Bold Audi grille and massive 20-inch alloys make for a substantive presence for any well-to-do execs that already bought into the four-door coupe concept. Cars like the Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera are right at the top of this class, but that doesn't make the all-new 2012 Audi A7 any less desirable.
I find it gorgeous. Its front end isn't all that different from other Audis, a good thing, but the rear design, with its sweptback C pillars and chiseled backside sporting angular taillights is oh-so '70s! And I'm referring to the good aspects of '70s design, not the white flared Britannia jeans and multi-colour polyester shirts. Then again, I actually liked those styles back in the days when I parted my long hair in the middle and wore puka shells around my neck (I had a black coral one with a shark's tooth too, and I'd really rather not talk about the gold chain and medallion), just like I loved so many of the cars of the era. The first car I bought with my own money was an Audi 100, and while mine was a four-door sedan I would've loved to have had the sportier hatchback version. It was almost non-existent on these shores, but if strong early sales are anything to go by I'm pretty sure the A7 won't suffer the same fate.
|Five-door profile is oh-so '70s cool! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
some of its rivals that play in the six-figure arena, Audi has priced its A7 within reach of an S4 or S5 buyer, and being that it carries the same 3.0-litre supercharged V6, albeit tuned to 310-horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, it should be very appealing at $70,595 including shipping. The A7 gets a state-of-the-art 8-speed automatic transmission, including paddle-shifters of course, with power going down to all four wheels via Audi's legendary quattro all-wheel drive. Even fuel economy isn't too bad for this performance-oriented 5-door, optimistically estimated at 11.4 L/100km city and 7.4 highway. And yes, pricier premium is required. I experienced between 10 and 11 L/100km during my weeklong test, which I think is pretty good for the performance provided, the hilly terrain in Greater Vancouver where I drove it, and the normally thirsty V8-powered premium segment it resides in. I didn't exactly drive it like a grandma either.
The A7 begs to be driven quickly. It comes standard
|Raked C-pillar and edgy Kamm-like tail give the A7 a sporty elegance. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
with a sweet looking set of 19-inch 5-arm Y-design rims on 255/40R19 all-seasons, but Audi kindly shod mine in 265/35R20 performance rubber framing a set of gorgeous 20-inch alloys in a 10-parallel-spoke design, at only $1,000 extra. These combined with the A7's lightweight aluminum body and fully competent 5-link front and trapezoidal-link rear suspension setup, quick-reacting electromechanical speed-dependent rack and pinion steering system that needs only 2.7 turns lock-to-lock, and Ingolstadt-tuned excellence, for a canyon carving dynamo that belies its 1,910-kilo (4,210-lb) mass.
All that mass comes from a generously sized vehicle with a full complement of luxury accouterments. You won't get lost in the A7, but you'll have no problem fitting into its accommodating front seating area. If stuck in back, don't expect A8 proportions, but you likely won't have to shrug your neck down with your legs at each side of a front seatback either.
|Wow! This thing is a hatchback! And it's seriously practical too. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
There's only room for four, thanks to the little hard plastic console fitted between the rear buckets, allowing for a sportier, coupe-like atmosphere. But really Audi, you could have given that pathetic molded plastic rear console a little more pizzazz. Even lesser VW does a better job with its CC, offering a sliding cover with some metallic bling on the handle. Geesh! Where's the sense of occasion?
I really can't complain about anything else though. The rear seats that flank the console are comfortable and offer decent support if the driver gets carried away on a twisting section of roadway, plus they fold flat via a 60/40-split to extend the already large cargo area, that's accessible via a power-actuated liftgate, no less. Yes, it's totally practical, not to mention fully flexible and beautiful, just like I like my, er, cars.
Up front the A7 is just as breathtaking as any other Audi. Really, this brand never lets me down when it comes to combining eye-candy aesthetics with ergonomic realities, not to mention standard features.
|Quality is second to none. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
In Canada the trims are either Premium or Premium Plus (no, not the yummy saltine that dissolves so perfectly in tomato soup), with base cars getting such niceties as power-adjustable heated leather seats with driver seat memory, a powered tilt and telescopic heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, auto-dimming mirrors, Audi's Music Interface audio system with Sirius satellite radio, colour information display, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth connectivity that was easy to connect to my phone, a moonroof, aluminum door sills, Audi's advanced parking system, HID headlamps with LED running lights and washers, LED taillights, and all the expected safety equipment.
