The comfort of the SS sport seats, a rumbling 6.2-litre, V8 and the glory of air conditioning eliminates the discomfort of the Sunshine State’s clammy atmosphere.
(more…)

“Why a Hugo Boss suit? – Because that brand looks good on everyone!” (more…)

“It’s not the Subaru Forester’s first rodeo when it comes to finding itself in a sticky, messy, or dirty situation and then taking care of it.” (more…)

“Despite having a mini-compact designation, you can spot these adorable Italian creations from miles away…”

When was the last time another motorist waved at you because you were driving a similar make and model as theirs?

A couple of weeks ago? Months? Never?

Most wouldn’t even consider acknowledging the presence of other cars in the same category with a friendly hand gesture.

I mean, if you drive a Toyota Corolla, your hands would rarely be on the steering wheel!

Then again, there are few breeds of cars that foster such responses.

One is the Fiat 500.

Not once, not twice, but thrice did I have random 500 owners wave at me in commuting situations. At first I was confused, and awkwardly waved back. Then it became commonplace so I just rode the wave, so to speak.

Despite having a mini-compact designation, you can spot these adorable Italian creations from miles away. It did help that the 2015 Fiat 500 Turbo I was captaining came clad in a very nationalistic robe. Red, white and green racing stripes adorned the hood, roof and rear of the hatchback.

Normally, I’d consider this overkill and highly unnecessary. But it somehow worked really well with this model.

It’s not for everyone but that’s the beauty of the Fiats. There are so many ways in which you can personalize them (there are 15 exterior colours to choose from, not to mention countless ways in which you can dress them up), and unless you’re getting a black-on-black vehicle, chances are, you might not see another like it in your area.

Another beauty of this vehicle is its versatility. Sure, it’s small but it actually can do a lot with what it has been given. For example, there’s room for four inside, as well as 269 litres of trunk space.

Kick out your rear passengers, fold down the seats, and you have even more space with which to work. So much so that I was able to fit my road bicycle inside. Okay, I had to take off the front wheel, but I have been in coupes much bigger than the 500 and didn’t have the same luxury.

Then there’s the engine. Its humble 135 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque being produced from its 1.4L, MultiAir Turbo four-cylinder might look mediocre on paper, but it brings this car to life.

And of the three available engines offered, the base, naturally aspirated 1.4L MultiAir, the Turbo, or the Turbo from the Abarth version (160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque), the 500 Turbo (middle child of engines) is my top pick.

It is spirited, peppy and makes driving fun. It’s enough horsepower to play with, but not enough to get into too much trouble.

Adding to the fun factor is the introduction of an all-new Aisin heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission. A manual lover to the core, I quite liked the new addition to the fold. It also took the edge off in urban commuting.

And for the times when you want a little more gusto, there’s a “Sport” mode. You’ll find this magical button on the instrument panel. What it does is change the throttle mapping for improved engine responsiveness.

While I love the car as a whole, I still have a couple of quibbles with it. The instrument panel (with the push buttons and all) looks archaic and is a headache to work with.

Furthermore, the optional navigation also sits atop the dash, which eats up prime real estate with it comes to forward visibility. And it looks misplaced.

But for the reasons I wrestle with the Fiat 500 Turbo, there are plenty more favourable features that put me at ease. The optional Beats stereo system sounds great in the cabin, the leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and shift knob feel nice between my fingers and the optional red leather seats make the interior pop.

Then there’s the drivability. I love its competency in corners. It handles much like a decked out go-kart but doesn’t give you same kinds of aches and pains.

I guess it’s no surprise why fellow Fiat 500 drivers wave at others. They’re excited about their car and want to share the love.

The Fiat 500 Turbo Hatchback has a starting MSRP of $21,395. But with all the options, the price as tested comes out to $30,370.

Visit www.fiatcanada.com for more information.


 

Contact the writer at alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

“While it might not be everyone’s first choice in colour, the Jetta diesel’s Toffee Brown Metallic looks like a cold glass of root beer on wheels.” (more…)

“The Mustang defines a cultural phenomenon that has lasted through the decades, and continues to inspire drivers globally.”

2016 Ford Mustang GT Equipped with the Black Accent Package
2016 Ford Mustang GT Equipped with the Black Accent Package
2016 Ford Mustang GT Equipped with the Black Accent Package

It’s always nice when people think you look younger than you really are.

Like when a store clerk asks you for your ID. Or you play the “guess my age” game with a stranger and the number guessed is a few years off. In the right direction, of course.

When looking at the 2015 Ford Mustang, it’s hard to believe it’s just over fifty years young.

The first iteration of pony car came to fruition in 1964. While it’s not a volume selling vehicle for Ford – the F-150 takes care of that – it is, however, a staple product in the North American brand’s repertoire. The Mustang defines a cultural phenomenon that has lasted through the decades, and continues to inspire drivers globally.

