-ft of torque, Mercedes seems to have its targets set more directly on Porsche’s Macan Turbo that unleashes 400 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque in regular trim or 440 and 442 respectively with its Performance package. Still, as impressive as Porsche’s top compact SUV is, in all-conquering AMG style the two new GLC 63 S 4Matic+ models produce 503 scorching horsepower and 516 lb-ft of tire smoking torque.

The dominant engine is nothing less than Mercedes-AMG’s handcrafted and individually signed twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, a dry-sump version of which is shared with the mighty AMG GT sports car, whereas cog swapping duties come by the brand’s new in-house designed and built AMG SpeedShift MCT 9-speed automatic that debuted in the E 63 S 4Matic+, a lightweight paddle shifter-actuated transmission boasting a start-off wet clutch (that replaces the torque converter), ultra-short shift/response times, and double-declutching functionality.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe
Both AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe models boast the same hand-built twin-turbo V8. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Of course, such specifications result in a very quick tag team of sport utilities, with zero to 100 km/h sprints of 3.8 seconds each, aided by an electronic limited-slip rear differential and constantly variable front-to-rear torque distribution from the standard 4Matic+ all-wheel drivetrain that’s also tuned by AMG. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h.

Four wheel grip is further enhanced by a standard set of twinned five-spoke lightweight 20-inch alloys on 265/45 front and 295/40 rear performance tires (or optional 21-inch forged alloys with 265/40 front and 295/35 rear rubber) that also help it stop faster via special high-performance brakes featuring 390-millimetre drilled and internally-ventilated discs front and back, whereas an adjustable air suspension with adaptive adjustable damping optimizes cornering capability.

What’s more, in order to give the GLC 63 S Coupe 4Matic+ an edge over its more pragmatic sibling, Mercedes has added a “Race” mode to its usual Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual driver-selectable AMG Dynamic Select performance settings. These modify engine, transmission, suspension, steering, ESP, and all-wheel drive responsiveness depending on demands.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe
Interior detailing includes high grade materials finished with unique AMG detailing in black and red. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

An easy way to tell these ultimate performance SUVs apart from their less formidable brethren are AMG Panamericana-style frontal grilles with unique vertical strakes, similar in design to those found on the much lauded Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster and GT R sports coupe. The GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and GLC 63 S 4Matic+ Coupe also benefit from unique front and rear bumper designs, while the wheel arches are widened to fit their meatier rims and rubber, plus the SUV body style gets its first rear rooftop spoiler.

Inside, special sport seats are covered with Mercedes’ exclusive Artico leatherette bolsters and suede-like Dinamica microfibre inserts, these materials showing up elsewhere around the cabin as well. Additionally, a tasteful supply of aluminum trim joins a mostly black interior that gets spiced up with red accents, not to mention the expected AMG-embossed badges. Beautifully finished carbon-fibre trim is also available, inside and out.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV
The new Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe promise superb handling for both road and track. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“For us, the new GLC 63 S 4MATIC+ is quite a special vehicle,” said Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. “It is no easy job designing an SUV to be highly sporty and dynamic, while at the same time offering exceptional driving stability. This required us to put our heart and soul, along with our many years of SUV expertise, into the development of this vehicle. The result is an SUV that can be driven with high precision and agility and which, if required, is equally at home on a high-speed lap of the racetrack. With our V8 biturbo engine, we hold a decisive USP in the Performance market. What is more, with SUV and Coupe, we offer the widest choice in the segment. Also, the technical closeness to our sports cars is underscored visually by the Panamericana grille, which was previously reserved for our AMG GT models.”

Of note, the Canadian market will not be getting the 469 horsepower non-“S” AMG GLC 63 variant of these two SUVs, models that are available in the U.S. as well as other markets.

When the 2018 Mercedes-AMG 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe arrive in showrooms across Canada later this year, pricing will likely start in the high $80k to low $90k range.

Making a sport model larger is rarely positive, but Mercedes’ choice to grow its E-Class Coupe to nearly match the midsize sedan’s dimensions was the right decision. The new two-door now seats four…

2018 Mercedes-Benz E 400 4Matic Coupe Road Test

The personal luxury coupe sector is a tricky market to get right. I won't even attempt to count the number of brands that have entirely given up on two-door hardtops, this especially true of mid- and full-size E- and F-segment participants.