Audi gives you the no-cost choice of either matte brushed aluminum or fine grain ash
|Comfortable, supportive, gorgeous seats. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
natural wood, also in a matte finish, and mine was the latter. Striking! Audi also upped my tester's content to Premium Plus trim, which meant at just over $76k it came with proximity sensing access and pushbutton ignition, four-zone automatic climate control, adaptive headlamps, MMI Touch navigation, a rearview camera, blind spot assist, and a DVD/CD changer.
You can up content further to include LED headlights, head-up display, and Audi's Assistance package that includes adaptive cruise control, pre sense plus, and electrically folding mirrors with automatic anti-glare. Ventilated seats are also available, or you can opt for the Night Vision package that includes head-up display and a driver information system with a 7-inch colour display, or Bose premium audio with signal processing, 14 speakers, a 12-channel amp, 600 watts of power,
|Rear buckets are nice, but the centre console isn't up to snuff. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
and AudioPilot noise compensation for only $1,000. But if you've gone this far, don't stop here. For $5,500 more than the Bose system, the audiophile pièce de résistance is a $6,500 Bang & Olufsen upgrade with 19 active speakers for true 5.1 surround sound, plus a 19-channel amp with more than 1,400 watts in total output! Yowza!
An S line Sport package is also available, which includes unique S line exterior trim upgrades, unique 20-inch 7-double-spoke alloy wheels with performance tires, an S line steering wheel, a sport suspension, and more.
Pleasurable performance. Stunning styling. Fully featured. Fabulous functionality. The 2012 Audi A7 is how I like to ride.
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The new 2012 M35h takes performance to new levels, both in the traditional sense of the word and also in terms of fuel economy. First off, with 30 additional ponies over the
|Attractive lines with elegant curves look good on the road. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
More to the point, the M35h is not only fast but it really feels like a sport sedan. This is partly due to inclusion of a conventional 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shifters, rather than the usual CVT. This is interesting, especially being that Infiniti's mother ship, Nissan, has basically eschewed conventional automatics for CVTs in everything but its 370Z sports car.
|Interior quality is very good and features top-tier.|
While the M35h is a sport sedan, its hybrid technology allows for very good fuel economy with an estimated rating of 7.5 L/100km city and 6.1 highway. Personal experience resulted in about 8 L/100km combined, which is almost as good as the normally optimistic Canadian estimates. A thirst for pricier premium fuel negates some of the savings, but all hybrids in the premium segment require premium so it's a moot issue. And to those looking to diesel for fuel savings, it costs more than regular unleaded too.
Additionally, M35h makes use of an ultra-low 0.27 coefficient of drag to optimize fuel economy,
|Comfort combines with support. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
The M35h builds on an extensive list
|Luxury is in the details. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
|Conventional 7-speed automatic with paddle-shifters gives this hybrid true sport sedan feel. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
Infiniti's hybrid also comes standard with Eco Pedal, a technology that pushes back on your foot if you apply the throttle too aggressively. Right out of the gates I didn't like how it felt, and was glad it can be disengaged. It's not really needed with my driving style anyway as high fuel prices plus regular training from experienced racers have turned me into a soft shoe, but I can see how it could help some of my lead-footed friends.
What I do like is Infiniti's exclusive Scratch Shield Paint, which automatically repairs itself from small scratches. Like with all Infiniti models, it comes standard.
After a week with the 2012 Infiniti M35h I'm smitten. This is a seriously fun sport sedan that serves up luxury in large doses while delivering fuel-efficiency that a cheapskate like me can live with. That it's priced under $70k including delivery is a bonus.
The M35h is proof that Infiniti deserves to be ranked right up at the top of the premium segment.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)]]>
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Flicking the steering wheel to avoid the first obstacle, you're rewarded with a significantly greater degree of directional change than you anticipated. In other words, you moved the wheel a little - the car shifted a lot. So quick is the tiller, particularly when aided by the optional Dynamic Rear Steering system, approaching the next obstacle, having had time to adjust, you clear it with what seemed to be just a thought.
|With the GS 350 F Sport, Lexus is going after BMW at its critical 5 Series core. (Photo: Lexus)|
Turning into the first real corner, you're amazed at the stability of the F Sport Lexus, and also by its lack of body roll. Rather than lean the way so many cars do, the Lexus merely changed its attitude in response to your steering input, streaked toward your targeted apex and gracefully finessed the corner.
