Story by Morten LJ Koch
All-weather tires seem to be all the rage right now. Although they meet the Rubber Association of Canada’s severe winter conditions rating signified by the snowflake inside of a mountain on the tire’s sidewall, this is only the minimum requirement to be considered a snow tire. I still believe that a true dedicated winter tire is required. Why, you ask, should I have two sets of tires when I can have one that does everything? If you are talking about a comparison between an inexpensive entry-level winter tire, then I would say yes to the all-weather as they perform on a similar level. However, if you are looking for a tire that performs the best in extreme winter conditions, then you want a true winter tire. What do I mean by ‘performs the best’? I mean, when you are in a vehicle loaded with family or travelling an icy highway late at night, you want to be able to stop as quickly as possible or swerve to avoid a person driving a vehicle without winter tires. Having the best means having a better chance at avoiding the very thing we wanted to avoid when we considered buying winter tires. The difference between horrified and relieved can be just a few metres and a true winter tire offers that over an all-weather tire. We all would like to buy something that does everything, but we know when we do so that it does everything well, but not the best.
With the best winter tires in mind, I am on my way to the Laurentians in Quebec to test Michelin’s latest winter tire technology. Driving the 100 kilometres from Montreal to the Esterel Resort, you can quickly understand why Michelin chose this for their Xi3 launch. As darkness falls, the already icy roads turn to frozen rivers that only winter tire-equipped vehicles attempt. With winter tire legislation in the province of Quebec from December 15 to March 15, every vehicle is required to be equipped with tires that exhibit the severe winter designation. This means that I am in winter tire country. Perfect for demonstrating Michelin’s latest tire technology.
With the skies overcast and temperatures well below -10C, we arrive at the Mecaglisse complex to test Michelin’s new winter tires. What seems like an imperfect day is ideal for testing the capabilities of tires that were designed with just these winter extremes in mind. Clearly, I don’t belong here with my North Face Parka, snow pants and gloves on. However, this is where the Michelin winter tires demonstrate that this is what they live for. They are truly global tires that have been developed in the Michelin Winter R&D facilities of Russia, Japan, Scandinavia and Canada. These tires were built for days like today.
Michelin continues to invest in R&D and strives to produce tires with the best longevity, fuel efficiency and safety. Even though the Xi2 is relatively new to the market, Michelin is introducing improved winters for the 2012/13 winter season. With the competitors continuing to develop improved winter product, Michelin introduces the Xi3, Pilot Alpin PA4 and Primacy Alpin PA4 to again take winter tire capability to a new level of performance and durability. It is amazing how the performance of winter tires has improved since Bridgestone launched the Blizzak ice tire in the early ’90s. The Xi3 raises the level again.
One of the biggest factors when considering a tire is how long it will last. Winter tires have used softer compounds that traditionally sacrifice treadwear, but offer improved traction in colder temperatures, ice and snow. With this softer compound, winter tires typically wear more quickly and lose traction as they get worn down. This is a big reason why people have started to consider all-weather tires. No changeover and longer lasting. With this in mind, Michelin has designed a tire that offers a 60,000-km treadwear warranty and improved ice and snow braking over its predecessor the Xi2. To achieve this, Michelin introduced several new technologies in the new Xi3. It has been designed with MaxTouch ConstructionTM featuring a unique contact patch that evenly distributes the forces of acceleration, braking and cornering, improved polymers that offer increased cold weather performance but also mileage, improved siping offering better stopping and cornering grip, and a teardrop and zigzag design increasing tread surface when the tire is distorted in cornering and braking. Michelin claims that the new Xi3 offers twice the mileage over the next leading competitor, in ice conditions 7-percent shorter stopping and 17-percent improvement in acceleration, and in snow 3-percent shorter stopping and 6-percent gain in acceleration. Basically, a tire that works better and lasts longer.
With many parts of the country experiencing warmer than normal temperatures, it is difficult to imagine that winter is even coming. Believe it or not, before too long, the cold nights will be upon us and with that, the colder temperatures and slick conditions. If you are looking to outfit your vehicle for whatever winter brings to our Canadian roads, then add the new Michelin Xi3 to your list of candidates. Improved winter capability and the longest lasting winter tire available make it a leader among some great winter tire options.
Whatever you choose, be sure to keep you vehicle safely on the road by investing in a good set of tires.]]>
Story and images by Russell Purcell
Sixty years is quite the milestone for any product, let alone an automobile, but the Chevrolet Corvette still soldiers on as America’s favourite sports car. To mark the occasion, the product planners at General Motors have once again decided to offer an anniversary edition of the venerable Corvette.
Why the name? Under the car’s carbon-fibre hood resides a truly awe-inspiring powerplant – the Chevrolet LS7 V8. This imposing engine is 7.0-litres (427 cu.in.) in displacement and represents the most powerful small-block ever built by Chevrolet. It features large-displacement cylinders and a host of lightweight components to help it achieve optimal horsepower and torque in a compact package. It is not, however, unique to this car. Under the bright red engine covers, you will find that this is the same hand-built engine used in the Corvette Z06, and it produces 505 hp and 470 pound feet of torque, if not more. The Corvette 427 also gets its six-speed manual gearbox from the Z06 parts bin, but this is a good thing, as it is a durable and very well-sorted design. Other shared equipment includes the beefy rear axle, some of the carbon fibre body panels (includes the hood, fenders, and floor panels), and of course, the seemingly magical Magnetic Ride Control Suspension.
