TEST DRIVE: 2017 FERRARI 812 SUPERFAST

Ferrari’s lineup of models has always been quite small but every variant is inevitably highly desirable, but there’s always been one car that gained a little prominence over the rest. Right now this has to be the awesome 812 Superfast with its impressive performance, superb styling and (surprisingly) spacious interior.

There have been several Superfasts from Ferrari over the years, not all of them that appealing, but the latest car to use the name is arguably the best looking of the lot. Designed by the Ferrari Styling Centre and not an outside contractor, it has svelte, sinewy lines that somehow combine to give the car a muscular, ground-hugging appearance. There are lots of aerodynamic aids built subtly into the bodywork and it ends up looking so much better than rivals that bristle with add-on spoilers and the like. It’s unlikely to arouse much controversy among Ferrari hard-liners because it’s the embodiment of just about everything the famous brand is all about.

The new 812 grand tourer, which made its debut at the Geneva show earlier this year, is a successor to the earlier F12 Berlinetta but has a bigger engine. The car uses a front mid-engine rear-wheel drive configuration and the power unit is a splendid piece of engineering to behold. It’s a 6.5-litre V-12 producing a mighty 800PS (789-horsepower) and 718 Nm of torque. This is very serious power indeed and it’s no surprise that the 812 rockets to 100 km/h in less than 3.0-seconds. The name ‘Superfast’ has real meaning here! The transmission is 7-speed, dual-clutch automatic and shifts much faster than could be achieved by anyone using a manual gearbox. The huge torque levels give the car great flexibility so the automatic was definitely the right way to go.

It’s said that buyers of supercars with V-12 engines demand good interior space and they get it with the 812. It’s a very sporty cockpit to be sure and there are lots of very modernistic elements scattered around, but it’s a practical work area for the driver, with excellent leg, head and shoulder room. Like most upmarket cars these days, there are lots of electronic stability aids to make even an inexperienced driver feel totally in control. All-wheel drive might have been nice with the power this Ferrari has, but the company has developed a chassis that provides outstanding grip and controllability from its layout.

Ferrari points out that the average buyer spends a large sum on options so there are plenty available, many of them for personalizing the interior. Carbon fibre trim around the cockpit is great to have, though this is purely a cosmetic feature. Even in its most basic form (though, no Ferrari is really ‘basic’) this is a highly covetable GT car and is bound to be a great success for the Maranello maker when volume production begins in September. Ferrari has given buyers everything they could possible expect from the legendary marque and added lots more as a bonus.

IN SUMMARY…

ENGINE: 6.5-litre V-12, 800-horsepower

TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic

ACCELERATION: Zero to 100 km/h in 2.9-seconds

TOP SPEED: Over 355 km/h

PRICE: Approx. $350,000

TEST DRIVE: 2017 FORD TRANSIT VAN

Every now and again, I like to get my hands on a commercial vehicle. After all, these rigs are the lifelines of our delivery systems for all kinds of goods and produce and without them, it would be a very different world. We know that many readers of this website own businesses and for them, the choice of hauling vehicle is even more important than deciding which sports car to buy.

I always like to think that people who really love vehicles of all kinds enjoy driving different ones the way I do. I’ve been lucky over the years and have gotten behind the wheel of everything from Hayes log trucks to 1930s Bentleys and from fork lifts to a LAV III armoured personnel carrier. It’s all part of motoring’s rich tapestry!

In recent times, there’s been a lot of action in the large van field with several makers launching new products. As a result, there are lots of choices out there but the most popular product now in North America is the Ford Transit, which comes in various configurations. My tester was the one with the tall bodywork and thus a huge amount of cargo space inside. It arrived at a good time because I was moving storage units and there was some serious hauling to be tackled.

The Transit comes in many guises, most aimed at commercial users, but there are some variants set up more like extra large minivans with multiple seats. Others are aimed at the passenger segment for duties like airport shuttles. When I first drove the Transit I thought it would make a great RV and expectedly, several manufacturers have been building motorhome versions. Most are based on the tall van, but Ford also supplies cab/chassis units to accept larger RV modules.

