Archive | Wheels

The shape of SUVs to come – a big departure from SUVs of old

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

We’ve come a long way from the slab-sided Hummer, with its barn-door aerodynamics and unrepentant gas-guzzling. The latest crop of SUVs unveiled at the Paris Motor Show are hardly recognizable as members of the same automotive species. And, well, the future’s not pretty.

The Hummer was best suited to invading Panama, but found its way into popular culture and onto public streets thanks in large part to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s affinity for it.

In the 1990s, the Hummer was easily identifiable as an SUV. It was the obvious next step for the genre of vehicles that began with the Willys Jeep in the 1940s. Originally designed for the military, both vehicles were ideal transport for anyone who wanted to look tough or macho parked outside Loblaw’s. Visually, they were defined by flat surfaces and square edges, high ground clearance and big chunky tires.

The new SUVs on display in Paris were exactly the opposite: curvaceous with little ground clearance, big wheels and low-profile tires.

BMW’s X2 concept embodies these trends. It’s remarkably low. It’s barely taller than a sedan, with little additional ground-clearance. You won’t be crawling over rocks or through deep water in this SUV. Its huge, diamond-cut 21-inch alloys are wrapped in low-profile tires better suited to sports cars. If you forget that it’s ostensibly supposed to be an SUV – technically a crossover, but that’s splitting hairs – it actually looks good. It was one of the more successful new designs from the show.

A toned-down version of the X2 will likely go into production as a sportier, pricier version of the compact X1.

The Infiniti QX Sport Inspiration concept is similar in proportion to the X2. It was previously shown in Beijing, but updated for Paris with more blingy bits, including bronzed wheels. It previews the upcoming QX50.

Call it the high-waisted look. The waistline on cars, the line that runs from the edge of the hood under the side windows, has been creeping up steadily. The result is that most new models you see here have narrow side windows. From inside, it’s like looking out of a bunker.

And cladding – so much chunky black plastic around the wheel arches. Why? It’s an easy way to make even the softest of crossovers look rugged. The X2 is guilty, so is the Infiniti QX, the Lexus UX and the Land Rover Discovery.

The Lexus UX concept is a love-it or hate-it thing. It’s over-the-top aggressive, like deep-sea-monster meets origami-gone-wrong. It has a passing resemblance to Lamborghini’s old Urus SUV concept.

“The biggest challenge for any designer is always to create something new and original, yet with relevance to both the customer and the brand,” said Simon Humphries, one of its designers. The UX is certainly original.

The Mitsubishi GT-PHEV concept provides a jarring glimpse of a “high-end next-generation” SUV. It has creases and chrome and lights all over the place. It’s a textbook example of the high-waisted trend. The concept has three electric motors, in addition to a conventional engine. It could run on electric-only power for 120 kilometres, according to the company.

By comparison, the Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ concept is clean and simple. Sure, it has a blue light-up grille, but that’s tame in this company. There are no extraneous lines. The surfaces are soft and rounded. It looks like it could go into production tomorrow, but it will take much longer than that. The production version – Mercedes’ first all-electric vehicle – will have a range of around 500 kilometres and go on sale within three years.

Compared with other SUVs unveiled in Paris, the Audi Q5 is extremely conservative. That’s because it is a production car, not a concept. But it’s also because the Q5 is predictable. It’s nearly identical to the smaller Q3 and larger Q7. In Europe, it will go on sale with a choice of three-diesel and two gasoline-engines with outputs ranging from 143 horsepower to 272. A hybrid will also be on offer.

Mercedes gave the compact GLC Coupe the full AMG treatment, adding a 362 horsepower twin-turbo V-6 under the hood. This SUV is more suited to the race track than it is to an off-piste romp through the desert. It’s the latest in Benz’s growing SUV lineup, which features five different models.

Of all the new SUVs in Paris, the Land Rover Discovery most closely resembles the Hummer and Jeeps of old in style and ethos. The Land Rover is slab-sided and tall, with useful ground-clearance and deep-water wading capability. But any hard edges have been rounded off, and where the Hummer and Jeep had canvas roofs, the Discovery’s is made of huge glass panels. The three-row SUV will be on sale by mid-2017 with a starting price of $61,500.

What would Schwarzenegger think?

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Consumer Reports names its top vehicle picks for 2014

Posted on 19 March 2014 by admin

U.S. electric luxury car Tesla Model S was named by Consumer Reports magazine as its overall top pick for 2014, while Japanese models took five spots in the annual rankings, their worst showing in the 18-year history of the ratings.

The Ram 1500 was named the top pickup truck, the first time a Chrysler model has cracked the top picks list since 1998. South Korean auto maker Hyundai, and German brands BMW and Volkswagen’s Audi also had models topping the 10 Consumer Reports categories.

“The competition in the marketplace has grown fierce. There was a time when a handful of brands dominated our top picks list, but in recent years we’ve seen a more diverse group make the cut,” Rik Paul, Consumer Reports’ automotive editor, said in a statement.

The top picks were chosen from more than 260 vehicles tested by Consumer Reports for reliability, safety and road-test performance.

The battery-powered Tesla Model S was chosen best overall for its “exceptional performance and its many impressive technological innovations,” Consumer Reports said, noting it was “pricey” at $89,650.

California-based Tesla Motors Inc, which was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2003, said it expects to deliver about 35,000 of the model this year. By comparison, the best-selling car in the United States last year, the Toyota Camry, sold about 408,000 in 2013.

Consumer Reports hasn’t named a best overall since a Lexus model took the top honours in 2010.

Honda and Subaru were the only auto makers with more than one model in this year’s top picks. Honda’s Accord won best mid-size sedan, and its Odyssey was named top minivan. The best compact car went to Subaru’s Impreza, and its Forester model was picked as the top small SUV.

Toyota’s Prius hybrid, with its 44 miles-per-gallon overall fuel efficiency, was named best green car for the 11th consecutive year.

DETROIT BRANDS WORST

The Audi A6 took top honours in the luxury car rankings for the second year in a row, while the BMW 328i was chosen best sports sedan, also for a second straight year.