It would be a slight to the nostalgic Corvette 427 nameplate should you surmise that it is just a Z06 with the roof lopped off. The 427 will remain distinct from its stable mates, as Chevrolet has never offered a Z06 in convertible form, and as this car represents the final variant of the sixth generation (C6) of the Corvette, it is destined to remain a special car that will be produced in very limited numbers.
The Corvette 427 60th Anniversary car is only available in Arctic white, but it also features twin silver tape stripes that run the length of the vehicle. In fact, the stripe effect even carries through the blue canvas used to create the car’s tidy convertible top. The car will feature a full complement of 60th anniversary badges including one centrally located between the taillights, on the front fenders, and of course, on the hood.
The majority of the car’s styling elements are also derived from the Corvette Z06 coupe, including the air intakes for brake cooling and the more aggressive bodywork. Lifting the forward swinging hood reveals its underside which features unpainted carbon fibre. Use of the space-age material reminds us of the special care taken to reduce this car’s weight, increase the overall strength of its body, and help deliver a high-performance driving experience.
I have to admit that I finally succumbed to the visual appeal and impressive performance of the Corvette with the arrival of the C6 in 2005. The car was lean, mean and very modern looking, at least on the outside. Whenever the cars were compared to rival offerings, the Corvette models seemed to fall short when discussion turned to the design of the car’s interior. Constant refinement has led to improvements in fit-and-finish and the use of higher quality materials, but I still find the switchgear to be rather chunky and the overall effect is a disjointed hodgepodge of shapes and textures.
The twin bucket seats in my test vehicle were swathed in tight-fitting leather hides died a subtle bluish gray. They were very firm and supportive and proved comfortable enough for long-range touring. The top of the dashboard, the centre and outboard armrests, and some of the door panels also featured this attractive leather treatment.
The three-spoke steering wheel is wrapped in Alcantara suede which made it easy to grip when I got down to business on the twisty bits of road that populated my test route during my journey. Suede boot covers were fitted to the short-throw shift lever and the emergency brake handle, which added a touch of class to the environment.
An abundance of logos can be found in the passenger cabin. The bodywork that flows between the two seats features the 60th anniversary badge, as does the steering wheel and both head restraints. Not to be forgotten, the 427 logo is displayed just forward of the windshield, mounted along both sides of the hood’s central plateau, as well as embroidered on the black floor mats.
My car also featured a Bose-engineered sound system which I am sure sounded fabulous, but there is no way it was going to compete for my attention with the playlist created by the LS7 and a high-performance exhaust system. Navigation and the latest generation of Chevrolet’s heads-up display topped the car’s list of electronic goodies.
I stand 6’2″ tall and am a large-framed individual, so it would be safe to say that I am at the outer limits with regards to finding a comfortable driving position in this car. The truth of the matter is that due to its two-passenger layout, there is very little rearward travel for the seats, so individuals with longer legs may have to adapt their seating position to accommodate the car’s limited cockpit space. Visibility is also an issue for taller folk when the roof is in place, as I found myself having to lean forward to duck down so that I could see traffic lights and signage at intersections. Visibility with the top up is also hindered by wide rear pillars, but this just gives you a valid excuse to drop the top and take the long route to wherever you are going.
The 427 features a soft canvas top that is affixed to the top of the windshield frame via a simple, manually-operated twist lever. Once the locking device is free of the windshield, the top is able to quickly, and relatively quietly, retract at the touch of a button. When stowed away, the top is safely tucked beneath an integrated hard tonneau cover which gives the car a very clean and uncluttered look. It also helps protect the canvas material from damage caused by wind turbulence, intense exposure to the sun, dirt and unnecessary wear-and-tear.
With the top in place, the passenger compartment proved exceptionally well-protected from wind and road noise, as well as from the elements. However, there is no way this simple canvas structure would be able to isolate the driver and passenger from the tremendous noise generated by the car’s enormous engine and raucous exhaust. And this is a good thing. The rumble associated with the operation of this car reminded me of the times I have been lucky enough to stand trackside as a racing photographer at American Le Mans series events, separated from the factory Pratt & Miller Corvette race machines by a narrow crash barrier. The rumble of these V8-powered monsters would give me goose bumps and made the hair on my arms and neck stand at attention. The thunderous roar of the 427 Corvette had a similar effect on my follicles as its mechanical melody bounced off the rock walls and long tunnels of the Fraser Canyon while I explored the exhilarating performance potential of this stunning car during a 1,200-km late-summer road adventure.
I must admit that I spent the majority of my time with the car operating with the top down, as my brief fling with it coincided with a period of glorious weather here in British Columbia. In fact, it was so warm that I was able to drive late into the night and even at relatively high elevations due to the near-perfect climatic conditions, and the fact that the car’s heating and ventilation system, seat warmers, and cockpit design provide occupants with a very comfortable space within which they are free to enjoy the many sights and sounds that come with riding in an open top automobile.
The 427 has been engineered to increase the level of excitement (the fun factor) experienced by the driver by immersing him or her in an environment that has been designed to bombard the senses with an onslaught of sights, sounds, and gravitational forces. The final product represents one of the most capable sports machines on the road today. As a result, it is important that the driver give the car all of his or her attention.