The big van is easy to climb into, with a large step and running board plus grab handles in just the right places to help. Once behind the wheel, the driver and passenger (mine was a two-seater) have an outstanding view of the road ahead which must be a joy for people with the RV versions. The big side mirrors, which have two magnification facets, make driving very safe and greatly aid reversing, even when maneuvering into tight spaces and busy loading docks. My rig came with a backup camera and a loud reversing beep – features that added even more safety. The huge interior with its 81.5 inches of cargo height is accessed using a curbside sliding door and big rear doors that fold back almost flat with the sides of the van for easier access. The high roof, extended body, version of the Transit boasts 487.2 cubic feet of capacity.

Gasoline and diesel engines are available and mine was fitted with a 3.2-litre 185-horsepower Power Stroke five-cylinder turbo diesel, which is a state-of-the-art power unit meeting stringent diesel emission standards. It produces an impressive 350 lb-ft of torque, which is what really matters in this class. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with a button on the shift knob to switch to manual gear selection. It really hauls a big load with ease and I was nothing short of amazed with the fuel economy delivered by this configuration, even on longish runs featuring demanding climbs. On the highway, it’s surprisingly quiet and smooth, driving much like a car, a point agreed on by several experienced van drivers who tried my test Transit.

Obviously this is a specialized vehicle with specific roles in mind, but it doesn’t feel “commercial” when behind the wheel and the seats are comfortable and supportive. The controls are easy to reach and you can opt for Ford’s excellent 6.5-inch touch-screen display with SYNC 3 Bluetooth plus navigation system.

That’ll be all from the commercial vehicle world for a while and next week, I promise I’ll bring you a Ferrari!

IN SUMMARY…

BODY STYLE: Commercial van with extended body and tall roof configuration

ENGINE: 3.2-litre 5-cylinder 185-horsepower Power Stroke diesel

TORQUE: 350 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual option

FUEL ECONOMY: Not yet listed by Transport Canada

PRICE: As tested, $53,834

TEST DRIVE: 2017 JAGUAR XJL LUXURY SEDAN

A flagship Jaguar is always going to be something very special and the 2016 XJ L is just that – an opulent, comfortable, speedy and beautifully built automobile from one of the world’s most prestigious luxury car builders.

It’s the biggest car Jaguar builds and it’s as big as any large sedan out there, especially in length. Care must thus be taken in parking it, though there are all kinds of electronic aids to help you get the job done without a worry. Big it may be, but out on the highway, it’s as nimble as a sports car and very easy to drive. In fact, it’s all too easy to take it above the speed limit without realizing so careful checks on the speedometer (not to mention the rearview mirror) should be part of every trip.

My XJ L test car had all-wheel drive, an option that only comes with the V-6, not the available V-8. Still, the V-6 performs much like a V-8 anyway and few owners will complain. It’ll top 100 km/h in 6.4-seconds, which is very sporty territory.

As a styling exercise, the XJ is every inch a Jaguar, except, perhaps, at the tail end where it takes on a very high-design look with an especially bold treatment for the rear lighting. The front is more “trad Jag” with a mesh grille and a Jaguar-head badge located on it. The bodywork is unusually low and sleek for a large sedan in this class and out on the road, you won’t mistake it for anything else.

The cockpit and cabin is the usual feast for the eyes you get with one of the famed British maker’s cars. There’s beautifully polished wood in all kinds of places but not, as is usual, around the instruments. The seats on my car had beautifully quilted centre panels and the leather is of a very fine quality. No brochure will ever mention this, but as soon as you get in the car you have a wonderful whiff of top-quality leather, which is almost worth the price of admission. The rear seat area is huge and the rear doors very wide, so this is a car many owners will use a chauffer for. There’s also a rear control panel for entertainment and climate control and all the rear window glass has powered blinds so the fortunate owner can sit back there out of the view of passing crowds.