This is a by-product of the new multilink rear suspension kit fitted to the GS 350, and wholly enhanced by the Lexus Dynamic Handling system. The new suspension arrangement mounts the springs outboard of the shocks to improve stability. A nice side benefit of this configuration is improved trunk space. The Dynamic Handling System is an adaptive
|The F Sport gobbles up twisty two laners. (Photo: Lexus)|
The centre console's Drive Mode Selector enables you to select your desired level of responsiveness from the car. Choosing Sport Plus sets the equivalent of "high alert" by advancing the engine's throttle response and advising the ABS braking system to allow you a bit more leeway. The Sport mode gives you the throttle response while leaving ABS in its normal state.
Needless to say, right now,
|No shortage of luxury features. (Photo: Lexus)|
Under full acceleration now, taking advantage of the full 277 ft-lbs of torque from the V6, and rocketing toward the next turn, you marvel at the shifting of the six-speed automatic transmission. Delivering an up-shift at just the precise moment to maximize your momentum, then intuitively downshifting during intense braking to sweetly clip the ninety-degree left-hander coming up, the transmission responds adroitly. It times its shifts to perfectly enable the most efficient transfer of power while maintaining stability and velocity. Plus, if you're a do-it-yourselfer, handy paddles behind the steering wheel offer you that capability. BTW, when it comes to cornering, the big 14-inch braking system plays a key role too-hauling the Lexus down
|Sweet seats. (Photo: Lexus)|
But enough of the hectic already.
Out on the street, serenely surrounded by cars with considerably less performance potential, the Lexus blends seamlessly. Its track-smoking abilities securely filed away, the palatially luxurious aspects of its nature are called to the fore. The 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport is just as quiet and comfortable on the street as it is raucous and capable on the track.
Plush leather adorns the instrument panel, steering wheel, shift lever and seats. Legibility of the electroluminescent
|Bucket style rear seats hold passengers in place during fast maneuvers. (Photo: Lexus)|
In the centre of the dash, the 12.3-inch touch screen multi information display's user interface is outstandingly intuitive. Also operated by way of an updated version of the Lexus Remote Touch mouse-like controller, the unit houses the readouts for the Lexus Enform suite of in-car apps. With this system, the Lexus GS 350 becomes a venue in the cloud computing system, providing you access to services like Bing, Facebook, Pandora, Yelp, and Open Table.
|Performance upgrades set the F Sport apart. (Photo: Lexus)|
In other words, all the plush you expect when riding with the sweeping "L" logo is firmly in place, except now the sort of dynamic abilities you find behind the blue and white roundel accompanies it. That Lexus accomplished this while remaining true to the marque's original core values as preferred purveyors of plush to pampered peeps is profound.
The 2013 Lexus GS lineup consists of the high performance F Sport and a standard GS 350; both available in rear- or all-wheel drive. A hybrid GS 450h is in the offing as well. While pricing has yet to be announced, with the base GS 350 starting at $51,900 it's reasonable to expect the F Sport to start on the high side of $50,000.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)]]>
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The biggest challenge to Mazda was in resolving seemingly mutually conflicting issues, such as increasing both fuel economy and torque. The engineers employed the breakthrough approach of technical innovation to improve all areas of performance concurrently, and the fruits of their labour will soon be seen in the Mazda3 compact sedan, and the upcoming CX-5 compact crossover, with the new gasoline engine. Soon, a diesel engine will follow, the first such engine in a car from an Asian manufacturer in North America.
Mazda's goal was to develop highly efficient engines with much-improved combustion, through the use of high compression ratios. That goal has been reached with an unheard-of 14.0:1 ratio in both the gasoline and diesel engine, respectively the highest and lowest in the world. Thanks to a number of technological breakthroughs including the reduction of inertial weight and mechanical friction, Mazda succeeded in dramatically improving fuel efficiency (by 15 percent over the current engine), power (also by 15 percent), exhaust gas emissions and other attributes in the gasoline engine. With the diesel engine in particular, they have managed to meet stringent exhaust gas emissions regulations without installing expensive after-treatment urea devices, as are currently seen in other diesel applications.