The prodigious power and brutal acceleration of the 427 could put inexperienced drivers in highly dangerous or uncomfortable situations in short order. Overaggressive launches may cause the rear tires to break free and produce a contrail of expensive rubber smoke that would be the envy of many NHRA racers. This car also gathers speed so quickly that before you know it you are exceeding the posted limit and need to rein in the ponies before you either run out of road, or lose your license.
The 427 comes equipped with Chevrolet’s innovative Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension which allows the driver to adjust the suspension dampening with the simple twist of a console-mounted dial. The MRC system is able to change the viscosity of the damping fluid to best suit the driver’s needs whether the plan is to cruise in comfort or carve perfect apexes on a secluded mountain road. The transition is immediate and apparent, unlike the traditional systems used by other makers.
The car also features one of the most advanced traction control systems to ever be offered on a consumer-based, road going vehicle. This system will do its best to help the driver keep the car planted to the road. It even features a track-ready competition mode that will allow you to better hone your driving skills should you wish to enroll in a performance driving school or attend a lapping day at your local track.
The Corvette 427 has the legs to sprint from 0-to-100 km/h in a mere 3.8 seconds and is said to have a terminal speed just north of 300 kilometres per hour. The car is only available fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, but oh what a transmission it is! It features short throws and with each selection, the driver is rewarded with the positive feedback of a metallic “clink” as the lever strikes each stop in the gate.
I knew going into my test of this car that it would deliver an incredibly visceral driving experience as the potent Z06 provides the mechanical foundation for this car, but I didn’t expect the 427 to be so stable and rattle-free. Remember, this is a convertible, so a little chassis flex or body wobble is expected, especially in a mega-motored car wrapped in lightweight bodywork. It is obvious that the engineering and design teams did their homework when it came time to beef up the frame for this application, and the steering is as precise and razor-sharp as that of any car I have ever tested. In fact, I so thoroughly enjoyed my time behind the wheel of this car that it proved to be the highlight of my motoring year.
The enormous Michelin tires do an excellent job of gripping the tarmac, but I would suggest you select to travel in the passing lane rather than the travel lane due to the fact that the combination of the car’s wide track and extra-wide tires seem to lead the car to get trapped in the deep grooves left behind in the road surface by years of heavy truck traffic.
Corvette fanatics will be pleased by the arrival of the 427 as they will now have the opportunity to purchase what is basically the Z06 in convertible form. However, those looking to put one in their garage will have to act quickly as this car is going to be a limited-production vehicle due to the fact that it is an anniversary special and that the C7 is set to arrive for model year 2014.
Base price (MSRP): $114,190
Type: 2-passenger convertible
Layout: front engine/RWD
Engine: 7.0L V8
Power: 505 hp @ 6,300 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 470 @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Brakes (Front/rear): disc/disc
Weight: 1,522 kg (3,355 lb)
Fuel economy (L/100km): City – 14.3 (20 mpg); Hwy – 8.3 (34 mpg)]]>
Story by Ian Harwood
HID Headlights are the best lighting option that you can possibly find. HID Bulbs produce a more focused light that enables drivers to see more than regular headlights. HID stands for high intensity discharge, which refers to a technology that relies on an electrical charge to light the xenon gas contained in a sealed bulb. Some new vehicles offer these lights as the standard lighting.
The HID bulb creates light by bridging an arc between two electrodes, instead of heating a filament. The arc stimulates the xenon gases producing an intense bright white beam of light. Because of the advantages of these bulbs, there are several lights that you can install to your vehicle. The Motor Vehicle Act, at least in B.C., stipulates you must have lamps equivalent to those provided by the original manufacturer. Changing your headlight bulbs to something much brighter or having them out of position is definitely going to bring attention, not to mention be a danger to oncoming drivers. Be sure to check out all the regulations before making this purchase.
Make sure that you get HID Headlights that are between 6000k and 8000k and are adjusted correctly. To begin, be sure to remove the battery cover and disconnect the battery. Some vehicles have a rubber boot that’s behind the headlight; you will need to remove it. You will find a ring that holds the light bulb into place. Remove the ring by turning it clockwise. Now it’s time to put your rubber gloves on. After you have them on your hands, remove the bulb by pulling it back. Cut four wires at about two feet each. Carefully cut the wire and crimp the flat pin connector at one end of the 16-gauge wire. You will do this for all four wires. Insert the wires into each of the light sockets. Make sure that the negative wire is added into the middle slot. The outer slots are used for high and low beams. Now use some electrical tape in order to place the wires into place. Then slide the plastic ring through the new bulb. Slide the bulb into the headlight and turn the ring clockwise in order to place the bulb into position. Get the double sided tape that should have come with the kit and attach the mounting bracket to the ballast. Use a 1/8-inch drill bit and drill a hole into the fender wall. Use a Phillips Screwdriver and ¾-inch screw to mount the ballast into position.
Now that you have one finished, it’s time to do the other one. Be sure to connect the wire harness to the 16-gauge wires that come from the headlight sockets. Plug in the wire harness to the ballast. Tape up any exposed wiring that may be showing. Now it’s time to plug the wires in that lead from the HID Bulbs to the ballast. Tuck away any extra wire and use wire ties to secure them into place. Reconnect the battery, and test them out. I would suggest that you park your vehicle in front of a wall and check the lights to see if they are aimed in the right direction. Use an Allen wrench to adjust the vertical adjusters.]]>
The world loses Sergio Pininfarina
Story by Budd Stanley, photos courtesy of Ferrari, Pininfarina
A young Sergio Pininfarina sits at the family table with his father who pulls a match box out and places it in front of him. His father instructs him to place his finger on the box and feel its robustness. His father takes away the centre section and tells Sergio to feel the box once again. It wobbles and bends under his finger. His father replaces the centre, commenting on its strengths, “We want the same when we construct car bodies.” The passion to build some of the most beautiful, iconic and tantalizing vehicles the world will ever see have been seeded in the young Pininfarina.