Through the various nips, tucks, lifts and shapely reconstructions, the current Mustang has even more road presence than before.

Not to mention it comes with an available, all-new 2.3L, 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine, a 3.7L, V6, or the five point-oh-so-lovely (5.0L), V8 with a dashing 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque.

Having had the opportunity to drive both the 2.3L and 5.0L back-to-back is a testament to the range of power Mustang lovers and potential Mustang wranglers will have at their fingertips.

Furthermore, both vehicles tested came with the six-speed manual transmissions.

Even though the bulk of cars in North America (around 90 percent) are sold with automatic transmissions, there’s still no replacing that third pedal. Or the ability to connect with a car on a more personal level.

While the automatic transmissions in Fords have come a long way, I will, nine point nine times out of 10 pick a manual. The gearboxes are certainly great and linked with the engines is an overall stellar combination.

With the 2.3L EcoBoost, it’s pretty amazing what this four-cylinder engine can do. It puts out 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque (but take into consideration that you need premium fuel to get the most out of it.) And speaking of fuel, don’t let the engine size fool you. It’s not stellar when it comes to real world results.

Estimated figures come in at 10.6L/100km in the city. I was averaging over 13.0L. I mean, I didn’t expect it to be amazing. And with all the stop-and-go driving that we shared, it’s not ideal. Then again, that’s not why one would consider the Mustang.

It gets a little worse with the 5.0L GT. It’s to be expected though.

On the flip side, the GT is, not surprisingly, my favourite of the bunch. Not only because it has the most power, but because of the way it sounds and drives. To add even more sweetness onto the pile, the 5.0 was a convertible.

Clad in a Ruby Red Metallic exterior coat and Redline leather inside, it was a feast for the eyes.

With the top down, you can further appreciate the audible glory of its rumbling engine and exhaust. With the top up though, visibility is not nearly as good. Blind spots abound so be extra careful when navigating around the city.

Regardless of engine size you have under the Mustang’s shapely hood, this rear-wheel drive coupe aka Fastback is a very agreeable car to drive. The cabin is quiet and welcoming. There’s room for four inside, but the rear seats should be reserved for those who are not as long-limbed. It can get pretty cozy back there, especially if you’re tall and push the seat all the way back.

You could argue that any spot in the Mustang is a “good” seat. Top up or down.

Whether it’s the roar of the V8 or the polite grunting of the 2.3L EcoBoost, Ford’s iconic coupe/convertible can be compared with wine. It continues to get better with age.

The starting MSRP of the 2.3L EcoBoost Premium is $33,849.

The starting MSRP of the Mustang GT Convertible Premium is $48,399.


Visit www.ford.ca for more information

Contact the writer at alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

“Even when I decided to put my foot down (and that was often) I still averaged 4.9L/100km combined.” (more…)

“The MX-5 is a car that can make you feel like a hero, or a champion without breaking too many road rules.”

Los Angeles, California.

The Law of Attraction suggests that we invite things into our lives that we project – or “like attracts like.”

For instance, if we’re positive people, I believe positive people will then gravitate to us.

Perhaps it’s because of a long-standing history, or love of the Mazda MX-5, née Miata, that our lives were once again intertwined for yet another round of memory making.

It’s hard to wipe the smile off my face when I have this two-door as a companion on a journey along the sinuous and slender roads of southern California.

It sparked girlhood feelings of giddiness and excitement as I shifted through the gears of the new and lighter six-speed manual transmission; remembering the times when I rode shotgun with my mom in her red, 1990 Miata, when I would have rather been the captain.

It brought so much mirth into my life then and continues to do so today. With the introduction of the 2016 model, expect that merriment to be increased for MX-5 lovers. Ten-fold. Perhaps more.

One can look at the specs sheet, gripe about its 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0 L four-cylinder, and argue that’s not nearly enough power.

Through its renaissance, it loses 12 horsepower but gains eight 10 lb-ft of torque compared to the outgoing 2015 MX-5. Though I’d argue it can possibly convert even the blackest of hearts.

Less is more certainly applies in this case. I will agree that 155 horsepower isn’t a shocking number, and yes, it could have a little more gusto, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of flavour and flair.

The beauty of the MX-5 is that it’s still a driver’s car. And Mazda made sure that specific elements trickled down from generation to generation. Sure, specs, engines, transmissions, components would change, but at its core, it would stay the same.

That core involves the mantra of “from grandmas to Grand Prix drivers.”

Meaning, you can be from any walk of life and still have a blast behind the wheel.

That’s solidified with the fourth generation.

Without getting too technical, dimensionally, it has changed. It’s actually smaller – the overhangs in the front and rear don’t hang as much – yet space is used even more efficiently inside. The driver sits lower, and so does the engine.