The SKYACTIV technology is rounded out by a new and very efficient automatic transmission design that delivers more power to the wheels and up to a seven percent improvement in fuel efficiency, and new body construction techniques that increase strength and rigidity while, at the same time, reducing weight.
SKYACTIV is significant new technology that will provide many benefits in all aspects of Mazda's cars.
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And what better car to do it in than the cheeky new Cooper S Coupe, the latest little runabout from MINI and conveniently now available for sale at MINI Langley? We did just that on a recent early fall day, and naturally enough, our tour started at the brand new store at the east end of the Bypass at Glover Road.
From there, it was a quick swing over to Langley City's main street, otherwise known as Fraser Highway. Now, we could have spent the entire day there visiting all the shops and cafes, but we cruised down the street far enough to see what kind of reaction the Coupe garnered from the very car-savvy residents of the centre of the car culture in the Lower Mainland of B.C. It was lots of smiles all around, and a few thumbs-up, too, for MINI's little hot rod.
Langley, being one of the earliest communities in the Vancouver area, is full of heritage houses and shops, nowhere more so than in the Murrayville neighbourhood just east of downtown. Several of the nicest old buildings can be seen in a separate article in this issue of Driver, and the corner of 48th Ave. and 216th St. is the centre of the community, with several well-preserved old buildings within walking distance. Right at the corner, now actually a traffic circle, is the former Porter's General Store, now Porter's Coffee & Tea House. The MINI fit right in here, being a modern interpretation of an older classic design from half a century ago. In that sense, the original MINI would be a relative youngster next to these century-old buildings!
From there, it was a short run up to the Canadian Museum of Flight next to the airport on 216th St., and while, again, we didn't have time to actually go in and take the tour, it was quite apparent from outside the fences that it contains a quite superb collection of vintage aircraft. We didn't find a Spitfire in front of which to pose the Coupe, but a few of the people visiting that day took the time to check it out, with a few comments about whether it had a custom roof on it, such is the departure from the more familiar boxy MINI look. This is definitely an eye-grabbing little car.
Out onto Glover Road we headed, on the way up to historic Fort Langley. We began to have the chance to stretch the Coupe's legs a little, especially north of Highway 10, until we arrived in the quaint village, in time for lunch. Parking the car right outside the cafe afforded us the opportunity to see more reaction to it as we enjoyed sitting outside in the sun on one of the last warm days of the season.
In the interests of security, we moved our belongings into the large, covered rear cargo area. There being no back seat in the Coupe, the space behind the front seats under the hatch is plentiful for the personal stuff of two people.
Of course, no visit to the town of Fort Langley would be complete without a visit to....well, the actual Fort. This has long been one of the must-visit attractions in B.C., being a National Historic Site. The Parks Canada website describes it well. “Fort Langley is the exact location where, a century and a half ago, a huge fur trade organization called the Hudson's Bay Company established a small post to trade with the First Nations of the West Coast. The enterprise grew, evolved, and influenced history, leading to the creation of the colony of British Columbia.”
Where to go from there? The Coupe was crying out for a little exercise, a chance to demonstrate its go-kart-like handling, and we found that on 96th Ave. and Allard Crescent heading west towards Derby Reach Regional Park next to the Fraser River. The picturesque road winds its way through many small farms, some of which have roadside stands with the bounty of the land available for city folk to bring home to the table. The Coupe reveled in the country roads, showing off its tight chassis, willing turbocharged engine and slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission, and its driver-focused interior with well-bolstered seats.
Once we made it west to 208th St., we turned to head south through the vast housing developments of Walnut Grove, and just in time for the students getting out of school for the day to get a good look at the newest member of the MINI family. The youngsters are no strangers to cool cars in this corner of the Lower Mainland, and the many slack-jawed stares at crosswalks were affirmation that MINI has got the look right on the Coupe.
Our next stop was the Colossus cinema complex at 200th and Highway One, which could be a fine end point for such a tour, offering as it does options like seeing a movie or relaxing and dining at one of the several eateries. But, heading south on 200th, there was one more stop, the very modern Langley Events Centre, which, from the signage much in evidence, would seem to be constantly busy with hockey games and concerts, and is a major asset to the community.