Like many of his era, Pininfarina was a man of great character and charisma, seeking out success and driven to lead. He finished middle school in seven rather than the normal eight years and would go on to graduate from Turin Polytechnic in 1950 with a degree in mechanical engineering, going to work for his father. He was present when his father Battista and Enzo Ferrari shook hands on a deal that would change both companies’ fortunes, and was even more surprised on the drive home when Battista handed the Ferrari account over to Sergio, a tall task for a 25-year old.
It should have been the dream job, penning exotic bodies which held the duties of cocooning some of the world’s most exquisite drivetrains. However, Enzo signed the agreement thinking that he would be dealing with Battista and was not happy settling with the boss’s son. The first years of the relationship were terrible, as Pininfarina was still green and unsure of himself. Ferrari would often complain of bodies being too heavy or too expensive. He would comment that the first five years were hell.
Often, he would approach his father looking for advice, but the wise older Pininfarina only rebuked him with a stern enforcement that Sergio must work through his own issues without help. This would inure Sergio’s confidence and along with it, Enzo’s confidence in his abilities, which over time grew into a flourishing working relationship.
Beautiful works of art were soon put into production, starting with the iconic Ferrari 250. However, Pininfarina was not a Ferrari subsidiary and designed coachwork for many other brands looking for a special touch including many Nashes, Peugeots, Lancias and the magnificent Maserati A6GCS/53.
Sergio would move the company to the Turin suburb of Grugliasco in 1958 as part of a massive company expansion. The relationship with Ferrari was growing, proving fruitful with classics like the 410 Superamerica. However, Pininfarina wasn’t only designing bodywork for the Ferrari, but designing and in some cases building factory race cars such as the 250GT Competizione, 330LMBs and the 250LMs. With the expansion also came new customers with Austin and Cadillac contracting Pininfarina’s special treatment.
By 1961, he became CEO of the company and its chairman only five years later after his father Battista passed away. It was at this time that Sergio was pitching something big to Enzo, the production of a road going mid-engine car following the lead of Ferrari’s track stars. The result would become the Dino.
While everything had been looking up for quite some time, Sergio settling down with a wife and producing three children, the industry was about to tear itself apart with labour unrest. As a member of the European Parliament, Italy’s global goodwill ambassador and a prominent head of business, he led a charge to extinguish workers’ demands. The result would see an attempted assassination as he drove to work in the late ’70s.
By 1980, the labour unions were broken and Pininfarina got back to doing what it did best, designing iconic cars. Legends such as the Jaguar XJ6, Ferrari 288 GTO, F40 and 550 Maranello, and Alfa Romeo GTV leapt from sketchings on paper to honest-to-goodness production supercars.
By the early 2000s, Pininfarina had retired as the head of the company, relinquishing command to his son Andrea. He was also inducted into the European Automotive Hall of Fame, but the decade would be unkind to him. First he would lose his son, as Andrea was killed riding his motorcycle to work in 2008, then mounting debt required the company to be bailed out by the banks shortly thereafter.
On July 3, 2012, the world lost the great designer of exotic automobiles. The man himself may be gone, but his name will live forever as it is adorned on many of the most unique and special pieces of machinery to have ever graced a road or race track surface. Automobiles will never again emit the character and soul of hand-penned designs like those from the ’60s and ’70s, and this is why his designs will be cared for and protected as long as is humanly possible.
It’s fast, but does the R stand for “Racing” or “Refinement”?
Review by Budd Stanley, photos courtesy of VW Canada
Racing and refinement are at two very opposite sides of the scale when it comes to automotive appointments. Race-inspired cars are usually sparse of features, use lightweight materials and have uncomfortable rides in the name of better performance. Refined cars tend to be softer and treat the occupants to the latest in techno wizardry, while bathing them with high-quality materials. And so we come to the Volkswagen Golf R, a GTI that sports AWD and 56 extra ponies galloping away under the hood, not to mention a menacing new look.
The 2.0-litre turbo four found in the GTI and GLI gets a jump in horsepower from 200 to 256, which equates to great acceleration, but the torquey low-end nature of the engine still doesn’t feel as alive as I would have liked. Also like the GTI, the ride quality is very refined and offers excellent grip. With the aid of the AWD system, the car is better balanced and carves through corners more confidently than the GTI, but the tires lost feel when they got hot and the car itself just didn’t communicate well with the driver. This leads to my first real issue with the car and that is that it just isn’t as engaging as I wanted; it’s too business-like and not enough fun, much like a BMW M3. Blindingly fast, but just not as fun as I’d like.
Ergonomics also seemed to suffer, as I could not find a seating position I liked, rare for a VW, although the seats hold you beautifully. The pedal travel is far too long and gives no feel of actuation; likewise with the steering, the car just doesn’t communicate as well with the driver as I had hoped. However, the Golf has good initial build quality as usual, as all the buttons and controls and the interior materials are solid and have a good touch and feel.
