“The launch of the Q50 family sedan in 2013 opened many eyes and subsequent additions like the Q60 have widened them.”

(more…)

Ford continues its quest to bring us ground breaking new active safety technologies in affordable automobiles (more…)

“Rally driving is about the fine balance of finesse with throttle, brake and steering input…”

Dalton, New Hampshire.

“Every day’s a school day,” is a popular saying of a good friend of mine.

Just because we’re not in a formal establishment, with books in hand, or loose leaf paper in front of us, it doesn’t mean we’re not learning. Some lessons are tougher than others are and we can’t wait for them to be over. Then again, there are some school days we just don’t want to end.

One of those days was with the Team O’Neil Rally School located in the middle of nowhere, New Hampshire. The school is housed on close to 600 acres of land meaning, there’s room to stretch out for those new to the art. I call it an art because it really is.

Rally driving is about the fine balance of finesse with throttle, brake and steering input. Like brushstrokes on a canvas! Make a few mistakes and, well, it’s not a pretty picture.

In the journey to master car control skills, there’s also about 10 kilometres of rally-ready trails – which can be driven in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction to mix things up – so there’s not much room for boredom.

While I’d been to the school previously, the conditions were completely different.

The dry, dirt-covered earth from summertime was now replaced with snow, ice and all the slipperiness your heart desires, thanks to Old Man Winter.

Equipped with newfound knowledge, or knowledge that was sitting on the shelf and just needed a little dusting off, the short opening classroom session was not only educational, but fantastically entertaining and funny. With that completed, the group of Canadian journalists headed out to our chariots. They just happened to be Ford Fiestas.

If Ford’s subcompact wasn’t fun enough to drive in a “normal” setting, it sure was here.

The Fiestas have mainly stock components, aside from rollover bars, four-point seat belts, Bilstein heavy-duty suspension components and performance brake pads. Perhaps that’s what was so appealing. Here were these 120 horsepowered cars, slipping and sliding (sometimes) with grace and poise, and the amount of mirth to be had was limitless.

The objective of the day was to factor in left-foot braking techniques on an oval, in a slalom and via what rallying calls the Scandinavian flick. It’s frustrating and rewarding at the same time knowing that the difference between doing it correctly or screwing it up is really only within the gentle feathering of the brakes or the addition of a little more throttle.

Once you find the sweet spot, you want to ride it out for as long as you can. Or until you get too confident and end up in a snow bank! Oops. You still have to be mindful of the surface conditions underneath. But that’s what the school is for.

Should your vehicle start dancing when you don’t want it too, you’ll be ready to mitigate damage, or avoid it all together. It gives you a feel for the ever-changing environment and how to be proactive rather than reactive.

And while it was all fun and games behind the wheel, it was equally a treat to have a fellow Canuck, a pro nonetheless, take us for a couple of hot laps and show us how it’s really done.

Andrew Comrie-Picard (ACP for short) was on hand and put my day’s efforts to shame when he combined all the techniques we had learned, blended them seamlessly together, and then did it a hundred times faster.

This day, I learned that speed and finesse go hand-in-hand. That no matter how many times we drove around the same course, it was always different.

That school is a lot of fun and that car control is an art. And that I want to be a rally driver in my next life.

Visit http://teamoneil.com for more information.

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

“Think about that water entering areas of your truck, believe me, you would prefer it did not do so!”

IM000315.JPG

Spring-like weather means the back woods trails are already beckoning us out here in the West.

While my Driveway colleagues seem to have spent the last month ploughing through snow and ice back East, I’m raring to get out there in our beautiful back yard.

However, there are a few things to think about before you head out into the back roads of British Columbia this spring, to find yourself driving through those swollen creeks and rivers. (more…)

Schools are starting to go on spring break this week.

While we’re used to slowing down and being extra cautious in school zones, pay extra attention around playgrounds and residential areas as more kids will be around the roadside.

Drives U CrazyMany drivers appear ignorant of the rules concerning when it is okay to a pass a vehicle on the right.

You must not pass on the right of another vehicle on a road marked with a single lane unless that driver is making or signaling a left turn. Frequently drivers zip to the right of a traffic waiting at the lights in a bid to roar off in front at the green. It’s extremely selfish because invariably it prevents cars making a right on a red.

If caught the fine is $109 fine and two Driver Penalty Points. (more…)

If you only drive on the street then a low profile truck tire will be fine, but if you go offroading then you are going to want more tire in between your rim and the ground…

IH toyota-fj-cruiser-off-road

Tires are one of the most important features of the truck when it comes to improving its ride.

It is vital to make the right choice and then maintain them so they last for a long time. Before you choose the best tire for your truck, it is essential to understand the terms of the truck tire world.

Tires for example are specified in this form – 265/75R/16. The first number is the width of the truck tire, the second number is the aspect ratio or height of the sidewall and the third number is the wheel diameter or rim size.