With that, and the afternoon winding down, we headed back to MINI Langley after a great day seeing some of the many sights in Langley, and getting to know the new MINI Cooper S Coupe. From comfort to handling, performance to visual flair, the Coupe is a sporty and stylish conveyance for your own city or country tour.
by Gerry Frechette
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The 2012 Scion iQ slots in below the xD as Scion's smallest and least expensive entry-level model, and like the larger subcompact the tiny micro car is high on quality, performance and creature comforts. While the iQ model will be even newer to Canadians than the Scion brand, it should be comforting to know that this two-door hatchback has already been selling in other markets as the Toyota iQ and, oddly enough, as the Aston Martin Cygnet.
The Cygnet might cost British consumers £30,995 (a tad over
|The iQ is designed to live in tight spaces. (Photo: Scion)|
Like the Cygnet and Toyota version of the iQ, the smallest Scion puts power through the front wheels via a 1.3-litre, 16-valve, DOHC, four-cylinder engine that makes 94 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 89 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, but unlike it's global market siblings that come with 5- and 6-speed manual gearboxes, the North American version of the car only gets a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The CVT is the thriftiest of the three choices, however, so it appears that Scion is putting fuel-efficiency as priority one with this car. To that end the iQ achieves a non-hybrid industry-best estimated rating of 5.5 L/100km in the city and 4.7 on the highway, on regular fuel.
The inclusion of the standard CVT means that
|Interior uses high-quality materials and standard features abound. (Photo: Scion)|
Additional standard features include auto up/down powered windows, power locks with keyless entry, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, manually-adjustable premium cloth front seats, air conditioning
|Rear seat makes all the difference in the micro car class. (Photo: Scion)|
Being a Scion the iQ can be accessorized with larger wheels and tires that can be chosen at the dealership, as well as an upgraded audio system, styling and performance upgrades, plus a satellite radio accessory kit.
The iQ, which is only slightly larger than
|Standard audio is good and dealer-installed option is premium-level. (Photo: Scion)|
The iQ is the third entry in a growing North American A-segment, which now includes the smart fortwo and Fiat 500. The ability to seat four, strong performance credentials, and the best fuel economy amongst non-hybrid cars should make the iQ appealing to subcompact buyers.
- Body Style: 2-door hatchback
- Segment: micro-car (A-segment)
- Seating Capacity: 4
- Drivetrain Layout: front-engine, FWD
- Engine: 94-hp @ 6,000 rpm, 89 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm, 1.3L, 16-valve, DOHC, I-4
- Transmission: CVT
- Suspension (f/r): Macpherson strut / torsion beam
- Tires: P175/60R16 all-season
- Brakes (front/rear): disc / drum, ABS, EBD, BA, SST
- Active Safety: traction and stability control
- Passive Safety: dual front, driver's seat cushion, front side-thorax, front/rear side-curtain, dual front knee, rear window airbags
- Curb Weight: 960 kg (2,116 lbs)
- External Dimensions (L/W/H/WB): 3,045 / 1,680 / 1,500 / 2,000 mm (119.9 / 66.1 / 59.1 / 78.4 in)
- Cargo Volume (behind 2nd row / 1st row): 31 / 473 L (1.0 / 16.7 cu ft)
- Ground Clearance: 135 mm (5.3 in)
- Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 5.5 / 4.7 L/100 km (51 / 60 mpg Imp.)
- Fuel Type: regular
- Warranty (mo/km): 36/60,000 basic - 60/100,000 powertrain
- Direct Competitors: fiat 500, smart fortwo
- Assembly Location: Toyota City, Japan
- Manufacturer Website: www.scion.ca
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)]]>
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The M35h placed highest in its class at the 2011 ALD Automotive/Shell FuelSave MPG Marathon organized by the FleetWorld group. The two-day event, which marked its 10th anniversary this year, took place on motorways and minor roads in England. In all, 26 vehicles took part in the 596-km marathon.
Over the course of its travels along the 596 km route, the M35h achieved a fuel economy rating of 6.49 L/100km, which is more than seven percent better than the hybrid's official combined fuel economy rating of 7.0 L/100 km according to Infiniti.