In fact, with the admission that BMW ended production of its 6 Series Coupe in February (and no confirmation of the much anticipated 8 Series), Lexus and Mercedes-Benz are the only premium brands that dare go up against ultra-luxury players such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Maserati with premium coupes of their own. The Japanese brand has just introduced the daring new LC, its first foray into these dangerous waters, whereas Mercedes' E-Class Coupe (previously CLK, CE) and S-Class Coupe (previously CL, SEC, and SLC) have experienced relatively smooth sailing for decades.

Way back when I was emulating Alex P. Keaton as an up and coming '80s-era yuppie, I unabashedly lusted after the 500 SEC. It was and still Read Full Story
With a shiny new 2017 Honda Pilot in the driveway, I can’t help but glance over at my recently updated sales chart spreadsheet to see how this relatively new model is stacking up against its closest…

2017 Honda Pilot Touring

2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Like what you see? It’s an Acura MDX with Honda styling, and therefore great value. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
With a shiny new 2017 Honda Pilot in the driveway, I can’t help but glance over at my recently updated sales chart spreadsheet to see how this relatively new model is stacking up against its closest competitors. I keep track of such things as it helps to build the narrative, especially if a particular model isn’t quite measuring up to its associated brand power. Honda has mega brand power in this country, having long held bestselling status in the car sector (not the pickup truck sector—that was a joke, as its Ridgeline owns “most exclusive” status here and everywhere else it’s sold) with the Civic; currently (as of Q2 2017) in first place in the mid-size car segment with its Accord (yes, ahead of the Camry); also number one in the subcompact SUV segment with the HR-V; constantly contending for top three spot amongst compact SUVs with its CR-V, second as of December 31, 2016 with the Fit in the subcompact car category (albeit it’s plummeted to fifth in just six months), and 11th (as of Q2 2017) for the subject of this review; but that’s better than 12th, where it finished up 2016.
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
Top-tier Touring trim adds LED headlamps, 20-inch alloys, and other niceties. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
To be fair, if you pare the segment down to car-based crossover SUVs from its 21 overall contestants it registers 10th, although the segment shrinks to 18. We can get rid of a couple of tall wagons that don’t really compete directly, mind you, which yanks the Pilot up a notch to ninth yet removes another from the total tally resulting in 17 direct rivals, and if we’re going to get so granular in our competitive analysis we really should clump models with five and seven passenger variants together (like the Santa Fe Sport and XL), which places the Pilot in 8th and overall list down to 16. Still, it’s hardly reasonable to include the new VW Atlas on the big list, as it’s only been available for two months, while the same brand’s Touareg is a $50k luxury SUV that competes in an entirely different class. This makes the Pilot eighth most popular out of 14 direct competitors (and no we can’t divide things up into five- and seven-seat challengers because Honda doesn’t offer a five-seat variant.
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
You can only get a black interior if you don’t want a black exterior… seriously. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
That’s an issue it will need to address, as class dominating Hyundai found nearly three times as many buyers for its five-seat Santa Fe Sport over the first half of 2017, while Ford’s five-seat Edge wasn’t far off the mark. And if you think things even out much more when comparing seven-seat SUVs, consider that Ford’s Explorer sold more than twice as many units, while Toyota’s Highlander, Dodge’s Journey, and Kia’s Sorento came close to doubling Pilot sales. Grinding salt into the wound, this is ramping up to be a particularly good year for the big Honda’s big SUV, with 4,079 units already down the road compared to 7,279 last year. Then again, Honda sold 8,230 in 2015 when the new model was introduced (in May), which while a massive bump over the 6,113 units sold in 2014 while the old model was winding down, and much stronger than the scant 4,328 sold during the model’s emotional low of 2007, is a big hill to scale in comparison to rivals. In other words, the Pilot significantly underperforms on the sales charts for such a mega brand. It’s not like it’s suffering from new kid syndrome either. The Pilot has been around for a long time, 15 years to be exact, but the rather bland looking first-generation wasn’t exactly a homerun, and Honda’s second kick at the can, a boxy, upright, traditionally styled SUV was only moderately more successful.