Dynamically, the car has it all. The 3.0-litre V-6 has 340-horsepower and is mated to a smooth and almost seamless 8-speed automatic transmission. I took a long run out into the Fraser Valley and was happy with the car’s performance on fast freeways, winding lanes and on city streets. It’s docile, quiet, and exceptionally comfortable but has power and braking that’s there for the asking if you feel like pressing on a little briskly. Incidentally, the bodywork is fabricated from aluminum, which is said to handle road noise better than steel.

As might be expected, the XJ L has every imaginable electronic convenience and a long list of safety features to help out if trouble strikes. The navigation system is nicely intuitive and it’s very easy to connect a mobile phone for hands-free operation. The sound system was very impressive and was equipped with no less than 14 speakers.

Although I’m a “small car guy” I found the big Jag a lot of fun to drive and can well imagine that business people with the job of picking up important clients at the airport now and again will love the roominess in the back. I guess a car that’s good enough for the British prime minister to regularly use should be fine for the rest of us. Her XJ features armour plate and bulletproof glass, which hopefully, nobody will need just yet in Canada!

 

IN SUMMARY……

BODY STYLE: Four-door large luxury sedan

ENGINE: 3.0-litre supercharged V-6

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic

PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx. 6.4-secs

PRICE: Base XJ around $100,000 MSRP

Review:2017 ASTON MARTIN DB11

Fans of James Bond movies were quick to spot the Aston Martin DB10 that made its debut in the most recent production Spectre and wondered when the sleek coupes would appear in the showrooms. In fact, the eight cars used in the film were the only ones built, other than two show cars, and you’ll never be able to buy one. What you can get is a DB11, which is Aston Martin’s newest product. It was inspired by the Bond car and I suppose we could regard the DB10 a styling exercise for the new model.

Aston Martin is a unique company among the world’s luxury car makers. Not tied to any of the big global vehicle manufacturers, it nonetheless creates some of the most desirable cars on the planet and continually updates and improves them.

The British manufacturer had humble beginnings, as did so many of its rivals. What became Aston Martin was founded in 1913 and was always involved with sports and racing cars of one kind or another. Numerous competition successes were recorded by the marque over the years, including victory at Le Mans and the World Sports Car Championship. Wealthy business entrepreneur David (later Sir David) Brown bought the company in 1947 and the DB of his initials lives on today in cars like the DB11.

The DB11 follows Aston Martin’s classic 2+2 coupe lines and though it’s totally different from anything that went before, the styling ethic can be tracked back to early DBs of the 1950s and 60s. It’s a sinuous and slippery shape and must be very efficient aerodynamically, which is no bad thing given this car’s performance potential. Power is supplied by a new 5.2-litre V-8 which uses twin turbos to produce an awesome 600-horsepower. Interestingly, this is the first volume production Aston to use turbocharging, so it’s something of a landmark for the automaker. Those six hundred horses create a mightily impressive sports car and it’ll rocket you to 100 km/h in less than four seconds and keep right on going until it reaches a reported top speed of 322 km/h.

For Aston lovers who see this kind of get-up-and-go as a little over the top, there are plans to offer a smaller engine at a later date. As would be expected, the DB11 has exceptional braking capability in addition to a wide roster of electronic stability aids.

Inside the car, there’s an opulent world of fine leathers and carpets thanks to sumptuous natural materials and high levels of craftsmanship. Buyers can choose to customize the interior exactly to their needs with whatever colours they desire. A huge 12-inch display deals with the infotainment end of things and superlative Bang & Olufsen audio systems are available. The luggage compartment will take a couple of golf bags or Aston Martin’s fitted luggage and more travel gear can be stowed on the back seat, though this is more spacious than that of earlier DBs and can even take a couple of child seats.

The 2017 DB11 is the latest in a long line of highly desirable Aston Martin 2+2 automobiles, just about all of which have been regarded as the very best grand tourers of their time. Prices start at just over $254,000 and the cars are available now.