An informative dashboard display and an Eco Pedal feedback feature help drivers maximize efficiency with minimum effort. (Photo: Infinity)
"We drove as normal and the car did all the hard economy work for us," said one of the M35h's drivers, British motoring journalist Bob Murray. "The Eco Pedal and economy warning light were invaluable aids, while the dashboard graphic showing the V6/electric power delivery made it easy to make the most of the electric motor. We were often cruising along on battery power at over 100km/h."
|The M35h's badge may be discreet, but its hybrid performance is attention-getting. (Photo: Infiniti)|
"Infiniti's Direct Response Hybrid system was developed to offer a no-compromise way of providing both performance and fuel economy and this result demonstrates how successful that approach has been," said Wayne Bruce, communications director at Infiniti. "Achieving low fuel consumption in the official cycle tests might look impressive but helps no one if it is not readily achievable in real life."
The Infiniti M35h is available in Canada with a starting price of $67,300.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)]]>
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The Infiniti M35h hybrid has recently been awarded a Guinness World Record as the world's fastest accelerating full hybrid vehicle. The feat was accomplished at the United Kingdom's Santa Pod Raceway which plays host to the FIA European Drag Racing Championships. Santa Pod is where the M35h completed a standard quarter mile (400m) sprint in an average of 13.9031 seconds.
To put that into perspective, the iconic Lamborghini Countach S supercar from 1982 also clocked a 13.9 second quarter mile time while a 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage completed the quarter mile sprint in 13.6 seconds.
|The M35h is setting hybrid performance records. Will Lexus fight back with its performance-oriented GS 450h? (Photo: Infiniti)|
While at Santa Pod, the M35h also clocked a 0-100km/h (62 mph) time of 5.5 seconds, which Infiniti says is the fastest time listed for a full hybrid vehicle.
"The Infiniti M35h proves that hybrids can be fast as well as frugal," said Tim Pollard, Associate Editor of the UK's CAR Magazine. Pollard was responsible for driving the hybrid to its world record title. "At Santa Pod you could feel the instant torque of the electric motor away from standstill – the car just leapt off the line. I did try changing gears manually, but it was fastest left in automatic. That was when we achieved the fastest single run of 13.8960 seconds. But what impressed most was the M's duality of purpose: it might be quick, but it's also comfy and very easy to drive.
|The source of all the excitement, Infiniti's hybrid-enhanced 360-hp 3.5L V6. (Photo: Infiniti)|
Infiniti's M35h is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 engine and an electric motor. The hybrid powertrain generates 360 net horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to the rear wheels via a 7-speed automatic transmission with Adaptive Shift Control (ASC).
The world record-setting hybrid is available in Canada with a starting price of $67,300, and will be featured in the 2013 Guinness book of World Records.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)]]>
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Whoa! Now that's a hot looking minivan! Toyota's Sienna SE is like nothing else in the segment. (Photo: Frik Els, Canadian Auto Press) expect other drivers to stop, stare and point at your minivan, would you? Especially not if it's a Toyota minivan. But that tends to happen when you're in a pitch black 2011 Toyota Sienna SE. It hasn't been modified or pimped out in any way - the rear spoiler is standard equipment on the SE and so are the 19" aluminum alloys and fog lights. The suspension is not lowered either, but it looks that way.
The SE stands for Sport Edition and Toyota's rethink of the minivan looks; dare I say it... is cool. Dubbed the "Swagger Wagon" by Toyota's marketing team, the all-new 2011 Sienna range is also a YouTube sensation. Simply type Swagger Wagon in the popular video site's search box and you could join almost 10 million other viewers of the Japanese manufacturer's funny tongue-in-cheek take on hip-hoppers rollin' in the 'hood.
The third-generation 2011 Sienna, introduced early in 2010,
|Long and, dare we say, sleek? (Photo: Frik Els, Canadian Auto Press)|
certainly sets new design standards in a segment where too many manufacturers got away with making bread boxes on wheels. The new 2011 Honda Odyssey is attempting a similar break from traditional minivan design, but the Sienna went there first. The 2011 Sienna looks more compact and sleek than its length of 5.08m, width of 1.98m and over 3m wheelbase would suggest.