The height of your sidewall is important and should be chosen based on the conditions where you drive your truck most often. If you only drive on the street then a low profile truck tire will be fine, but if you go off-roading then you are going to want more tire in between your rim and the ground. That way you will not bottom out on the rims when the tires encounter rough terrain off-road.

Wider tires have more contact area with the ground, thus giving your truck a better grip, both on and off road. Your truck’s handling becomes easier because of the bigger tire width. On the other hand, the same wider truck tire will make more noise and may decrease the fuel efficiency of the truck.

Wider tires can also slip more when it rains, not that it rains much in Vancouver.

The size of the rim is a personal preference. The larger sized rims are popular today. Just make sure that the rim and truck tire you choose will fit inside the wheel well of the truck, and don’t forget to upgrade your brakes to help stop this increase in weight. The wheel rim width varies from truck to truck. It can be custom made to suit both on and off road driving conditions. The wheel rim width is rounded off to the nearest half inch of the tire.

Usually, the best choice is to have the rim width at about 90 per cent of the tread width of the tire.

The most important safety aspect of maintenance on your truck is to keep its tires intact and in good shape. A blown tire can cause an accident in an instant. The number one cause of the tire wear and tear is incorrect tire pressure. All the tires on the truck should have consistent air pressure to carry the weight equally. Adequate air pressure is important for a good tire life, handling, and traction.

Look through your owner’s manual, on the sticker inside the driver’s door, or look on the tire itself to find the correct air pressure that you need to maintain them.

Seasonal changes can affect the air pressure of the tires. Cold temperatures are responsible for dropping the air pressure of the tires, and warm temperatures are responsible for increasing the air pressure. A 10 percent swing in the temperatures causes a 1lb. change in the air pressure. Sudden changes in temperature are a good time to check the pressure of the tires.

You can reduce the wear and tear of the truck’s tires by rotating them often. Rotating the tires, keeps the tread wear balanced and can really help when slippery and wet conditions occur. A simple rule about rotating your tires is to do it on every other oil change. Doing this consistent basis, will make the tires last longer and allow a comfortable ride for many, many kilometres.

Contact: ian [dot] harwood [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

The T5-equipped wagon is a smooth operator in performance and ride… while you won’t burn rubber at the green light, it will take off when necessary…

The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.
The XC60 Volvo, on its way through and to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, Nevada.

Volvo is hitching some of its revival hopes to a wagon – the 2015 Volvo V60 Sportswagon.

Its grille is clearly all-Volvo but those typically boxy looks that characterized the make from your dad’s day are gone. In looks it’s a design variation of the S60 sedan and it will be a welcome sight for loyalists of the Swedish brand, having witnessed the demise here of  the V50 and midsize V70 wagons. The wagon featured recently along with the S60 and XC60 crossover at a launch event in the Nevada desert.

The Volvo execs present proudly talked about their new Drive-E powertrains, developed thanks to the megabucks available now that the company is owned by the Chinese Geely Automotive. Ford ownership may now be retreating in Volvo’s rearview mirror but it is still beholden to the US manufacturer for the platforms upon which these three 2015 models ride. That will change later this year when the full-size XC90 crossover is set to sit atop Volvo’s so-called Scalable Product Architecture platform.

Model year 2014 saw a refresh of all three midsize Volvo models showing in the desert so this was truly about the new engines. The Drive-E family of gas, diesel and hybrid (the latter not yet, but soon) engines are built around a single, 2.0-litre four-cylinder powerplant.

It’s a brave gamble, worthy of Vegas, when you ponder the XC90 relying on such a small engine. Asked if this were a safe bet, the Swedes just smiled and promised the performance of the four-cylinder configuration will equal their big brothers by using such technologies as direct fuel injection, turbocharging, supercharging and… electrification.

Here in the Great White North, just the two gas engines will be offered initially – the new turbocharged T5 pumps out 240 horsepower, while the turbo’ed and supercharged T6 adds another 62 horses.

The base front-wheel-drive V60 T5, with a new eight-speed automatic transmission, will set you back $39,800. Volvos have never been cheap. The other three Sportswagons will continue to use existing powerplants, six-speed automatic transmissions and Haldex all-wheel-drive systems.

Did a little shopping off the strip in the XC60, which came into its own, its cavernous rear swallowing up my bulky purchases. I’ll reserve comments on the crossover until I’ve had a chance to put it through its paces in BC.

However, I got much more seat time in the V60 and S60 (S60 with T5 $37,750 / T6 $42,850) taking in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Valley of Fire state park and Red Rock Canyon.

The T5-equipped wagon is a smooth operator in performance and ride. And while you won’t burn rubber at the green light, it will take off when necessary… not that we got any chance to pass in the low speed limit state park! Volvo says it will hit 100 km/h in 6.3 seconds if given the lead foot treatment. (The T6 in sedan tells a slightly racier story. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating but only a little and I look forward pressing the pedal to the metal where I can legally do so.)