The Golf R’s infotainment connectivity system is the very best I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with. The system is uncomplicated and simple to use with steering wheel controls, but the voice control is frustrating and only works minimal controls. Consumption of 10.1L/100km combined, while having a lot of fun with this car, is pretty good for this big-time performer, but the Golf’s drivetrain and weight diminishes what could have been better numbers.
$39K for a stunning-looking Golf with massive brakes, all the major features of a luxury car and a 250-hp AWD drivetrain is a pretty good deal, sitting nicely between Subaru’s WRX and STi with suitable performance.
It’s a fantastic car; VW has added more refinement with the AWD system, which does make it the best daily driver in the class, but has nowhere near the nimbleness of the Mini JCW, or the power of the Mazdaspeed3, both of which are nearly $10,000 cheaper. If “R” stands for “Racing,” I expected something more raw, louder, more obnoxious, something designed with top levels of performance taking precedence over all else.
However, the R is really a GTI that has been improved in every way, not just performance-wise, and should really be called the GTI S, leaving the R for something that is a little more extreme. So, in my opinion, the R stands for “Refinement,” as this is one magnificently well-equipped performer.
Layout: Front Engine, AWD
Engine: 2.0L turbo four-cylinder
Power: 256 hp
Torque: 243 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-Speed manual
Curb weight: 1,508 kg
Fuel Consumption (city, hwy): 10.9L/100km, 7.5L/100km]]>
Story by Gerry Frechette, photos coutesy of Honda
In the world of compact sport coupes, there has been one that has been around for a few decades, setting the standard for the genre, and giving many thousands of budget-conscious young enthusiasts a lot of practical fun.
That car is the Honda Civic Coupe Si, now in its ninth generation and still the one that all the other manufacturers shoot for, should they choose to have an entry in this class. Not all do, as the sports coupe segment has its ups and downs, but Honda has stayed the course with the Civic.
The Si, of course, is the sportiest version, and has always been the beneficiary of the latest VTEC engine, most recently in twin-cam guise, and you know what that means - lots of rpms. Trouble is, in real-world driving, to say nothing of fuel consumption and emissions and long-term reliability, high revs on a regular basis are probably not the best thing.
The last generation of the Si had a 2.0-litre engine with 197 horsepower – very nice – but only 139 pound-feet of torque. The VTEC kicked in at 6,000 rpm, and the redline was 8,000, so to keep up with the torquier engines in similar cars, this one had to be revved, a lot.
After many years and what must have been many comments from owners and journalists, Honda seems to have finally got the point, that it is torque that is important in an engine today, not high-end horsepower. The latest Si proves that, as it is equipped with Honda’s silky-smooth 2.4-litre four, which is a different animal.
Horsepower is up a little, by four ponies to 201 – it had to be with 400 cc more displacement – but the torque is up some 22 percent to a more purposeful 170 lb-ft, and just as importantly, it peaks at 4,400 rpm, much lower than the previous 6,100. The difference in everyday driving is very noticeable. You still get decent revs – the redline is 7,000 rpm and the VTEC kicks in at 5,000 now – but there is way more power available in the mid-range, where city driving and highway passing is done. A big improvement.
But the Si is way more than just an engine, as Honda has a performance heritage to live up to. The only transmission offered is a six-speed manual that has the sweetest snick-snick shift feel in the industry. You won’t need to shift nearly as much with the new engine, but you will anyway just to enjoy the shift linkage.
The power is directed to the front wheels via a helical limited-slip differential that keeps understeer to a minimum and traction to the max. Helping out as well are multi-link double-wishbone rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, four-wheel discs and 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/45 all-season (unfortunately) tires. Indeed, this may be the best-handling front-wheel drive car you can buy, with next-to-no understeer. Turn the steering wheel, and the Si just plain heads in that direction, even on a test track at high speeds. A most impressive chassis.
Just one quibble. The Motion-Adaptive Electric Power-Assisted Rack-and-Pinion Steering (yes, Honda calls it that; we’ll call it non-hydraulic) feels better at those higher speeds than it does in normal freeway driving. A bit disconnected on-centre for our liking.
Inside, the performance continues with exemplary ergonomics and controls for the enthusiast, with smooth clutch take-up, throttle and brake pedals well-located for heel-and-toeing, and well-bolstered seats. It’s a small car, so you won’t want to be much over six-feet tall, and the split-level instrument panel is, well, different. One might also quibble with the quality and application of the plastics in the interior, as some of the trim is a bit….oh, okay, this is a $25,990 car, not a $50,000 one. But still….
So, how does the new Civic Si compare to its last generation? It all comes down to torque and everyday drivability, making the new model a big improvement unless you are one of the rabid fans of near-infinite rpms in hyper sport compacts. It’ll still rev, and look and sound great doing it, but its sporty nature has not been diminished one bit with its new-found maturity. It says here that the Si is much improved, all because of Honda’s new approach to engine performance.
Base Price: $25,990
Vehicle Layout: Front-engine, FWD, 2-door coupe
Engine: 2.4L DOHC I4
Transmission: 6-spd manual
Horsepower: 201 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Brakes: 4-wheel disc, ABS, EBD
Curb Weight: 1,317 kg (2,906 lb)
Fuel Economy: (L/100 km, city/hwy) 10.0/6.4]]>
Story by Jordan Allan, photos courtesy of Kia Canada
Kia Canada enjoyed their strongest year ever in 2011 selling over 65,000 units and continued their success into 2012 with a record first half of the year, selling over 39,000 units. This, in large part, is due to the popularity of their box like, compact hatchback , the Soul.