Japanese auto makers, which historically have taken more than 70 per cent of the top picks, managed to win only five of the 10 categories, the worst showing since Consumer Reports began publishing the list in 1997.

Consumer Reports also released its annual report card on car brands. It rates each manufacturer’s individual brands, with a composite score based on reliability and road testing.

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, came out on top for the second straight year, with a score of 79. Honda’s Acura was second with 75, followed by Audi with 74.

Consumer Reports said of Lexus: “Its models are usually quiet, comfortable, and fuel efficient, and they’re among the most reliable cars made.”

Subaru and Toyota tied for the fourth spot. Mazda, Honda, Infiniti, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and BMW rounded out the top 10.

Detroit-based manufacturers fared poorly in this ranking, with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep tying Ford for worst of the 23 brands listed. Consumer Reports said both Jeep and Ford models had reliability problems.

Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge and General Motors Co’s Cadillac were also among the four lowest-scoring brands.

GM’s Buick and GMC tied for 12th, the highest rating for Detroit auto makers.

Consumer Reports said it didn’t have brand report cards for Fiat, Tata Motors Ltd’s Jaguar and Land Rover brands, Ford’s Lincoln, BMW’s Mini, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Fiat Chrysler’s Ram, Toyota’s Scion, Daimler’s Smart and Tesla because of a lack of data.

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10 days for Love of Cars…The know-how and future direction of automotive creation…

Posted on 24 February 2010 by .

Valentine’s Day comes with a promise of infecting everyone with love but with no flowers, no chocolates and no candle light dinners, the effect of love seems a little bizarre. Well, I think love has no definition or boundaries and that is why my Valentine’s Day is without promises or candy. It is this boundless love that made me step in to Metro Toronto Convention Center, AGAIN this year, for the 2010 Canadian International Autoshow. I know that mid-February is usually a time for flowers, love and romance and not for car-nuts but this 10 day love for cars is a better definition of love than Valentine’s Day, for any car enthusiast.

The Auto show that ran from Feb 12-21 was a little disappointment this year. Rather than “concept cars flooding the exhibit” or “new model launch ceremonies”, the manufacturers rolled out more compacts and subcompacts in a push for better fuel efficiency and emissions reduction. The venue, this year was also dedicated to global economic recession, I guess. With shrinking floor of Canada’s biggest auto show the organizers said, they have shaved off about 130,000 square feet, or 15 percent of presentation space by confining the auto show to Metro Toronto Convention Center and eliminating the need for Rogers Center for the first time in several years. With absence of brands like Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls-Royce it wasn’t the best exhibit this year.

In a whole day of wandering around Canadian International Auto show at the Convention Center, riding endless escalators and passing and re-passing exhibits, here is a subjective list of top ten without any order, that caught my eye:

AUTOSHOW TOP TEN

·        Chevy Volt: Mark Your Calendar, the first Volt rolls out in November

I saw the volt last year at the Canadian International Autoshow. It is nothing new this year but the launch date is something that will get your attention. The brand that killed electric car is relying on an electric car for its revival, what an irony!

Volt is an electric car that can create its own electricity. Plug it in, let it charge overnight, and it’s ready to run on a pure electric charge for up to 40 miles — gas and emissions free. After that, Volt keeps going, even if you can’t plug it in. Volt uses a range-extending gas generator that produces enough energy to power it for hundreds of miles on a single tank of gas.

Chevy Volt is a true electric hybrid coming to Canadian market by the end of 2010. Some dealer reps have confirmed the launch of the volt at the auto show. One representative at the show said, “ Obviously, this is all preliminary but the great news is that it is in writing which marks a milestone to seeing first road version of Volt.” Well, official GM representatives were hedging GM’s bets and wouldn’t confirm the November 1 date. The exact date may fluctuate in preparation for launch but we will see that soon. There is still no word on price, and it still looks like the car will come in at around $40,000 before the $7,500 federal EV tax credit.

·        Honda CR-Z: The intersection of Sport and Hybrid, REALLY!

CR-Z seems like an impressive little car from Honda. Honda is trying to bring a sporty image to the hybrids, a label that is usually associated with gas guzzling V8 coupes. A hybrid that’s more fun, really! Front end seems in sync with Mazda’s new philosophy of zoom zoom smiley face. I can see where the design is being copied for CR-Z. The estimated mileage of 36 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway is impressive.

One of the CR-Z’s more unique features is its 3-mode drive system: Sport, Normal and ECON. This allows the driver to tailor the driving experience to actual conditions or personal preference. Some drivers may prefer to conserve fuel at all times. Some drivers may prefer to have all of the CR-Z’s power on tap at all times, while other drivers may prefer to have a combination of the two but with the option to pick either, depending on the situation.

The CR-Z’s 1.5-liter i-VTEC® is estimated to generate 122 hp. Which won’t set any land speed records. The point of the CR-Z was never to produce outrageous horsepower numbers. Honda is more interested in squeezing every last ounce of performance out of a vehicle.

The CR-Z strikes a unique balance and will broaden the appeal of hybrids. It’s a hybrid for drivers who enjoy driving and are unwilling to sacrifice handling and exhilaration for mpg and environmental accountability.

·        Lexus LF-Ch Concept: Lexus is in the lead of hybrid’s war

Detroit and Frankfurt auto show caught the first glimpse of this exotic hybrid concept. For Canada, Toronto Autoshow is the first showing of this advance hybrid propulsion technology built in to a premium compact car. Lexus is now a segment leader in the hybrid technology and with luxury manufacturers moving in to subcompacts, Lexus wants to put a reality to the real definition of subcompacts. It is hoped that Lexus will use this concept as the foundation of a new compact hybrid vehicle. I must say Lexus has done an amazing job with this concept, featuring blacked-out B-pillars, an integrated spoiler and rear door handles that blend into the C-pillar’s trim. Of course, the uniqueness of the LF-Ch comes from the latest generation of Lexus Hybrid Drive, which gives the driver full control as well as the choice between Normal, Eco, EV and Sport modes, the latter function improving throttle response. It is rumored that the same hybrid engine that powers the current HS 250h will be found in the Lexus LF-Ch.  Even though this is a model that will most likely go in to production soon but the official title of the LF-Ch is a concept therefore we’ll have to arm ourselves with patience in the meantime and simply admire the vehicle’s spectacular style, reflecting the sportier lines of the more aggressive Lexus models.