TEST DRIVE: 2017 Hyundai Elentra

2017 ELANTRA SEDAN

For 2017, Hyundai introduced an all-new Elantra, a product that long been very popular in Canada with tens of thousands on the road going back several generations. Part of its popularity is linked to its “ideal” size. It’s not too large and bulky, yet it’s no cramped subcompact either. It’s been popular with families, especially the various liftback or ‘Touring” versions. Interestingly, it’s classified as a midsize car and not a compact – a notch above many key rivals.

The latest Elantra is the sixth generation and is new from bumper to bumper. Although the last model was an exceptionally attractive small car, the new one takes contemporary design trends a step further and features a bolder, more assertive look. Even a glance around the body panels will reveal that Hyundai’s every-growing reputation for build quality is evident everywhere. The shut lines, the points where various panels meet, are flawless and well up to the best industry standards. The paint also is very well done with a clearcoat that should preserve this car’s finish for many years, even without waxing.

2017 ELANTRA SEDAN

For 2017, Hyundai has made wider use of advanced high-strength steels and this will make a major contribution towards stiffer bodywork and subsequently enhanced handling. The material also reduces cabin noise and eliminates the possibility of squeaks and rattles. In fact, Hyundai says that making the body 53 per cent high-strength steel, against 21 per cent with the old model, increases torsional rigidity by almost 30 per cent, which is a big improvement. This steel is especially used at high stress points around the body and it has been Hyundai’s aim to top the stringent federal safety ratings set in the US.

According to which model you buy, you can get 17-inch wheels, which add a sporty touch. Novel new features around the bodywork include LED door handle approach lights, turn signals in the mirrors, LED taillights and high intensity discharge headlights. The new Elantra is 20 mm longer than the old model and the car is very slightly higher (5 mm).

Hyundai has gone for an all-new powertrain for 2017 and the basic powerplant is a 2.0-litre MPI Atkinson cycle unit which produces 147-horsepower. According to Hyundai, this is the only Atkinson cycle engine to be combined with multi-point injection in its class. Atkinson cycle engines embody some fascinating technology and for seeking full details of what happens, the internet has many lengthier descriptions than can be incorporated here. The 2.0-litre four is paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission – a better choice than a CVT for a car like this.

Inside the Elantra, Hyundai has gone for what it calls “a jet fighter look” so it’s all very cockpit-like. It’s certainly a great looking cabin and rear legroom is surprisingly generous. All models come with standard mobile phone hookups and there are also USB and auxiliary input jacks – a very “connected” car indeed. Current Hyundai models are the fastest cars I’ve ever come across to pair mobile phones with and I figure it can be done in less that 30-seconds. Some vehicles leave a lot to be desired in this respect. The central screen for navigation and various vehicle systems (including the phone) is a big 8-inch unit and very easy to scan from the driver’s seat.

Naturally, all kinds of safety equipment is standard or optional, including autonomous braking, pedestrian detection and the usual backup camera. Also on the options list are lane keep assist, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist and other near-essential technologies. There are several trim levels available and also a more powerful Sport variant with a 200-horsepower 1.6-litre turbo under the hood. Buyers of this model can order a manual transmission too.

IN SUMMARY…

BODY STYLE: Four-door midsize sedan

ENGINE: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic

PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx. 8-secs

PRICE: $15,999 base MSRP. Top model, $28,799

1955 Lancia Aurelia Gran Turismo (GT) Coupe Series 4 – Speciale

Victoria and the Island is known for its large number and variety of collector and vintage cars. We are lucky to have such a variety of special and rare cars, both domestic and foreign brands. One that recently came to my attention and is owned by a Victoria area collector is the 1955 Lancia Aurelia GT Coupe. I first saw this car at a European cars & coffee event at the Oak Bay Marina earlier this year and manged to get myself invited over to the owners garage to take a closer look.

This is  a significant  vehicle as there were very few imported to North America and most of them went to the USA, this cars is one of them.  The Aurelia was manufactured from 1950 – 1958 with 1955 being the first year they were available in left hand drive and imported to the USA. Another unique feature was the 2.5 litre v6 engine which was the very first ever  V6  developed for a production car.