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
All black interior is joined by loads of piano black lacquer trim, the only colour being some superb digital interfaces. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Having previously tested a 2016 version in top-tier Touring trim, this is the second modern-day third-generation Pilot to be parked in my garage. Odd that Honda provided a Touring trimmed model once again, and stranger still that it coated both in the same grey-blue Steel Sapphire Metallic hue, especially when so many other colours are on the available palette, such as darker and bolder Obsidian Blue Pearl, dark green Black Forest Pearl, Dark Cherry Pearl, and all the usual shades from White Diamond Pearl, Lunar Silver Metallic, and medium grey Modern Steel Metallic, to Crystal Black Pearl. Opting for the latter would have allowed perforated Beige leather upholstery instead of the same old Black hides, but it’s even more interesting to note you can’t get the lighter beige cabin with some of the complementary colours just noted (dark green and beige is a no-brainer). It must be difficult to select colour combinations knowing ahead they won’t appeal to everyone, but one reason top sellers perform well is the variety they bring to the market. Limiting the beige interior to those wanting a black exterior seems self-defeating.
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
The primary instruments are unique and filled with a large colour TFT multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Interestingly, Honda’s U.S. division forces those who purchase black Pilots into black or grey interiors, with beige totally off the menu, while those opting for the green or cherry red exteriors are mandated into beige. Either blue exterior paint removes black and beige from the equation entirely, leaving just grey, but at least more options are on the table. Such is life with a ten-times larger market, but then again a little more colour variety wouldn’t hurt the Pilot’s potential sales. I won’t use the word austere, but even when Honda tries to bling up the top-line Pilot Touring’s cabin it uses yet more of the inkiest shade in the form of piano black lacquered plastic. There’s no warm wood tones, sophisticated satin-finished metals, or any as avant garde as the Nissan Murano’s radical mother of pearl inlays, and while I’m not decrying Honda goes that far to wow would-be buyers, something a bit more daring might be in order. That piano black lacquered plastic is impossible to keep free of dust, scratches easily, and looks passé in anything but a Rolls-Royce Ghost is another valid issue against this overused embellishment, the other being way too much of a “good” thing in its application here.
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
EX-L and Touring trims feature navigation along with voice recognition. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Where more is better is in seating, the Pilot standard with eight seatbelts, albeit the second-row captain’s chairs in our tester resulted in the usual count of seven seats from its three rows. I’ll let you in on the third row’s ability to haul more than just kids in my upcoming road test review, at which point all also be critiquing other considerations like roominess and comfort in the other seating positions, overall refinement, how well the configurable TFT instrument cluster and top-line infotainment touchscreen do their respective jobs, how much the full-load model’s optional nine-speed automatic improves the standard 280 horsepower 3.5-litre V6 engine’s performance and whether or not I’ve learned to appreciate its whacky electronic gear selector. I can say the upgraded transmission is a win at the pump, with its claimed five-cycle fuel economy rating dropping to 12.4 L/100km in the city compared to 13.0 with the standard six-speed autobox; they both consume an estimated 9.3 L/100km on the highway. You may also want to know that Honda now believes less is more when it comes to available Pilot trims, the Canadian version having lost its base front-wheel drive LX model, which also means the 2017 Pilot’s base price has climbed to $40,090 plus freight and fees instead of $35,490 last year. That new price is also $1,600 more than last year’s LX AWD, so Honda isn’t trying to spur more sales by slashing the Pilot’s MSRP.
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
These perforated leather front seats feature forced ventilation in Touring trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