·        Infiniti Essence Concept: A hybrid least expected

Again, not a new launch at the Toronto auto show. The first official showing of the Essence in Canada took place at the Montreal Auto show last month. The Infiniti Essense concept served as the blue print for the new M designers and engineers which was also on hand at the show. Infiniti featured this stunning hybrid super car concept at the Toronto auto show in celebration of its 20th anniversary, the concept showcases the brand’s future styling direction and its dedication towards developing hybrid technology beyond its gracefully bizarre styling. The Essence features a powerful hybrid drivetrain, the heart of which is a 3.7-litre direct-injection V6 that develops 434 horsepower. On top of this, an electric motor adds 158 horsepower for a total just shy of 600 HP. Despite its performance credentials, Infiniti predicts that the Essence could achieve an average fuel consumption of about 8L/100 km. For now, there are no plans to produce the Essence, but if the public reacts positively, Infiniti might change its mind.

·        Mini Beachcomber Concept: All about being cute, standing apart and having fun.

When it comes to being cute and glamorous, Mini owns the podium. The Mini Beach comber combines fun and retro styles and it is the ultimate expression of the beach bum’s car. The folks at BMW understand the definition of glamour perfectly fine and had it piloted by a Shark-boy and two bathing suit-clad beauties at the Canadian International Autoshow Launch. The Mini Beachcomber takes us back to the disco era of the original Mini Moke with this four seat, open body concept. Today’s Beachcomber pushes the 60’s Moke to the limits of contemporary design. It is of course equipped with a four-wheel-drive system that allows it to roam off the beaten track with that exhilarating wind-in-your-hair feeling. This is a dream car for Barbie and Ken generation, with the lack of doors and open roof, you sure will get a golden tan while Mini won’t produce an exact copy of the concept, it will be making a toned down road version called the Countryman. The concept’s removable doors and fabric roof won’t make it to the road version design table however the all-wheel-drive and turbocharged four-cylinder is most likely to make the cut.

·        Mercedes SLS AMG: “I will be back……”

The new SLS AMG’s signature design element is its “gullwing” doors, a tribute to the original 1950s 300SL Like the previous SLR, the SLS is a front/mid-engine design, jammed with the latest high-tech goodies AMG could find in its well-stocked cupboard. Following its Canadian debut at the Montreal auto show, the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG replaces the outgoing SLR McLaren (that debuted way back in 2003) as the German automaker’s flagship performance offering. The new SLS will offer AMG’s naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 with 563 hp and 479 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox via a carbon-fiber driveshaft. Performance is SLR-like: 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. Yet compared to the $500,000 SLR, the new SLS AMG looks like a deal at its expected $198,000 price tag when it goes on sale in Canada later this year.

·        Mazda 2: Zoom Zoom Concentrated

Mazda 2 is featured as 2Evil and Mazda 2 Surf concept at the Canadian International Autoshow. The 2011 Mazda 2 which will roll out in to the showrooms somewhere this summer pushed the zoom-zoom philosophy a little bit further.

A more aggressive set of front bumpers sets the Mazda2 Surf apart. It’s also shod in Yokohama Advan tires fitted over 17-inch wheels and equipped with a roof rack (for your surf board) and an H&R suspension kit. It is indeed stunning.

The 2Evil concept is said to be a tribute to Mazda 787B racing car, winner of the 24 Hours of LeMans race back in 1991 (Mazda’s only victory there).

Building on what is essentially a subcompact world car for Mazda, the new Mazda 2 is a “watch out car” when it hits the showroom this summer.

·        Ford Focus: Ford finally learns the compact car segment secret.

Even though the next generation of Focus is almost a year away from hitting the showrooms but it is definitely worth the wait. For 2012, Ford is making the Focus a world car, and what’s more Ford is promising that it will cross the Atlantic intact. Unlike the current model, which is a warmed-up version of the late ’90s original, the 2012 model is entirely new, designed and developed in Europe. The 2012 Focus will be available in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles. This car is definitely worth the wait.

·        Fiat 500: Sex and the City, this is the real deal…..

One of the most sexiest cars at the auto show is the Fiat 500. Chrysler Canada unveiled the Fiat 500 at the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow this year. Featured for the first time in Canada, this vehicle will provide Chrysler Canada with an expressive new entry into the small car segment.

The Fiat 500 offers a unique balance of style, youthfulness, and fun, combined with the outstanding fuel efficiency Canadian consumers demand. Named European Car of the Year in 2008, the Fiat 500 will arrive in Chrysler Canada showrooms within a year.

To tease the senses of the Canadian consumer, Chrysler Canada is displaying two European versions of the 500: a stylish white Fiat 500 model and a powerful black Abarth 500.

·        Ford Fiesta: It’s Fiesta time ….

As the first new car in Ford’s global ‘One Vision’ strategy, the Fiesta has to accommodate the smallest 2.5 percentile female up to the lardiest 97.5 percentile male, everywhere from Beijing to Baton Rouge and all points in between. Displayed at the Canadian International autoshow, this is a must see car. For now the engine pick is the 1.6L Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT) I4 engine. This sporty power plant delivers an estimated 119 hp and 109 ft-lbs, mated to a 5-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic. I think all the basics are done neatly, it sure is a Fiesta for Ford. It’s a sweet little car. Not sweet in a cute way, but sweet in a crisp and sharp way. I think if good looks could kill then everyone is going to die.

Author:Sohaib Zahid

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Watch out for x`. It’s a fashion statement from Ford with the ‘F’ word.

Posted on 20 January 2010 by .

Nowadays car designers no longer talk in terms of other cars when they’re contextualizing their work, they talk about phones, mp3-players, and portable game consoles. I guess the technology hype is engraving every industry and mobile phones being the biggest inspiration. From music to health everything is revolving around a cell phone. By which reckoning, the new Fiesta isn’t a car at all, more of a big gadget and I’d like to see the handbag this could fit in.