One of a limited run of cars that were assembled in the Pininfarina works with special interior (such as original leather interior) and mild exterior fittings (such as original tinted windows). The entire batch (about 10 cars) were all shipped to the USA and sold mainly to the west coast, this car was even displayed in the 1956 Pebble Beach Concours. Interestingly this car comes with a floor mounted shifter when most were built with a column shifter. This car originally came in light blue but was changed to Magenta during a restoration in 1977.

The owner says it is a pleasure to drive and wouldn’t hesitate to take it on a long distance trip. In the past the car has successfully completed a 1,000 mile rally with no problems. I gladly volunteered to be the copilot should he decide he wanted to do another such trip, here’s hoping!

TEST DRIVE: 2017 JAGUAR XE SUPERCHARGED SPORTS SEDAN

It was rumoured for a long time that Jaguar was working on a sports sedan sized like such competitors as the Lexus IS, Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series and one or two others. This is a hot-selling segment in the auto industry and it’s good to see Jaguar back in contention.

Some years ago, Jaguar launched its X-Type, which slotted into the midsize sports sedan category. It was a fine car in many ways but for whatever reason, Jaguar did not replace it when the time came to drop that model. Right now Jaguar is enjoying tremendous success all over the world and its cars are selling like never before. Clearly, the UK automaker decided to cover as many size segments as possible and take advantage of its resurgence. Having introduced its highly successful F-Pace SUV, the company now has several segments covered with some excellent products, the newest of which I’ve tried being the XE.

One look at this sleek all-aluminum sports sedan will tell you that it couldn’t be anything else but a Jaguar. It has several recognition features common to other Jaguar models from the XF to the XJ and even the F-Type sports. It’s very low-slung and somehow Jaguar has managed to get the floor quite close to the road so that climbing in behind the wheel is something of a sports coupe experience, making the car a dubious choice for older folks or anyone with lower back problems. It’s easy enough to get used to and once tucked inside, it’s very comfortable with all the controls within easy reach. It offers just about the perfect driving position for a car like this. This is not a large car by any means and for buyers who must regularly carry multiple adult passengers; Jaguar has more suitable choices in the XJ and XF. The trunk is huge (455-litres) and would easily take a family’s luggage for a weekend trip.

My test XE was powered by a 3.0-litre supercharged V-6 developing 340-horsepower. It’s a very refined and exceptionally smooth powerplant and if the need arises, the car will take off like a rocket on full throttle. The engine is mated to an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission which seemed the ideal choice to me. The shifts are quiet and hard to perceive when accelerating, though it makes lots of them on the way to a high cruising speed.

Unusually, there’s an interesting alternative engine in the form of a 2.0-litre diesel with 180-horsepower, which I plan to drive quite soon. It’s bound to have excellent torque and that may well make up for some of the “lost’ horsepower compared to the V-6. All versions of this car come with all-wheel drive, a nice security feature and one I was glad to have when I ran into a severe hailstorm on my Vancouver Island test run.

The car has a very sophisticated chassis design that includes all kinds of fascinating technical advancements. It certainly makes for a comfortable ride and endows the car with excellent handling characteristics. On winding roads it hangs in very well and feels stable at all times. Obviously, the design team was determined that the car should have sporty handling and they certainly scored in that department. The Sooke Road towards Port Renfrew is a great place to check out any car’s handling on a quiet day and the XE showed itself very capable.

As one would expect, the car has an array of convenience features suited to the luxury market (including a favourite of mine: a heated steering wheel). At the centre of the dash is a big eight-inch infotainment touchscreen and it functioned very effectively. It was easy to set up the navigation system and mobile phone hookup took seconds. The Meridian sound system was a pleasure to travel with when driving around on Vancouver Island.

This new Jag should prove an effective competitor for existing market leaders in this class. It has outstanding performance and handling and lots of that wonderful Jaguar ambiance which is often copied but rarely equaled.