The Soul received a fairly thorough makeover for 2012, and it carried over into 2013. The front grille is now surrounded in dark chrome, higher quality leather is used on leather-wrapped steering wheels, a Bluetooth cell phone link is now standard, as are steering wheel mounted radio controls. Also the Eco package, which features an idle stop/start function and low resistance tires, is now available on Soul+ models with the automatic transmission.
For the 2012 upgrade, the Soul’s exterior features remained basically the same as the original with a few minor upgrades. The headlights, grilles, and fog lights were all made bigger. The rear of the car features a new bumper and taillights.
Once inside the Soul, you get the impression you’re in a car with a much higher price tag than it actually has. It has a very modern look and features a nice balance between form and function. Materials such as the leather for the steering wheel have been upgraded, giving it that higher-quality feel. Gauges are easy to read, and controls are simple, well placed and easy to use. The seats are comfortable and due to its “boxy” design, there is a great amount of head and legroom, even in the back seat. Behind the rear seats is a cargo space with about 6 cubic meters of space, a number that grows to 16 cubic meters when the seats are folded down.
The refresh for 2012 mainly focused on improving two things; engines and transmissions. The base 1.6L saw a bump from 122hp to 138hp thanks to the addition of direct injection. The higher end 2.0L now makes 164hp instead of 142hp. Both the automatic and manual transmissions were bumped up to a 6 speed design, raising the fuel economy numbers to 7.4/5.6 (L/100km, city/highway) for the 1.6L, and 7.9/5.9 for the 2.0L.
The Soul is available in three different trim levels: base, +, and !. The standard features that are included in the base model are 15-inch steel wheels, power locks and mirrors, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, tilt and telescopic steering, sound system with CD, auxiliary jack, ipod/usb jack, and satellite radio. Just by adding the optional automatic transmission gets you keyless entry, cruise control, and a height-adjustable driver’s seat just to name a few. The Soul + takes all of the features of the base model and adds heated mirrors, a center console storage bin, and some metal look interior. The Soul ! adds 18-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights, fog lights, LED daytime running lights, a sunroof, and much more.
Overall I was impressed with the Soul. Our test model was equipped with the 2.0L engine, which felt quick and agile, and definitely has that extra passing power for the highway. The inside is spacious and luxurious, while the outside is quirky yet functional. Kia has succeeded in selling the vehicle to its target market, of younger, hipper people and for a base price of $16,795, you can’t go wrong.]]>
Story & Photos by Gerry Frechette
With all the attention given to the performance versions of the luxury sedans from the “big three” German manufacturers, it is easy to forget that there are other such cars with similar capabilities and pedigree that shouldn’t be overlooked. At the top of that list is the Jaguar XFR.
Like those other manufacturers, Jaguar has taken its otherwise virtuous XF luxury sedan and added to it a full measure of performance and exclusivity enhancements, making it an executive roadburner of the first order.
Of course, the first bit of business was upping the power available, and the relatively simple approach was taken – force feeding the XF’s 5.0-litre DOHC V8 with a supercharger. As expected, this has the desired effect of increasing horsepower (from 385 to 510) but also, more importantly, torque, as the mid-range acceleration, anywhere from, say, 2,500 to 5,500 rpm where maximum torque of 461 lb-ft is but a twitchy right foot away, is quite staggering for a large sedan. Jaguar claims 0-to-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds, and we believe it. It’s all very understated, though – the velvet hammer approach, if you will.
This power is routed through a six-speed automatic transmission that can be manually controlled via paddle shifters. Like the base XF, there is no gear lever, but a rotary knob that rises out of the console. It’s something different that Jaguar does, and we don’t have much of an opinion of it, for or against. It works fine and differentiates the car a bit from all its rivals.
The power continues rearward (and not to the front wheels) through an Active Differential system that detects any wheel slippage and apportions the power supplied to each wheel to optimize traction. And the electronic suspension system dubbed Active Dynamics by Jaguar will keep things in line when safety takes precedence over all else, and yields full composure in aggressive driving. The driver-selectable Sport Mode ups the dynamism quotient.
The major mechanical systems are, as expected, tuned and upgraded. The steering ratio is quicker and the turn-in instant. The suspension is firmer, to the point where “quiet ride” is a secondary consideration. The brakes include large cross-drilled rotors. And the wheels (perhaps the best-looking in the class) are enlarged to 20 inches with suitable performance tires.
So, the XFR has the performance, but what about the kind of looks that will turn heads? To the already good-looking XF is added the kind of bodywork that not only does that, but contributes to its performance capabilities. Most evident are the flared side sills, functional hood vents, aggressively-styled front fascia with large air intakes and a wire mesh grille, quad exhaust pipes, and a small rear spoiler, no doubt only just big enough for the downforce needed.
Inside, in the British tradition of understatement, the XFR does not overwhelm with additional trimwork. The exclusive sport seats are upholstered in soft-grain leather, heated and cooled, and adjustable in 18 different ways (14 for the passenger) including side bolsters. The soft leather and slightly-contrasting stitching is continued on the top of the instrument panel and door trim.