So far, the best-in-class looks, and a centre console modeled, yes, on a mobile phone. I wanted to approach the new Fiesta with a ‘Wow’ face rather like the aging Chuck Norris would approach a ‘Take That’ concert. Is this a small car or a copy of Flare magazine on four wheels? Simply Wow!

This enthusiasm for fun is apparently exactly what Ford has set out to achieve with the new Fiesta. The overall appearance now sits comfortably with that of its futuristic stable mates. I think Ford has managed to get the blue oval back on top – this is a fantastic little car.

Of course, stiff competition is easy to come by in the Fiesta’s market – the new Honda Fit weighs in with a 117hp, and the hottest Mazda 2 coming soon, are arguably much fun. Despite this, the Fiesta is hot, keen to please and a general joy to own, which should keep Ford customers happy.

This is a terrific little car, and the sort of thing the world could do with being terrific right now. Ford is enjoying one of those product booms that car companies periodically seem to go through, has lately given all its cars the same slick, smoothly engineered feel. Now the Fiesta gets the honor.

For now the engine pick is the 1.6L Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT) I-4 engine. This sporty power plant delivers an estimated 119 hp and 109 ft-lbs, mated to a 5-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic which is a dry clutch technology using an electro-mechanical system to optimize efficiency while eliminating the need for cooler lines thus reducing the potential for oil leaks. Very clever!

Visually, it’s very close to the Verve concept shown at Detroit auto show last year. Crucially, it’s also a small car that still looks like a small car, rather than poking out and migrating into the class above. Yes, it softens Ford’s ‘Kinetic’ design language a little, but there are plenty of clever visual hooks: the extra edge on the head-light, the sharp tailoring of the rear lights and the competing surfaces around the nose and front wings are all smart.

As the first new car in Ford’s global ‘One Vision’ strategy, the Fiesta has to accommodate the smallest 2.5 percentile female up to the lardiest 97.5 percentile male, everywhere from Beijing to Baton Rouge and all points in between. The seats are mounted lower than before, though, and the gear lever and instrument panel higher – so despite this ‘one-size fits all’ strategy, it’s actually surprisingly purposeful.

The hatch looks genuinely brilliant – especially in some of the new bold colors. The sedan doesn’t look half bad either. Just one problem – the Fiesta name just hasn’t got the bar-side pizzazz you might want.

The new central dash arrangement is a bit silver, but not many will complain about the quality at this price point. Ford have worked on that big car feel and the Fiesta does a grand job of not feeling cheap even though it is.

Prices start at $12,999 for the Sedan version, and the hatch is priced from $16,799. Supermini-deniers may once have pointed out that you could get a proper car for that sort of money. Luckily, that’s exactly what the new Fiesta is.

I think all the basics are done neatly, it sure is a Fiesta for Ford. It’s a sweet little car. Not sweet in a cute way, but sweet in a crisp and sharp way. It’s in a fight with Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris where it starts to look really competitive. It’s a tough decision and your heart will probably say Honda or Toyota, but if your wallet overrules your emotions, and you take three major car buying points in to consideration; good looks, good looks and good looks then this new Fiesta will do you proud.

Author: Sohaib Zahid

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2010 Lexus ES 350 A car for very old people to drive very slowly. Why does it have more than two gears?

Posted on 09 December 2009 by .

If kids were to design a car, I’m sure it would look something like a fur-lined bubble-gum dispenser on wheels. You see, they’re on a different agenda. What’s important for them is not reliability or credibility, but whether a car has any novelty features like tray tables, a fridge in the glovebox or a doughnut reheating device. They are more concerned with X-box or PS3 accommodation in the cabin as opposed to car seat anchors and airbags. The Lexus, ES 350 may be a bit thin on the pointless novelty front, but Lexus’s entry level family sedan is both satisfying and silent, in a slightly techy way. Not the prettiest of lumpen beetles for those who consider themselves to have normal eyesight, but the driving experience does makes sure that no bowel moments occur, even if you are the 60 year old grand pa who drives the grand children around town.

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Old Age is by extension, a description or nickname for someone or something that has endured and become comfortable or widely familiar, this phenomenon of old age holds true for ES 350’s sister car which lends the drivetrain and the engine to the big sedan. You guessed it right! Toyota Camry V6 and ES 350 shares the same 3.5L V6 power plant. Both get a brilliant six-speed auto gear box that slurs gears better than a drunk slurs words. You’ll be looking at a 0-100km/h time of 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 238 km/h. The engine is quiet, punchy and economical to run.

So it won’t cream a BMW when it comes to drilling an apex, but it will make you painfully aware that where a 3-series winds you up by encouraging you to go faster, the ES 350 will de-stress you with the gentle sound of silence. Run over pedestrians and you’ll be isolated from their screams by superb insulation and the bump thump of jaywalkers passes under the wheels virtually unnoticed.

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Can’t hold a candle to the handling capabilities of the premium Teutons, but the ES 350 can fling its rather lardy bottom around with surprising alacrity once you’ve got the hang. It’s never particularly encouraging about going fast though, any car this heavy on the servo-assistance isn’t that keen on making you No.1 on the highway.

The new ES 350 is a highly accomplished sedan, blessed with Toyota’s usual bombproof build quality and a little bit more flair than previous models. But, it becomes a lot pricier if you start to equip the car with optional packages. Built with a wonderfully anal attention to detail. Even other premium marques look at Lexus panel gaps and wince. The ES is a car that seems to try very hard at feeling well put together, and then fails slightly for us Canadians by tripping over small cultural differences. For instance, some of the interior color combinations look cheap and the wood is so over-processed, it looks like plastic. No really, quality is what Lexus does best. The ES is mechanically indestructible and its interior, although perhaps not as luxurious as European counterparts, but will age far better than you will.

Lexus has a bit of a retiree reputation in this country, but the ES is a more modern and individual proposition than all those old Cadillac sedans you see doing 20 km/h on a community church parking lot every Sunday. It is the soft rock music in todays world of R&B/Hip-Hop culture. ES is trying hard to be bold and the beautiful, but it lacks the pace of the modern world. It is perhaps old, dull and boring.