It does come well equipped in standard guise, however, with Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD that includes dynamic torque vectoring and Intelligent Traction Management with Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand modes, Agile Handling Assist that adds brake pressure to the inside wheels during high-speed cornering to limit understeer and therefore improve control, Active Eco Assist that reduces engine and HVAC performance while minimizing output when using cruise control (aiding fuel economy while reducing emissions), and more under the skin. Additional standard safety kit includes the usual four-wheel discs with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction and stability control, hill-start assist, trailer stability assist, tire pressure monitoring, and HondaLink Assist Automatic Emergency Response telematics, while items that were previously optional but are now standard include forward collision warning, collision mitigating autonomous braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, and Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch blind spot display system that uses a rearward facing camera on the passenger-side mirror to project live video of the blindspot when activating the right turn signal. This is enough for an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating, while the NHTSA gave it a best possible five stars for safety. My Touring trimmed tester includes blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, but loses the LaneWatch system in the process, while the usual combination of airbags help to make the Pilot one of the safest SUVs on the road.
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
The Touring features a dual-pane panoramic glass sunroof is split by a rear entertainment system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Incidentally, dynamic cruise control is also standard fare, impressive, as are 18-inch alloys, daytime running lights, LED taillights, remote start, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, auto on/off headlamps, a windshield wiper de-icer, heatable power-actuated side mirrors, a colour TFT multi-information display, tri-zone auto climate control with second-row controls, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, three USB ports, an aux input, wireless smartphone connectivity with audio streaming, Wi-Fi, Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email functionality, 225-watt AM/FM/CD audio with seven speakers including a sub and speed-sensitive volume control, active noise cancellation, a compass, a sunglasses holder that doubles as a conversation mirror, heatable front seats, and much more. Upgrade to the second-run EX and you’ll get upgraded LED daytime running lights, fog lights, turn signals integrated into the side mirror housings, roof rails, a 10-way powered driver’s seat, a universal garage door opener, a powered moonroof, the aforementioned LaneWatch blindspot monitoring camera system, etcetera.
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
How’s that for second-row seating? The captain’s chairs are standard in Touring trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
You can build on EX trim by upgrading to EX-L, which either comes with the name “Navi” or “RES” attached. Both feature an acoustic windshield, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, front and rear parking sensors, satellite radio, a powered front passenger seat, leather upholstery, heated second-row outboard seats, one-touch folding second-row seats, a powered tailgate, and more, with the former incorporating navigation with detailed mapping into the infotainment display, and the latter anteing up with a rear entertainment system (hence RES) boasting a 9.0-inch ceiling-mounted display, two wireless headphones, a HDMI input, a 115-volt household-style power outlet, and second-row sunshades. As you may have guessed, if you want navigation and rear seat entertainment you’ll need to move up to Touring, which as you can see from the photos incorporates a nice bright colourful map and full route guidance within the centre stack display as well as a flip-down TV monitor overhead, this latter item capable of Blu-Ray movies and neatly placed between a double-pane panoramic glass sunroof.
2017 Honda Pilot Touring
How’s that for cargo space? Of course, the rest of the third row and second row fold flat too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Additional Touring features including 20-inch alloys, full LED headlamps with auto-leveling and auto high beams, chromed exterior door handles, acoustic front door glass, ambient interior lighting, rain-sensing wipers, upgraded 540-watt audio with 10 speakers including a sub plus 5.1 surround, HD radio and two more USB ports, driver’s memory that includes the side mirrors which are also power-folding and incorporate reverse tilt-down, upgraded perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, second-row captain’s chairs, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and more. And I haven’t even mentioned a thing about what it’s like to drive. Come back soon for a complete road test review where I’ll cover that all-important issue as well as everything else experiential…
I bet you can think of a dozen or more things you could do with this full-size Transit 350 Diesel cargo van if it was in your possession for a week. Whenever a commercial van maker provides us with one…