There are a few different trim combinations available, and our tester had the dark mesh-aluminum “technical” look on the dashboard. It was all a bit monochromatic, quite a bit like its Teutonic rivals. But the details, like the rotary shift dial, and the touch screen functions, are unique and take some getting used to. There are a few options “packages” available, including the Black Pack which includes black wheels for the growing number who just must have them, but beware the Rubber Floor Mats, which will run you an outrageous $455.00!
Also unique to the XF-R is a Bowers and Wilkins surround sound audio system with a mere 1,200 watts of power. We must say that this set-up is quite incredible, and we wouldn’t expect to see too many XFRs down at the local car audio shop for an upgrade!
Technology items include a touchscreen navigation system with 30 GB of music storage space, a blind-spot monitoring system, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity with wireless audio streaming, front and rear parking aid systems, and adaptive headlights with an intelligent high-beam system.
Interior room in the XFR is quite adequate up front, and with the front seat nearly all the way back, it is still possible to “sit behind oneself,” although headroom is tight with both the sloped roofline and moonroof. Smaller people will have no problem back there.
Driving the XFR, from city to highway to country road, is an experience somewhat different from the others in the class. It is immensely capable, of course, but in a more subtle way than the German tuner specials. It is more quiet and comfortable than a couple of them, and more of an everyday car that can be driven easily, without always saying to its driver, “floor it, let’s go.” For many, the basic XF will be quite enough performance with more quiet luxury, and they should think about that before opting for the XFR.
But for those who appreciate the British approach to luxury with performance, and the tradition and racing heritage of Jaguar, the XFR is really the only choice in the segment, especially when you compare prices.
Vehicle type: Front-engine, RWD, four-door sedan
Engine: 5.0L DOHC Supercharged V8
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Power: 510 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 461 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm
Brakes: 4 ventilated discs, ABS
Weight: 1,891 kg
Fuel Consumption:14.1 L/100km city, 9.3 L/100km highway
Warranty: 48 months / 80,000 km]]>
Story and Photos by Cam Hutchins
After building a very cool 1928 Model A two-door sedan with a Coca-Cola cooler years back and driving it 30,000 miles over nine years, Jim Lyons of Abbotsford wanted a roadster. Dennis Kasper had a ’33 Roadster that Lyons wanted to buy and finish, but he could not convince Kasper to part with it. After waiting him out a year, Kasper’s attention fell on an Oldsmobile, so a deal was struck. After driving the ’33 extensively, including a road trip incorporating Puyallup, Spokane and Pleasanton, the building bug hit again.
Deciding he wanted a 1951 Mercury convertible, he went searching for the right car. The prices seemed too high, and with the lack of aftermarket parts, his search was widened to other convertibles. At a swap meet in 2004, Lyons saw an unfinished 1940 Ford Convertible Wescott body in the parking area. The owner’s stall number was wrong so it took some major detective work to find the owner, and he was told it was totally complete and just needed final assembly and paint.
The price was too high, so Lyons went home without the car, but after thinking it over for a couple of days and deciding to sell the ’33 roadster, he called up the owner and offered just enough extra to buy the car. The car was complete with all the parts required to finish the car and the seller had been into street rods for years, but had just finished restoring a Mustang and wanted to get out of street rods, so many parts not even for the ’40 Ford were given to Lyons.
It had a partially-boxed Ford frame which had been tubbed and had a Ford nine-inch rearend with coilover shocks, a 351 Windsor with C6 tranny and Mustang II front end with small disc brakes. Wiring harness, gauges, a new Wise Guy Seat and three grilles were provided – an Alumicraft custom grille was installed, also a ’39 grille from Bob Drake, and a ’39-’40 three-piece grille cast in pewter that needed to be chromed.
Lyons looked at the assembly of pieces and the primered body and basically sold everything except the frame, rearend, front suspension, Wiseguy seat and the body. Starting with a relatively clean slate, or at least a primered slate, he started to look for the correct pieces. Flush with cash from the sale of the parts and the ’33, Lyons went looking for the correct parts to build a very cool ride.
He was lucky to find a race-prepared 302 mill with fuel injection and a blower and an AOD transmission for a great price. The block was about the only Ford part and all the rest of the engine was the best performance/race parts available. The blower was removed due to space restrictions and the new mill was installed. The coilovers were gone, replaced with Shockwave by Airride Technologies. Twelve-inch four-piston drilled-and-slotted Wilwood brakes provided the stopping, and the original ’40 Ford frame was now complete.
The body was getting its share of work, and this particular Wescott body had been originally purchased by an enthusiast who bought all the first pressings of the Wescott factory. It was a custom body, having been channelled three inches and the hood sectioned 2.5 inches to give it a better look. The fenders were shortened (bobbed).and the running boards removed from the design. The original owner was getting on in years so sold it the next owner who went to town buying parts, but the project stalled somewhere along the way.
Lyons liked the look of the car, but liked running boards better, so he bought some steel ones from the Old Car Centre. Of course, the running boards did not fit, as the body was lowered over the frame during the channelling process and the length was wrong due to the bobbing of the fenders. Lyons fabricated special brackets to attach the running boards to the frame and Ron Latham, with his fibreglass skills learned building boats, took the fenders and fixed the fibreglass to fit the running boards.