There is nothing worse than being boring, apart from being old and boring. So what are you waiting for? Here are some things to do to keep you busy at the weekend, in the holidays or if you just happen to drive a Lexus. So much to do, so little time, so best to start early. Make an origami frog, lie convincingly, operate as a spy or may be try to finish an action movie. Wait! may be you really deserve a Lexus if you think you are the life of the party even when it lasts till 8pm or if you are not grumpy but just don’t like traffic, waiting, animals, children or diversity…

So, you’re a teen then, and you feel the years are already starting to creep up on you. You look at your Lexus loving parents and think, “Wow, were they ever young and interesting?” and you realize that old age and boringness are creeping up on you too. What can you do to defend yourself? Sacrifice the lunch money for a $2.75 bus ride or may be show them a car brand like BMW, Audi or even Mercedes…. ahhhhhh!better. 

Just look at it. Does it excite you? Would you peep between your curtains at night just to watch it sit there on your driveway? You might with a 3-series, C-class or A4, but not with this – the design is frumpy by comparison.

All of the ES is very boring. Very Toyota-ish. It’d be nice to see the company inject a bit more fun into their cars. Remember, these are the people that built the Supra, the MR2, ran Celica WRC cars and still run a Formula One team. If even a tiny bit of that raciness filtered down to cars like the ES, it’d attract buyers who need all the practicality/safety/affordability of a sedan, without settling for an average drive. That’s what Audi and Mercedes are doing, so why can’t Lexus?

To me ES is the chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips or an Oreo without cream. It does the job, and thats all. Even the excitement, the passion and the love cannot balance the equation for the ES. So to return to my wonderful world of cookies: If only Toyota had added a layer of cream, or some chocolate, this new ES 350 could’ve troubled its opposition. Until a sportier version comes along, we’ll just have to dunk it in tea or a lake.

 

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Author: Sohaib Zahid

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Reveal the New 2010 Mini Cooper….Big on the outside, small on the inside. Did the Germans read the brief upside down?

Posted on 26 November 2009 by .

Here it is, the moment we all have been waiting for. Seven years since BMW revealed the new Mini, I can now reveal the brand spanking 2010 Mini Cooper, Oh wait! I think its the wrong car, I might be looking at the old one. Wait, NO! This definitely is the new Mini Cooper and BMW claims that every panel is different. I personally think, BMW has gone to great lengths to make sure that the new version looks exactly like the old one. Understandably so, because people love the styling.

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Mini is a successful, if aesthetically subtle, evolution of the worldwide phenomenon, supporting the notion that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Mini still looks and feels high end, drives superbly and remains attainable.

 

I think it should not always be about the big expensive tire shredding stuff. In fact, there should be a trend in Canada towards small affordable fun cars, stuff that looks good at 20 km/h in a traffic jam at Hwy 401. I mean, take the Mini as a prime example, its not the fastest car in the world and the roof folding arrangement is a little unfortunate in the convertible version, but it has 4 seats and a white roof top, and look at it, Barbie would definitely love it, I think so. Well, some cars are Rock and Roll, some are hip-hop overjoy but this is definitely a pop video. Because it starts from only $22,800 no one thinks you are a rich kid. It’s the kind of car that makes people go ‘awww’ rather than ‘ahhh’, more like a fashion accessory.

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The thing is though, if fashion accessories have to work, they have to have a real world application. A Swiss watch for example; there is no point of it being extravagant, if it cannot work 200 meters deep in sea. An SUV has to work off road even if you live in downtown Toronto. A training shoe has to work in a gym even if your nickname is Couch Potato. So its no good for the Mini to be all winky dinky and funky. If it’s going to have any street credibility, it has to shine in the trendiest parts of the trendiest postal codes of the trendiest cities in Canada and I must say, ‘this car looks sensational.’

 

The Cooper might make all the right growly noises but it is powered by a 1.6 L, 4 cylinder engine which makes only 118hp and 0-100 km/h takes pain stricken 10.4 seconds. I believe the smaller engine still feels a little gutless in a car that is heavier than its size would lead you to believe. On the other hand, the Mini is now far more comfortable, something that will make a huge difference to people who will use it for long journeys and over bumpy roads. It really is a class act now. I love the way, how dials stick out and scream the speed limit so you refrain from getting any speed tickets. Another area of improvement over the previous generation car, the new Mini feels substantially more sturdy inside and uses less brittle plastic around the dash and doors.

 

Earlier, my claim of BMW making a carbon copy of old Mini is totally wrong. There is a difference. If you knew your old Mini you would remember that the headlights were a part of one big clamshell arrangement which was very expensive for BMW to build and very costly to replace in case of a front end bump. The new lights themselves now pierce around the holes in the hood, and therefore less repair costs.

 

You have to admire the marketing genius. BMW, with its reputation for build quality and dynamic excellence fully in play, reinvents the most brilliantly packaged car in history as the worst packaged car of modern times. Yet still makes it a huge success. Terrific fun, but threatened by Barbie label.

 

Barbie or Ken? Mini does seem to suffer from a split personality disorder, but Mini’s real forte hasn’t been diluted in this slightly softer new version. Although a fraction less sprightly, the overall set up is even more accomplished, meaning you can push it even harder with relative impunity, and this is no job for Barbie. The Mini has got a bad rep in certain parts of the country where it has a girl only label and some companies use them as advertising hoardings, but in isolation the Mini is too good and too much fun to be anything other than cool.

 

Even though the new car looks virtually identical to the old one, this new version of Mini is completely different. It rides better, it handles better, its built better and its more efficient. If I am in the market for a small car and my name is Ken, Mini Cooper has still got my money. But to judge it by these criteria is to miss its point completely. This is a great little car – its outright brio and its zesty vitality are key to its charming appeal, intangibles that transform even routine trips into memorable alfresco journeys despite the limited performance thrills. The Mini Cooper is aimed at its target audience of style-conscious women and metro-sexual men with spot-on accuracy. It’s a winner.

  Author: Sohaib Zahid

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A Zoom Zoom Experience. 2010 Mazda 3, Mission Accomplished: Raging Bull or Civilized Griffin. It could well be the King.