I’m not a particularly tall individual, but my driving partner, an above average height male, didn’t find himself as cramped as he thought he would be. Even when we put the top up, claustrophobia was nowhere to be found.

And speaking of top up driving, cabin noise is reduced significantly. Thanks to an aluminum front panel and insulating headliner, wind noise is cut by 40 percent.

With the top down, engineers have used their wizardry – or in this case, scientific knowhow – to keep cabin wind at bay and to allow conversations to be carried on without having to yell. And without too much hair being blown around. Side note: ladies, bring a hair tie just in case.

Perhaps MX-5 admirers should also bring their sunglasses, because this front-engine, rear-wheel drive car is hot. Hot meaning sexy. And sexy in regards to its styling.

The MX-5 fully embraces the Kodo or “Soul of Motion” design language that inspires clean and crisp lines on new and future Mazda products.

You won’t find hard edges on this car, but you will find a flowing form that is highly attractive at a standstill.

While the looks of a car are essential, it’s not what the MX-5 relies on for its cult-like following. It’s the drive. The MX-5 is a car that can make you feel like a hero, or a champion without breaking too many road rules.

It’s a car whose steering, suspension and transmission work so seamlessly together with the driver that it requires effort not to enjoy yourself.

If the Laws of Attraction are yet again on my side, the 2016 Mazda MX-5 and I will cross paths again. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 (the GX trim) has a starting MSRP of $31,900. The GS has an MSRP of $35,300 and the GT of $39,200. All three trims can be outfitted with the six-speed manual or the six-speed automatic for the same price.


 

Visit www.mazda.ca for more information.

Contact the writer at alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybe [dot] ca

 

“The Focus is comfortable, compact and certainly has a convenient engine size for the city.”
(more…)

“Those in the market that are looking for a small crossover that has style and swagger now have the 2016 FIAT 500X to look at.”

Beverly Hills, California.

Winding down an exceptionally sinuous road near Malibu in Southern California, I can’t help but think to myself, “Wow, FIAT was pretty brazen in putting their new, small crossover on such technical roads.”

Switchback after switchback, the turns just keep coming at me. The road was narrow; barely accommodating another motorist, who decided to ascend such a route, so you need to be at the top of your game. So does the vehicle.

But as I weave the all-new 500X through these bends and twists that move faster than a slithering snake ready to pounce on its prey, I also think this vehicle is doing really well.

Steering is weighted to give the driver good feedback. There’s also a Sport mode that can be accessed through the Dynamic Selector system (depending on the trim opted for), to give you a little more oomph in those kinds of conditions. For situations where you want more traction, there’s a Traction + mode, too.

Talking of trim selection, there are five to choose from. The entry-level Pop has an MSRP of $21,495. Then there’s the Sport, which jumps to $25,995, the Trekking at $26,995, the Lounge for $29,990 and the Trekking Plus for $30,490.

Then you can choose between two engines. The first is a 1.4L, turbocharged, MultiAir that has 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The optional of the two engines is the 2.4L, Tigershark (love that name) MultiAir with 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque.

The 6-speed manual transmission only comes with the 1.4L engine and the front-wheel drive configuration. Meaning, if you opt for the bigger 2.4L, than you’re going to get a 9-speed automatic. However, you can get the 2.4L engine either with front or all-wheel drive. Another set of choices for you.

Fun fact, it’s the first FIAT to be designed globally and the first FIAT to have AWD.

Here are even more numbers for you!

There are eight wheel choices, 12 exterior hues, and five interior colours.

I had the opportunity to try both engines in the 500X. The 2.4L definitely feels better suited to the size of vehicle.

The X accommodates up to five passengers and offers 524L of cargo room behind the second row seats. Legroom in the back is decent, especially for its small crossover designation.

The 1.4L with the manual isn’t bad, but you can feel the engine working overtime to get up steeper inclines. Though I still love it because it’s a manual!

The drawback, some might encounter, with the 9-speed auto is that there are many gears it has to choose from, so it likes to shift. To placate that characteristic, simply put it in Sport mode. It makes a big difference.

The exterior styling – whether you’re a fan or not – gives this vehicle character. Its interior is also another strong point.

Furthermore, you have the ability to hook the X up with the brand’s Uconnect system and a 165mm (6.5-inch) screen.

A pet peeve of mine on previous FIAT’s was the volume button. A knob has now replaced that. Thank goodness! It wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me, but more of a nuisance.

The ride remained comfortable throughout the various environments we drove through, whether on the twisty roads or cruising along at highway speeds.

Additionally, the cabin remains quiet from outside noises, so carrying on a conversation even while accelerating up a hill wasn’t bothersome.

Those in the market that are looking for a small crossover that has style and swagger now have the 2016 FIAT 500X to look at.


Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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