2017 Ford Transit 350 Diesel Van

2017 Ford Transit 350 Diesel Van
Ready to deliver near anything you can think of, the 2017 Ford Transit 350 Diesel Van is an impressive beast of burden. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
I bet you can think of a dozen or more things you could do with this full-size Transit 350 Diesel cargo van if it was in your possession for a week. Whenever a commercial van maker provides us with one of their wares for a weeklong test we go through our own mental lists, which sometimes turn into long, detailed to-do menus. The van in question makes the just noted term “full-size” seem understated, as it’s a bit too big for our garage. It’s sitting on the long patch of gravel in front of our office, although it’s sheer mass has us a bit worried it’ll cave the side of an adjacent ditch in and we’ll walk out to find it lying on its side. We’ll let you know how that goes. As it is, we’ll keep this “In Our Garage” segment (or rather “Out On The Street” segment) short, as we’ve literally got loads of errands to complete and just six days left to accomplish them.
2017 Ford Transit 350 Diesel Van
This is the Medium roof, Long Van, the Extended body only available with the High roof. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Our Transit 350 Diesel should have no problem accommodating our every wish, mind you. My tester’s massive passenger side-slider and tall 50/50-hinged rear doors provide access to a cavern of cargo capacity, while its rubberized floor and finished sidewalls mean our various loads won’t scratch any inner paintwork or vice versa. Without further hesitation, Ford makes two Transit models and three trims for 2017, the base unit simply dubbed Van due to its cargo hauling focus, whereas the Passenger Wagon XL and XLT trims are ideal for hotel/airport shuttles, sightseeing tour companies, or any other duty that requires comfortable seating for eight to 12 people. Within these categories there are three different roof heights and another three lengths to consider, the former named Low, Medium and High, and the latter dubbed Regular, Long and Extended. Yes, Ford’s commercial sector doesn’t get fancy with nomenclatures (like we do), but that’s not to say our Long-length, Medium-roofed 2017 Transit 350 Diesel Van wasn’t nicely equipped.
2017 Ford Transit 350 Diesel Van
The windows in back are optional, but helpful when parking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Incidentally, the passenger side-sliding door comes standard with Medium and High roof models, replacing the base Low roof Transit Van’s 60/40-hinged side doors, whereas the 50/50-hinged rear doors swing open to 180 degrees in base Low roof guise or open all the way to 237 degrees with the Medium and High roof upgrades. Before delving into all of the Transit’s details, take note that Ford gives its commercial buyers 64 choices when it comes to configuring the 2017 Transit, which is up from 58 last year. Considering 2017 is only the model’s third year of availability, that’s a lot of variety that will no doubt keep increasing as its popularity grows. Ford claims the van’s many fleet buyers were influential in the upgrades made since it arrived on the scene, one of which is a new lower-profile centre console that reportedly makes stepping directly from the driver’s seat into the rear cargo area easier.
2017 Ford Transit 350 Diesel Van
The Transit’s cabin is a no-nonsense, straightforward, down-to-business office. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Heatable front seats are now on the options menu too, whether upholstered in leatherette or fabric, while choosing the plusher material allows for available 10-way powered seats as well. What’s more, the stereo is now made up of four speakers instead of just two, with tweeter and woofer included. On a purely practical point, the Dearborn-based automaker relocated the 2017 Transit’s electrical connections for more convenient access, this change thanks to feedback from upfitters who customize commercial vehicles for fleet buyers. Powertrain choices, which were carried over from last year, are included in Ford’s list of 64 possible Transit configurations, with the van’s three available engines including a base 275 horsepower 3.7-litre V6 good for 260 lb-ft of torque, a 3.5-litre turbocharged and direct-injected EcoBoost V6 capable of 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, and lastly the as-tested 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel capable of 185 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. All of that output gets fed to the rear wheels via a proven six-speed automatic transmission, with no four-wheel drive option available (look to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Nissan NV for 4×4 capability).
2017 Ford Transit 350 Diesel Van
Are these seats as comfortable as they look? Read our upcoming review to find out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Being that most Transit buyers will never set foot in one (the majority being fleet buyers for large companies), don’t expect to find a lot of fancy features. Nevertheless, base models won’t cause you to roll your own windows, as the standard features list includes powered front side glass, as well as powered locks with remote access, power-adjustable side mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, variable intermittent wipers, air conditioning, a backup camera with Trailer Hitch Assist, an AM/FM stereo with an aux input, vinyl flooring, a fabric front cab headliner, two-way manual front seat adjustment, 16-inch steel wheels, an engine block heater, and more.
2017 Ford Transit 350 Diesel Van
Now that’s big! (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
I won’t bother going into passenger model features, because that’s not the van we’re dealing with this week, but suffice to say they’re a bit more plentiful in XL trim and much more so in XLT. Come to think of it, I’ve already said too much for a garage review, so catch up with me soon for the full road test review at which point I’ll talk about general comfort, ride quality, handling, low-speed manoeuvrability, performance, fuel-economy, overall ease of use, capability during loading, and anything else I can come up with. Now we’ve got some stuff to haul. Keep your eyes peeled to these pages for more…
Volkswagen had big hopes for its American-sized Passat when it replaced the smaller Euro-spec B6 model back in 2011 for the 2012 model year. I tested and reviewed a TDI Trendline+ and a 3.6 Highline that…