Posted on 22 November 2009 by .

Zoom Zoom, I ask, What is it? I guess something that we refuse to out grow because a 16 year old is still inside us. It is the spark, that a lucky few never lost. For us, driving is expression, exhilaration, liberation. It is the attitude to get noticed. It is Passion. It is heart and soul. It is what matters. It is 2010 Mazda 3.

mazda

Mazda 3, when it came along 5 years ago our first thought was oh dear! Here we go again, replacing a successful Protegė brand and experimenting with a new breed, it is definitely going to disappoint its bank manager. However, the first generation of Mazda 3; the sedan and the hatch was absolutely superb. Now here comes the flamboyant second album. Its a brand new car and amazingly its called the Mazda 3, more like a proud dad to a successful son. For Mazda, new doesn’t mean reheated left overs, its got a new interior, a new body, a new chassis, this really is brand new. Its still got Mazda 3 written all over it. It handles amazing, has a front engine and its a very fast entry level compact car.

This is also the most powerful Mazda 3 ever. With available 169 hp from a new 2.5L 4-cylinder, 0-100km takes only 7.4 seconds. The base 2.0L engine is also very promising with, umm….I guess OK fuel economy. The previous generation of Mazda 3 was a real ‘wam’ ‘bam’ thank you man, punch in the back and the New Generation is business as usual, rather with a more civilized surge. The Zoom Zoom is in the blood and that is not surprising because Mazda 3 is after all a driver’s car.

On the outside the aggressive front bumper and a spoiler in the back keeps the tradition alive, but in the inside instead of track day harnesses and fire extinguishers you get dual zone air conditioning, a hands free module, Satellite navigation and even a display that greets you with “Hello” and says “Good bye” when you turn the ignition on and off respectively; a real polite car Eh!

Basically, Mazda has got ambitions, and when small car companies get ambitious thats usually a big roar. Its easy for a car company to build an everyday compact car. Just get an engine and some hardware and you have got the recipe. But its very hard to build a segment leader, something that you can live with everyday; rain, shine or snow.

Nevertheless Mazda has stepped out on to the tightrope and I am happy to report that they haven’t fallen off. The handling is absolutely superb, you turn it and it just grips and grips and grips, it feels as if it is riding on rails. I am sure, if you put it in the automotive torture chamber at Nürburgring, it sure will survive without any pain.  And yet for all that, the ride is perfectly comfortable. The Mazda 3 really is the sort of compact sedan/hatch that you can use everyday and still have fun. Yes! it is a bit thirsty on gas, it might have a controversial smiley face, but none of that really matters for one very good reason; it’s 14 feet of almost nothing but passion and flare and style makes you happy.

No body gets a job in car industry because they want to make a safe car, so all the time those poor souls of Toyota and Honda have been beavering away with crumple zones and air bags. There’s been this pressure building up for them to go bizarre and to make something thats mad. Whereas Mazda was busy with the secret ingredient, to put a little extra in the recipe, they blew a soul and placed a heart in the car. You can sense the adrenaline and feel the excitement in Mazda 3. Its like a pop song, really short, quick, exhilarating 3 minutes, bish bash boosh, big smile on your face and THE END.

I think the reason Mazda has pulled off such an amazing car is because they have kept everything simple. If I was in a Civic right now the indicators would be on the ceiling and the switches would be made out of kryptonite and the doors would open inward with a hydraulic hinge, to me Civic is just a bucket load of Math and science inside whereas in a Mazda 3 the door is just a door that opens like a door, everything is where it should be and how it should be.

Mazda has made such a simple car so amazing unlike Toyota which has a recipe for a perfect shepherd pie but they made it with dog meat. Corolla, is like buying a ton of manure and saying it doesn’t smell that bad after all. It is old and boring, just like a wall paper which only looks amazing if seams could vanish and rather a modern design is available. All in it is badly made, noisy, bit ungainly, uncomfortable and cheap ‘and’ it handles like a pig. You can be on drugs to make it exciting but that doesn’t work either. Wait! There is one exciting factor, If you have a black and white cat and your name is Pat then Corolla is also available in red.

With every new Mazda 3, Mazda seems to take a step closer to the world’s best. In short Mazda 3 does for other cars in the segment what laptop did for the typewriter, what iPod did for Sony music Walkman. I respect it hugely, the same way I respect the technology in my iPhone. It is now the yard stick for the compact car segment. It is the genesis of fun and perfection. The 2010 Mazda 3 is an evolutionary engineering exercise which kept all the plus of the old generation and perfected the car, therefore keeping the Zoom Zoom spirit alive. 

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 Author: Sohaib Zahid

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2010 Cadillac Escalade, a Class of its own

Posted on 21 October 2009 by .

Today, Rappers and Hip Hop artists are running the show. They tell us to buy big cars with shiny wheels and cool gizmos to impress. In their terms, something known as a ‘bling car’.

2007 Cadillac Escalade AWD SUV

Simply it is just cool to have a car and coolest of all the cars is the Cadillac. In America Cadillac brand has been dying on its feet for years rather like its customers. And thats the problem. Its hard to make a car cool when its driven by either thugs or pensioners.

But when young hip hop generation starts to talk about it then its a different matter.

And its this particular Cadillac that they are all talking about, the Cadillac Escalade. Its now featured in more Rap and R&B lyrics then any other car. Snoop Dog’s got one, Nelly’s got one and so does Missy Elliot, and thats just the tip of the iceberg. Why is it so popular? Well, don’t think because its a good car.

It weighs about 3 tons. Basically, think of putting wheels on a one bedroom house and you just about got it. Then its best to take those corners gently and try not to notice that your miles per gallon are barely in to double figures. American cars usually have pretty rubbish interiors and inside the Escalade is business as usual. Cheap plastics and fake wood doesn’t really make it bling.

The old car’s front-end looked like a kid without candy, but the new one is far more apologetic, with bigger lamps and a slightly slopping grille that bites into the deep front bumper. There are triple strakes in the side vents and triple-strake indicators in the rear lamps; the overall effect is flashier and more like a Cadillac, and it’s harder to see this car sharing space in a gentleman’s garage.