On the Sport Edition the pronounced bumpers, side skirts and deep-set grille, the long sweep of the hood and windshield combined with the sharp shoulder lines and smoked elongated headlights give it an aggressive but elegant appearance. The attractive curves of the LED taillights – similar to those on the equally stylish Venza crossover – also suggest attention to detail. So often the rear of utility vehicles is just an
|Interior design is nice, but ergonomics didn't always work as desired. (Photo: Frik Els, Canadian Auto Press)|
afterthought from the designer – just think of the Chrysler Town & Country or the Kia Sedona to name just two.
The 2011 Sienna receives an overhauled V6 and a new four-cylinder engine. The 3.5-litre V6 sports 266 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque, while the 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine kicks out 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Passing ability and acceleration are better than you'd expect from a minivan (even with the four-cylinder), thanks in no small part to the smooth six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift capability fitted to all models.
The 2011 Sienna Sport Edition is set apart from the rest of the lineup by a stiffer suspension and tighter cornering thanks to the specially calibrated electric power steering. You may well ask if something like a sporty minivan can exist. In short, yes. After the attractive styling, the un-minivan-like handling of the SE is the next big surprise. Body roll, wallowing and understeer so typical in the average minivan are minimal on the SE.
I'm not saying that in the 2011 Sienna SE you
|Climb aboard the bus! This Sienna SE seats up to 8. (Photo: Frik Els, Canadian Auto Press)|
get the urge to race BMWs and Audis during the morning commute, but compared to what a driver is typically subjected to in a minivan, the handling characteristics of the SE are superb.
Fuel consumption is estimated at 10.4 l/100km in city driving and 7.5 on highways (9.1 combined) for the four-cylinder Sienna LE. The V6 is rated 11.5 l/100km and 8.1 respectively supplying a 10.0 combined number. All-wheel drive is optional on V6 LE and Limited models and pushes up fuel consumption to 12.8 l/100km in town and 9.0 on freeways (11.1 combined).
The SE is an eight-seater thanks to a narrow, centre, second-row seat which is easily removed (takes about 15 seconds without the need to consult a manual) and stowed in a dedicated well on the driver's side behind the third row. The centre console and captain's chairs can slide forward and back a good half a meter or so, but cannot be stowed in the vehicle's floor as is the case in the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan. Folding the 40/60 split third row is also easy to operate – just a pull on a strap.
The $36,600 price for the SE is excellent value considering standard features include a back-up camera, leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather seat bolsters and headrests, 8-way power driver's seat, satellite radio and USB audio input, moonroof, keyless and illuminated entry, and 3-zone climate control.
The MSRP for the four-cylinder Sienna is $27,900. The V6 will start at around $28,900 for the standard model, $32,500 for the LE 8-passenger, $38,700 for the LXE and the top of the line Limited AWD jumps to $49,100.
Finally, Toyota has
|Nothing hauls stuff like a minivan. (Photo: Frik Els, Canadian Auto Press)|
built a sleek-looking minivan and in the case of the Sports Edition, the SE badge is not a misnomer. Only its dashboard and centre console layout, which were not always ergonomic, caused concern, a problem quickly forgotten when factoring the aforementioned value for money equation.
My verdict? The minivan segment seems destined for a rebirth and the Sienna is leading the way.
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Ultra-small for sure, but the iQ is more practical, more fun to drive and arguably better looking than its rivals. (Photo: Scion) In May of 2011, a mere 492 copies of the smart fortwo were sold in the United States-down from a personal best of 2,695 in May of '08.
The Scion iQ is directly comparable to the smart fortwo in size.
With the single most recognizable micro car in the world selling so poorly in the U.S., it's a pretty safe bet the iQ will find itself paddling against the flow of the mainstream too. However, members of Scion's U.S. marketing team (we tested it there first before doing so again at the Canadian launch in October) have outlined a strategy to ensure the iQ avoids the fate of its competition.
First and no doubt most important, they cite the iQ seats four people instead of just two for the smart. Second,
|Cool iQ could be a hit. (Photo: Scion)|
the iQ will be offered in showrooms with more to offer than just the single product. This is a problem for smart. Third, they cite the considerable marketing prowess of the Scion's Toyota parent and its ability to keep the iQ front and centre in public consciousness. Additionally, they plan to physically take the car out to where the target market congregates and offer drives and opportunities for direct interaction with the vehicle.
Now that could work.