The T5 fuel economy ratings fare well in comparison with the market competition – 9.4/6.3/8.1 L/100km (city/highway/combined). These numbers are squeezed out of the power plant with the help of the standard engine stop/start system and the efficient new eight-speed transmission, which slips into a neutral coasting mode when you lift your foot off the gas.

Inside, the instrument panel stretches the span of the car and features an attractive floating centre console, which mixes good looks with functionality. Swedes are safety conscious, of course, and that means lane change, cross traffic, blind spot warnings and alerts.

The front seating is comfortable if a little soft on a long drive. Rear seating ditto and headroom is good despite the coupe-style slope of the rear. And a good view of the road fore, fore aft and side is enjoyed by all.

Great stowage room in the rear. The 40/20/40 split second row folds flat to provide enough space to move a small apartment’s furniture.

Just kidding, but you get the picture.

2015 Volvo V60 Sportwagon T5 FWD

Base sticker price: $39,800

Power: 2.0L, 16-valve, 240 hp, turbocharged DOHC I-4, mated to eight-speed automatic

Fuel consumption: 9.4/6.3/8.1 L/100km (city/hwy/combined).

Drives U CrazyThe recent snowstorms have brought out the best and the worst in B.C. drivers.

I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every person I’ve watched over-rev a car in a futile bid to escape the combined clutches of snow and ice.

If your car is not shod for the winter weather, then stay home or take a cab. Otherwise, take off slowly in a higher gear than you would in dry weather. You will stand a lot more chance of gaining traction and less reliant on those good people who dig you out! (more…)

Truth is this car is more about looks. How it looks and how you look in it…

BMW 435i Convertible
BMW 435i Convertible
BMW 435i Convertible
BMW 435i Convertible
BMW 435i Convertible
BMW 435i Convertible

Las Vegas, Nevada.

Took the all-new BMW 4 Series Cabriolet on one of those leisurely and slow drives typical of a Sunday through Nevada’s stunningly beautiful Valley of Fire National Park.

Problem was that it was a Tuesday and the only other car on the road seemed to be the somewhat inappropriately named pace car ahead that kept our speed to a fraction below the posted 30 mph speed limit (which is 48.280 km/h to be precise).

Apparently, the overzealous state troopers, you know the guys with the mirrored sunglasses, had warned the Bavarian hosts that they would hold them responsible for any outrageous road behaviour, hence the so called pace cars ahead of each group of pearl white 435i cabriolets.

This topless edition joins its coupe sibling in the new 4 series classification which is really a new name for 3 Series two-door models. Just like the 2 Series coupes are actually two-door 1 Series models. Oh, never mind.

Anyway, this is a tourer for those with the cash rather than the sports-minded – $67,400 for the test car – so perhaps the afternoon stroll was more appropriate than a blast on the nearby freeway. (A base 428i version starts at $56,600, and comes with a 2.0-litre, 241 hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine.)

If you are looking for feedback through the steering, you are not going to get much but there is no argument that it offers a smooth ride and cornering is effortless at 32 mph… devils, aren’t we?

Once out of the park, the Smokey bears joined the press pack as impromptu pace cars!

One ahead of us pulled off at a donut shop as we hit the highway. Here was our chance to open up. A bit. The 300-hp turbo inline-six swiftly moved through eight-speed auto tranny to 100 klicks in a smidgen under six seconds then I chickened out. (Six-speed manual transmissions will be available in Canada, which should increase sportiness in performance.)

Rumours circulated the evening dinner that a member of the Russian press corps had secured a $1,000 fine on that same stretch of road at about the time my co-driver and I had taken turns to punch the pedal and play briefly with steering-wheel mounted paddle gear changers.

Oh, and that’s when he were able to test the true effectiveness of the rear air diffuser (thumbs up) though when it is in place it rules out back seat passengers (thumbs down). And the rush of cooler desert air prompted us to flick the switch on the neck warmers, ah yes, a mark of true luxury.

Truth is this car is more about looks. How it looks and how you look in it.

And it looks absolutely fabulous, darling, now you ask. Can’t speak for myself.

It is simple elegant in profile but a scowling front gives it beastly pretensions. The power hard top rises smoothly from its hiding place in the trunk in 20 seconds. We were told it could even be raised in speeds up to 18 km/h. Why would you want to?

When that top is in place it truly looks like a coupe. Cool but even cooler when you lower the windows and see it as a pillar-less coupe! When the top is up it offers 370 litres of trunk space (222 litres when topless), which makes it the roomiest in its segment. BMW says it will comfortably stash two sets of golf clubs, if you are that way afflicted.

Classy leather interior, with ergonomically correct front seats. Can’t say the same about the back seats but then who wants to share the open top experience with anybody other than one’s beloved?

Controls handy though the rotary control was a bit too close to the front seat passenger for my liking.

No fuel consumptions estimates are available yet. There will be an X Drive version later this year.

Contact: keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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