Although the cost effective materials are being used inside yet the layout of the fabulous cabin is new and fresh, bookended by the long spars of fake wood. I would be lying if I don’t adore the interior, the materials have been upgraded – there’s now a full leather headlining big enough to put cows on the endangered species list – but it’s the gadgets that will make the headlines.

The main dials blackout completely, as there’s a dark side to them.There is a huge touch-screen display in the center console that displays all the night clubs around you, and to get there, under the hood is a 403 hp Vortec 6.2L V8 engine with Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and FlexFuel capability. The windows roll up and down with the touch of a button, the radio plays music with a cool screen. In fact, this car is so sophisticated that it could write its own name. Really, its as stupid and as wonderful as owning a pet elephant.

When I ask people, would you rather have a Big Caddy over a Bimmer or a Land Rover? the answer is usually, NO! You see, as a car the big caddy is pretty poor at best. But that really is missing the point. Its magnificence, its popularity lies with its ‘bling’ factor. Lets start with its sheer size. I think range rover is immense but escalade is a full two feet longer, that is full 18 feet to end. People are scared of this car and that is fantastic. Its this bulk which gives it huge presence and charisma.

‘Bling’ is not fashion, its the way of life. The main idea is, its got to be big, its got to be brash and its got to be out there. Everyone will look at you and say, ‘MONEY’. All in, you are wearing and riding your entire bank account.

While I am lost in the craftsmanship and driving of the car I will be missing the really important details. Look at the wheels on those Cadillacs, and just as important are the wheels are the tinted windows. The tints are very important because you want the ‘honeys’ to notice you when you roll the windows down, and the people you don’t want to see are filtered nicely.

Earlier on I moaned that you cannot drive the Escalade quickly and it handles like it is drunk. But in bling terms, that is the whole point. You need to lay back to ride. A bling vehicle will get you from point A to B but you will get to point B very late. Bling is brilliant.              

Why worry about the mortgage and the pension plans when you can put everything you got in to your car. People will think that you got money in your pocket even if you don’t. You can have a car like this and still live with your mom and that is really cool. She will let you park your car outside and even do your laundry. AMAZING!

 

Well, the bling, the charisma and the gigantic presence aside, my question is, What about the Escalade as a machine? You see, Americans are going to Mars but still cannot make a nice reliable car, WhhhhY? You wonder, what’s been gained with the new design, and whether Cadillac has missed a trick by not taking the opportunity to do something more imaginative, or ‘let us choose from a different design’.
The problem with the Cadillac – for people like me, at least – is that no matter how much we bang on about the general pointlessness of big SUVs, to drive one is to want one.
Forgive the early abandonment of objectivity, but its a pretty bloody cool car. 
Its not something I would buy but there is a sense of magic in this car, something we call the ‘X-factor’ and that makes me walk in to one of Cadillac’s showrooms with a bag full of cash and say, “Get my car ready”, and that makes it so cool as a Machine.

 

I understand that it depreciates as fast as it accelerates, its not the fastest car in the world and with sloppy suspension its not a thriller in the corners either, but if you judge a car on how it makes you feel rather than what it can do then Cadillac is a class of its own.

Unlike a Bimmer or a Mercedes which just hums as it goes along, this one feels and it crackles and it sounds like an engine and not like a monk. Think of it as an Italian restaurant, you don’t get the food any faster but its more exciting somehow.

 

Every time I see someone going in an Audi or a BMW I feel like yelling at them, “you have bought the wrong car”. Escalade is such a nice place to be in. You look forward to doing a journey just so you can come and sit in it.

 

So how, you might be wondering, could you afford such a thing.  To try and crunch some numbers to afford a motorized shopping mall with a price tag of almost $100,000 like this, I have come to Thunderbay. Home of the largest fresh water lake in the world. Although with best outdoors yet being far away from any major city in South Ontario, there is a dramatic effect on the real estate market. Generally a 2200 sq-ft house in GTA costs around $350,000, whereas you can get the same for about $150,000 in Thunderbay, A real Bargain Eh! I wonder, then why Canadians go south of the border to look for bargains, when we have steal deals at home. Why spend $2000 a month on a big expensive mortgage, why not move to Thunderbay and spend the money on a big Cadillac. I mean, think about it. Its not as great as Toronto but you will be able to sit inside your very own house knowing that every time you look out of the window, you will be able to see your very own Cadillac.

 

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 Author: Sohaib Zahid

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All new 2010 Lexus IS250c Lexus’s 3-series clone follows up with a folding hardtop

Posted on 07 October 2009 by .

Why Paris, more than any other city in the world? What about Venice or Amsterdam or Seville, one might ask. Are not New York and The Hague home to at least as many international organizations as Paris? Have not Los Angeles and Bombay sparked as many fantasies? Why the boulevards of Paris and not the Ringstrasse of Vienna?
wheel1Night or day, Paris lives. It’s a city for lovers and a city to fall in love with. Every thing you do in Paris seems to be touched by the glow of romance, whether it is queuing for croissants or sitting on a café terrace sipping an aperitif and watching the world go by.
Hence, a perfect place for the launch of the New Lexus IS 250c; a romantic get away version of the boring Lexus brand. Can the new Lexus convertible live up to the glory of its birth place? With less doors and no roof, is it more car then the 4-door version?
wheel2Despite the fact that it has the fastest deploying three-piece folding hardtop in the world. It seats four, it has the biggest trunk in its class, it’s comprehensively equipped and its multi-adjustable and multi-ventilated/heated one-touch folding front seats are a work of a genius. It’s also powered by a 2.5-liter V6 that develops over 200hp and demonstrates appealing refinement. However, the Lexus IS250c fails to sparkle in any area whatsoever. It’s, umm, well, er, it’s okay. I suppose.
The promise is there. Only the IS250c’s hood, lamps, doorhandles and mirrors are shared with the sedan – it’s virtually a new body. However, three-part aluminum folding roof mechanisms are heavy and compromise appearance like a zit on a first-date teenager, hence the IS250c’s unbalanced styling.
The roof operation is smooth and quick (21 seconds) but I can’t help thinking the IS’s standard four-door profile with a cloth top would look prettier – and save weight.
With steel reinforcements in the pillars, trunk and sills, the IS250c weighs in at 1742kg – lardy, but comparable with a BMW 328i convertible. However, the Lexus is out-grunted by the BMW and out-pulled by the Audi A5 Cabriolet. And both Germans feel sporty when the driver turns off the boulevards, whereas the Lexus has no duality of character, it cruises and that’s it.
As a Lexus, the refinement is very high just as noise, vibration and harshness levels are low. Broken surfaces might send a few barely perceptible wobbles through the steering wheel, but nothing that will spill your Tim Hortons.
Like every Lexus, it packs a vast amount of standard-fit goodies in to the cabin. The front seats feature memory function, cold-air ventilation and backside and shoulder heating elements. So it’s good upfront, but rear passengers make do with upright seats and, with the roof up, mildly claustrophobic narrow glasshouse. 
But whereas the rear passengers are squeezed as in every convertible, your golf bags (two) will fit in the trunk….until you lower the roof. Then it’s just one.
I expected Lexus to build something amazing, something astonishing and go bizarre but they didn’t, and to me they have built something ordinary. The roof does come off, not because it can’t contain excitement within but because there is no excitement without.
Like, Paris has fulfilled its promise and many people’s dreams, will Lexus be able to live up to its promise of excitement? I guess, not. You cannot rationalize cars like these. It’s not something that you buy with your head, it’s something you buy with your heart, because you love them and who can justify love?