The exterior design of the car reminds us of a bulldog puppy, particularly when viewed head on. Adorably stout and squat,
|The iQ takes to corners very well. (Photo: Scion)|
the Scion's look intimates an impression of strength well beyond its stature. The standard steel wheel/wheel cover solution is a bit on the economy car side, but the optional alloys are handsome and compliment the exterior of the iQ really well.
The flare of its fenders give it a racy look, while also implying the iQ is capable of carving corners into nicely managed apexes-which it actually is. Overall, the Scion pulls off an interesting feat. Where cars of this size and stature are typically automatically categorized as cute, the iQ actually pulls off handsome.
Inside the Scion, there's more than adequate legroom for anyone other than a player in the NBA. In other words, you don't have to be a jockey to be comfortable driving an iQ. Nicely equipped, Bluetooth operation of cellular phones and audio
|The iQ, like all Scions, is feature filled. (Photo: Scion)|
streaming are standard equipment in the U.S. model (we'll have to wait until closer to launch for details of the Canadian-spec iQ to surface. They've even included a killer stereo system (as is the case in all Scion products). In fact, there are a couple of options on that front, you can get the 160-watt killer stereo system as a base offering, or a positively homicidal 200-watt system as an option. A nicely intuitive navigation system is available as well.
The design of the interior incorporates many pleasing shapes. Yes, it'd be nicer if Scion had gone with a more vivid colour palette than the black and gray, but we particularly like the simplicity of the centre stack's three-dial configuration. The instruments are grouped into a nautilus-shaped binnacle and readily discernable. The offset design of the dash on the passenger side permits more legroom and the glovebox is relocated beneath
|Now that's an infotainment system! (Photo: Scion)|
the passenger seat in an effort to take advantage of all available interior space.
Similar tricks include reworking the rack and pinion steering system, incorporating a compact A/C compressor, and mounting a compact differential in front of the engine-all to conserve space.
A 1.3-litre inline four-cylinder engine producing 94 horsepower and 89 ft-lbs of torque powers Scion's iQ. The engine feeds a continuously variable transmission, which in turn, conducts its output to the diminutive coupe's front wheels.
Acceleration is surprisingly brisk, as the engine has less than a thousand kilos to move. However,
|Yes, that's a flexible second row for up to four occupants. (Photo: Scion)|
despite iQ's light weight, the Scion feels well-planted in any driving situation. We ran it at speed on an expressway in the rain; up, down, around and through city streets; took a short run on a twisting stretch of asphalt to assess its handling; and had big fun doing donuts in an empty parking lot. At each task, the Scion proved itself completely "normal" in terms of the way it feels on the move-and exceptional when sharp changes of direction were folded into the mix.
Braking is both strong and confidence inspiring, steering is very quick and a u-turn can be accomplished on a proverbial dime. Bottom line, the iQ is a lot of fun to drive. Parking the littlest Scion is a breeze as well. Most tight spaces frequently found in the city between larger cars are perfectly sized for the Scion iQ.
Naturally, when you're looking at a car this small, safety questions do come up.
|Like all Scions, the iQ's accessories menu allows for extreme personalization. (Photo: Scion)|
In fact, when we posted a picture of the iQ to our Facebook page, a safety question comprised the very first response. High-strength steel, NHTSA-ordained crumple zones, 11 airbags (including an industry-first rear-window bag), stability control, ABS, and traction control are all standard features.
Still, it remains to be seen how the market will respond to this latest Lilliputian interloper. So far, as we've mentioned, micro-cars have yet to find their stride sales-wise in the U.S. Then again, Canada has had a veritable love-in with the smart car, so it's possible the more practical, more performance oriented and arguably more handsome iQ will fare even better.
It's true the Scion
|Ideal for highly congested urban centers, the new Scion iQ should garner a loyal following. (Photo: Scion)|
has a number of factors in its favour and whether this will be enough to make a difference is anybody's guess. Typically what happens in the case of "boutique" cars is once everybody who initially wants one gets one, there's no flood of successive buyers to maintain the momentum.
Scion's people say those initial smart car buyers didn't go on to recommend the car to their friends. And while this could be the case, who really knows where the truth lies, er, resides?
Still, we know we like it, and the price is right-starting at $15,995 plus destination in the U.S. Pricing in Canada should be similar.
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