Being a local dealer for American Autowire, he used a Highway 22 kit with keyless entry, shaved handles, power windows and power-actuated trunk, and he customized the dash with TPI-Tech Instruments Gauges. Previously, he had won prizes at a couple of Goodguys events, during his road trip with the ’33, where he won a coupon for partial payment of the “Airride” kit and also a “Budnik Wheels” coupon. He choose a Budnik Banjo Billet steering wheel that was wrapped in the same material as the seats.
At almost every show, wheels and colours were scrutinized for the right choice for Lyons’ ’40 Ford. Spotting a set of Intro Wheels “Matrix” on a beautiful burgundy ’37 Ford Roadster, Lyons ordered 17-inchers for the front and 18s for the rear, and uses Toyo Proxes tires. The tires are larger yet and Lyons took a fair amount of guff from his friends and advisers after seeing them sitting in his garage. They told him he was crazy, since they look like tractor tires on SUV wheels. The friends were proved wrong after seeing them on the finished car…but Lyons still had to completely deflate them to fit them onto the car.
The many months agonizing over the correct paint choice were ended one evening when Lyons and his wife were having a glass of Merlot wine on the back deck, and when lifting the glasses to toast, the sun shone through the glass and they both were hooked. Previously, they had explored two-tone and three-tone paints, and tans with a dark roof, but after conferring with their painter Johnny Guenther, he assured them the colour they wanted was Candy Brandy Wine.
Hence the car came to be called “Merlot.” Guenther had recently painted a car this colour and it was available from House of Kolor over either a black, gold, silver or white base. Again, the peanut gallery piped up with warnings that dark burgundies had been done to death. Many hours pouring over websites full of street rods assured Jim his choice was solid and the car would look stunning with the black base.
The interior was left to the capable hands of Ron Fast, but not before more meddling from the “Gang.” Lyons wanted a burgundy interior and the naysayers cried foul and suggested every colour under the sun before a brown shade was chosen, but Lyons’ wife Elinore held her ground and the burgundy vinyl seems to please everyone now and even fools many into thinking it is leather. The back seat was completely fabricated by Ron Fast and folds flat so 2×4 can be carried if necessary…probably not a bad idea if there is another uprising from the friends.
The supplied Wiseguy seat was almost comical when first put in, as it sat way too high. Luckily, this was done before upholstery, so it was a fairly straightforward job to cut the mounting brackets and seatbacks. A fine Dark German Weave carpet accents the black Hartz cloth roof….another choice hard fought for, but finalized after seeing a Willys online that was a similar colour with a black roof. The roof latches are available from Wescott, but Lyons’ brother-in-law Doug Esau machined a perfect set of latches out of billet aluminum.
Finishing off the interior is a sound system out of a 2006 Impala mounted on a pullout tray beneath the front seat with four small speakers placed under the front seat and in the back mounted in the seat risers. An MP3 port allows Lyons to enjoy any tunes he feels like, but the convertible top and wicked engine noise makes a stereo redundant.
The car was finished in 2009, and has been driven to the L.A. Roadster show and the Interior of B.C. many times and has won many awards, but Lyons pondered the drivability of the high-performance 302. After driving many of his customers’ cars after wiring them, he decided to go with a late-model 5.3 Litre LS engine. He sourced one out of Spokane from Spalding Wreckers with the all-important computer and transmission for around $2,000. Once the motor is finally installed, Ron Latham will be up to his fibreglass tricks again and making mock big block valve covers and manifold cover that will have a hydro graphics “Mirage Hydro Graphics” carbon fibre pattern by Rocket Cermacoat.
The car will continue to be shown and driven around B.C. and the Pacific Northwest with a planned trip to the Pleasanton Goodguys Show. So, if you see a stunning Candy Brandy Wine ’40 Ford with a black top, go up to the owner and suggest it should have a brown interior…I dare you!]]>
Only 71 examples were built
By Nigel Matthews
When you hear the name Porsche, you immediately think of the timeless, almost half-century-old 911 sports car, or the luxury SUV Cayenne.
One does not think of a Jeep-like military vehicle like the one shown here. Having never seen one before, this example at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2008 immediately caught my attention.
It’s not that surprising to have never seen one before, considering they were only built from 1955 until 1958, with a total production of just 71 examples.
The official year and model designation of this one is a 1956 Porsche 597 (Porsche likes to attach numbers to everything).
When the German army was allowed to be re-established, ten years after the Second World War, manufacturers were solicited to present their offerings of a light utility military vehicle for consideration of a large order.
The Porsche submission was very innovative and included a number of engineering firsts, such as shift on-the-fly four-wheel drive, and a five-speed transmission (driven by a four-cylinder, air-cooled engine that was in the back where you would expect to find it).
And it was amphibious.
Unfortunately, the Porsche fitted with all of these wonderful features came at a cost, resulting in the German army order being awarded to the cheaper and rather basic alternative, the DKW Munga.
Trying to recover from the loss of what would have been a substantial order, Porsche tried to market the vehicle calling it the Jagdwagen (roughly translated ‘hunting car’) to farmers and outdoor sportsmen, who were purchasing Land Rovers and Jeeps.
Having produced 49 civilian examples, the 597 Jagdwagen’s days came to an end and went down in the history books.
Nigel Matthews is the director of sales and marketing for Hagerty Canada. Hagerty is the world’s leading provider of Collector Car and Boat Insurance. Contact him at email@example.com or visit www.hagerty.ca]]>