 

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  Author: Sohaib Zahid

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Battery, Engine: Hybrid

Posted on 01 October 2009 by .

WHILE THE WORLD CATCHES UP, TOYOTA QUIETLY GETS ON WITH ITS THIRD GENERATION ECO SAVIOR- AND THIS TIME PROMISES FUN

When a good old dose of electricity has been used to power things, our world and the things in it have been transformed: lightbulbs, telephones, life support machines and ‘kitchen toys’ were never so inanimate or useless again after being connected to a current.

weels

But with car motors, the use of a watt or two to power it has generally had a diminishing effect. Less rampant rabbit, more asthmatic aardvark. The problems of harnessing the low-emission benefits of electric are huge when it comes to vehicles, principally because storing or generating enough power to do more than out-sprint a milk float requires whacking great batteries.Lots of them. And that means space, and weight, and cost.

And of course, the batteries tend to run out, fast. Unlike a hybrid, where you can switch to dear old fossil power and carry on, the only method of propulsion once the batteries have given up the ghost is gravity, or a hefty shoulder to the C-pillar. And once at a place where the current can flow back into them again, you’d better have a box set of The Sopranos to plough through while you wait for the needle to hit full.

It’s a worry, especially for the motorist new to electric avenue, and there’s even a name for this psychological condition: range anxiety.

To avoid this physiological condition, I turned my head to 2009 North American International Auto Show, held in a city which has not slashed its CO2 emissions per person by at least 20% since the beginning of the century and nor it will be the American Green capital; and in 2050 the government officials will not be chasing fossil fuels past the city walls, banishing them for eternity. Detroit, then, is not as good a place to launch the new Prius, the third in over a decade’s worth of petrol-electric hybrid cars from Toyota.

After shocking the world with its home-market introduction in 1997, the Prius continues to represent the standard by which all other hybrids are measured. Under the car’s hood is a more powerful 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4. Despite being bigger, Toyota claims that this engine actually achieves better fuel economy than the old one because it makes more torque, allowing lower rpm on the highway.

The stats are promising: 3.8 L/100km, 89g/km, 134hp. That’s up by 22hp and down by 15g/km over the last-gen Prius, and easily outshines the Honda insight and VW Jetta TDI.

Promising, too, is Toyota’s talk that it’s made the Prius a genuine mainstream contender, a car whose green credentials are just part of the appeal, not most of it. Performance is up, emissions down, practicality and safety increased, refinement and aerodynamics improved. It’s even getting a bit German in the press conference with talk of ‘increased driving pleasure’.

The restyle in bang on the money – instantly recognizable second-gen DNA given extra athleticism with an aggressively creased shoulder line and more rakish headlights. Inside too, it’s spot on Toyota judging perfectly the balance between futuristic concept car feel and real-world usability. And while the so-called ‘ecological plastics’ (‘the world’s first injected molded material derived from plants,’ says the press material, which came from well-managed forests and other controlled sources, thanks heavens) might sound a bit cheap when you bang on them, they look good and the leafy grain is nice to stroke too.

As a hybrid, of course, the engine’s also boosted by an electric motor stowed beneath the trunk, and a nickel-metal hydride battery. Both are lighter, smaller and significantly more powerful than before.

This Prius, though, isn’t just a one-trick urban pony. Fully charged, the Prius can slip around on battery power alone at up to 50 km/h for as long as 2km if you press the EV button.In fact, the petrol engine will regularly shut down at speeds of up to 70km/h meaning the Prius now makes more sense for out-of-towners than its predecessor did. And, on the open road, the extra power doled out by the new 1.8-liter engine comes into its own. The power is fed to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The engine’s extra muscle means you don’t need to work it as hard as the Honda insight, while extra attention to noise reduction means you notice less what noise there is.

So what, then, of those dynamic improvements? According to Toyota, there’s increased torsional stiffness, better steering feel and improved stability, but don’t go expecting a BMW-rivaling drive. The Prius is perfectly acceptable for the person who just wants to get from A to B, even if A is Ajax and B is Brampton. The Prius is also notably better than – here it comes again – the Insight. The steering has none of the vagueness around the dead-ahead and is just a little quicker too; the handling is a lot less vague at higher speeds; and ride is in a different league. You may be tempted by the $3600 savings the Insight waves under your nose but, seriously, the improved ride quality is almost worth the premium on its own, and when you factor in the Toyota’s improved performance, refinement, interior quality and better tech, well, you’d be slightly mad to hand your cash to the competition.

All in, the Prius impresses as mush as Toyota claims. But I am yet to establish how close it comes to delivering 3.8 L/100km in real-world driving over a more representative period of time. Rest assured, we’ll find that out soon enough.

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Author: Sohaib Zahid

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