2017 Volkswagen Passat Highline 3.6 VR6

2017 Volkswagen Passat Highline 3.6 VR6
The 2017 Passat is a handsome car, yet does it stand out enough in its crowded mid-size class? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Volkswagen had big hopes for its American-sized Passat when it replaced the smaller Euro-spec B6 model back in 2011 for the 2012 model year. I tested and reviewed a TDI Trendline+ and a 3.6 Highline that year, and while impressed with the styling, performance and roominess, I was a bit put off by its downgraded interior refinement. After a first foray with the car my review comments included, “The dash, door uppers and inserts remain high-quality soft touch synthetic, but that’s about it for premium pliable composites as the rest of the cabin is less impressively finished in hard plastics, a disappointment when compared to most top-line models in the mid-size segment, and a downer considering just how well-made the old Passat’s interior was.”
2017 Volkswagen Passat Highline 3.6 VR6
Rear styling is classy in an understated Germanic way. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
To make matters worse, the replacement Euro-spec Passat B7 was a move up in every respect, and likely a model that would’ve worked very well here in Canada where we traditionally appreciate smaller cars. VW followed this European market sedan up with a unique five-door Passat Alltrack (similar to our Golf Alltrack, but larger), a model VW’s U.S. division must now be lusting after considering how well Subaru is doing with its Outback, while the entirely new Passat B8, introduced in 2014, is such a styling knockout and appears so upscale inside that any knowledgeable North American Volkswagen fan (the majority of which are quite well versed in the brand’s global affairs) will feel slighted.
2017 Volkswagen Passat Highline 3.6 VR6
This top-tier Highline model’s two-tone interior colour scheme is certainly eye-catching. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
After all, we had to wait until last year for a mid-cycle update to a Passat design that’s been in our market for seven years without much noticeable change. As you might expect, the car’s sales are considerably softer than its interior plastic these days, with the first half of 2017 resulting in just 1,793 units (including the CC that gets lumped into the Passat’s Canadian sales numbers). All of last year was slightly stronger at 4,023 deliveries, but the model’s steady fall from its initial 2012 calendar year high of 8,019 units is evident in the numbers in between, which included 7,909 units for 2013, 7,520 for 2014 and 5,838 for 2015. This loss of favour is shared with some other mid-size sedans that have been shoved aside for the current crossover SUV trend, VW’s own 2018 Atlas hoping to alleviate some of the brand’s mid-size four-door pain, but the Passat never owned as much market share as its rivals and continues to be a minor player in the lucrative mid-size sedan game. It currently sits ninth most popular in Canada, behind the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Chrysler 200 (that’s already been cancelled), and Kia Optima, only beating the Subaru Legacy and Mazda 6.
2017 Volkswagen Passat Highline 3.6 VR6
The Passat’s clean, uncluttered instrument panel mirrors the rest of the car’s minimalism. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
If you think it enjoys any more success in the U.S. market where it was purposely designed to compete you’re right, but its current eighth placement is only one better because Chrysler has stopped shipping 200s and its dealer stock is almost depleted. In other words, VW will want to rethink its approach to the mid-size market when it comes time to replace this aging model. For the time being it soldiers through the 2017 model year with a slightly refreshed uniform as of last year, plus some important updates inside, its completely revised infotainment system featuring proximity-sensing plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto especially notable, while specific to this year its base Trendline trim has been scrapped, as has its top-line Execline offering. This leaves the Passat Trendline + as the new base model, plus the Comfortline and the new top-tire Highline in the mix, the latter trim available with the base 1.8-litre turbo four as well as the 3.6-litre VR6 currently in our garage.
2017 Volkswagen Passat Highline 3.6 VR6
Faux woodgrain galore! The Passat pulls some traditional American car design cues. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
VW shipped this car in Deep Black Pearl with a gorgeous Titan Black and Golden Oak interior, the latter saddle brown colour referring to the second hue of its two-tone interior motif, which is used for the door panel inserts, the ribbed leather seat inserts, and the contrast stitching found on those seats. The cabin is further upgraded with glossy grey-stained faux hardwood in classic American sedan tradition, and yes I say this last part with tongue firmly in cheek—I’d rather be surrounded in the optional matte light oak woodgrain that looks and feels a bit more realistic. A generous dose of piano black lacquered plastics adorn key areas as does VW’s usual assortment of satin-finish and bright metallic accents, while a merely average colour multi-information display set within the Passat’s classic analogue gauge cluster is totally upstaged by that aforementioned infotainment touchscreen.
2017 Volkswagen Passat Highline 3.6 VR6
There’s nothing even remotely average about these front seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
I’ll go into more detail in my upcoming review with respect to the usability and capability of this infotainment system including its standard navigation and backup camera, how well the Highline’s standard 400-watt Fender audio system pumps out tunes, the ease and simplicity of smartphone setup and audio streaming functions, the quality of interior furnishings and overall comfort and roominess of the cabin, its trunk size and ease of rear seatback cargo expansion, plus of course how well it drives with this more formidable 280 horsepower powerplant. Plus I’ll take a look at how well its new $1,350 Driver Assistance package measures up to other active safety suites in the class, this one including adaptive cruise control, lane assist, park assist, and park distance control, but no auto high beams, autonomous braking, etcetera. Is the Passat really a cheaper alternative to an Audi A4 or A6, or just a mid-size wannabe that’s not worthy of going head-to-head with our current bestselling Accord? Stay tuned…
Chances are you’re not considering BMW’s X4 for your next SUV, but we might be able to change your mind. It’s sportier than an X3, especially in 355-hp M40i guise, and provides almost as much practicality,…

2017 BMW X4 M40i Road Test

BMW might be best known as the self-acclaimed "Ultimate Driving Machine" maker, but along with that arguably deserving title it should also be considered the ultimate luxury 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 (although this last model's sales Read Full Story
Thanks to new entries and loads of updates the minivan sector is once again heating up, which has us wondering whether Kia’s carryover Sedona has what it takes to compete. We test a top-line SXL+ to…

2017 Kia Sedona SXL+ Road Test

Regular readers will know I've got a thing about minivans. And no, I'm not talking about the usual ego-driven "I won't be caught dead in anything so homespun" attitude that's caused North American families to deviate from this most practical of motive appliances to far less utile car-based pseudo-SUVs in droves, but rather a true appreciation for monobox mobility with side-slider access. That the alt-mainstream brand Kia goes about the Sedona's pragmatic duty with such a keen sense of urbane style is merely a bonus that I exploited during a recent weeklong test.

It helps that Kia gave me a luxury-lined SXL+ model, which is outfitted as nicely as most anything in the class. OK, it's not as tarted up as a full load Chrysler Pacifica, but its as-tested $46,895 window sticker doesn't shock the senses as much as the $58,480 2017 Pacifica Limited I put through its paces recently. To be fair, the Pacifica is probably worth the extra coin if you're so inclined, but then again this Sedona Read Full Story
On Friday July 14th Honda announced they would be recalling 2.1 million Honda Accords worldwide. Of the 2.1 million Accords being recalled 1.15 million are in North America of which 51,995 are in Canada.…

Honda Recalls Over Two Million Vehicles Worldwide

On Friday July 14th Honda announced they would be recalling 2.1 million Honda Accords worldwide. Of the 2.1 million Accords being recalled 1.15 million are in North America of which 51,995 are in Canada. The Honda Accord models, built from 2013-2016, are being recalled due to a malfunctioning 12-volt sensor that monitors the battery state of charge. According to Honda “the battery sensor may have been improperly manufactured with gaps that could allow for moisture intrusion.” Honda says that it affects the negative terminal on the battery. If moisture or road salt enter the gaps it could then cause the sensor to malfunction and potentially cause an electrical short. This increases the risk of the battery catching fire. Honda says that there have been four reports of engine compartment fires however, no injuries have been confirmed. Honda says the risk of the battery sensor malfunctioning is higher in places that use road salt during the winter. Honda dealerships will inspect the sensors and replace them if they are corroded. Those sensors that are found to be in working order will receive an adhesive sealant and the sensors will be replaced when parts become available. Honda says they will start contacting owners of the affected Accords later this month. The battery sensors will be replaced free of charge at Honda dealerships.