IN SUMMARY…

BODY STYLE: Four-door sports sedan

ENGINE: 3.0-litre supercharged V-6

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic ZF

PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx. 4.9-secs (supercharged model)

PRICE: $57,500 MSRP, as tested

REVIEW: 2017 AUDI R8 V-10

It’s about ten years since the Audi R8 was introduced but it remains a fresh and exciting design and upgrades have been minor over that decade. On its release, the world’s motoring press universally agreed that it was an outstanding sports car in every possible way and few were the voices that had anything even mildly critical to say.

The R8 was one of those rare cars that was ‘right first time’ and Audi has sensibly strayed little from the original concept over the years. The styling is a total delight and the R8 is low-slung with sensual curves and a very well balanced look about it. As most people know by now, Lamborghini is part of the big VW Audi group and the R8 is based on a platform from that maker’s Huracán model, a point that few would complain about. Incidentally, there is a roadster version of the R8 too for those who prefer the wind in their hair.

As with some other Audis, the car uses aluminium space frame construction so the body is very rigid and exceptionally light. I’ve visited the Neckarsulm, Germany, plant where Audi builds aluminium bodies and were surprised at how much laborious hand finishing was involved. Audi claims that the bodies are just as durable as steel ones and less expensive to repair.

At the heart of the R8 is a V-10 engine, a 5.2-litre unit developing a whopping 610-horsepower. For those who think this is a little over the top, there’s a less powerful V-10 available with ‘only’ 540-horsepower. We drove the big engined R8. The V-8 offered in the original car has gone now, so the V-10 is the only one available. The transmission is a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with steering wheel ‘paddles’ to select speeds manually if that’s your preference. When I drove the first R8 I thought the automatic transmission was awful and preferred the manual box, but with Audi’s new S-tronic, all that has changed and it’s a joy to drive. The shrill note of the those 610 horses being fully exploited is so delightful to the ear of a sports car enthusiast, it’s worth the price tag for that experience alone. Thankfully, the car delivers in numerous other ways too, so it’s good value compared to some other exotics.

It’s not the easiest car to get into and the same can be said for most sports coupés. Once you’ve threaded yourself inside, the ambiance is so outstanding you’ll never want to get out. The driver becomes part of the car and nestles into a fine leather cocoon with all the controls well within reach. As the old saying goes, you wear this car, rather than sit in it. Fire it up and you’ll feel as though you’re on the starting grid at Le Mans but in fact, this is an easy car to drive for just about anyone. Even hard acceleration doesn’t compromise the car’s traction, thanks to the great balance of its mid-engined design and to Audi’s much-vaunted Quattro all-wheel drive. While many high-powered cars twitch and protest under hard acceleration, this one just gets on with the job and lays down the horses with no drama at all.

The Audi R8 is certainly one of the finest serious sports cars to come along in a generation and there’s almost nothing Audi could do to improve it. The latest version is quite a lot more expensive than the original car, but still carries a reasonable price sticker and after all, it’s now joined the rarefied class of superpowered exotics with performance only corporate cousin Lamborghini can match.

IN SUMMARY…

ENGINE: 5.2-litre V-10, 610 hp

TRANSMISSION: 7-speed, dual clutch

ACCELERATION: Zero to 100 km/h in 3.2-seconds

TOP SPEED: 330 km/h

PRICE: Starts at around $184,000

REVIEW: 2017 TOYOTA 86 SPORTS COUPE

When Toyota decided to retire its Scion brand there was a lot of concern over what would happen to some of the stars of the lineup, cars like the FR-S sports coupe. Thankfully, one of the survivors was the FR-S, which has surfaced in the Toyota range as the Toyota 86. In fact, in other markets outside North America, this great little sports car was always a Toyota 86 and thus has all the attributes of the brand like durability, build quality, buyer appeal and performance.

The 86 was inspired in part by one of Toyota’s great sports cars of the past – the mid-sixties classic 2000GT, now a much prized collectible which still looks fresh today. In fact, the design team ordered that a 2000GT be placed in their studio while they were penning the sleek 86. It proved a wise move and as a result, the 86 packs all the visceral excitement of the 2000GT but adds the most advanced performance and safety technology available today in the form of the company’s Star Safety System.

The compact and agile 86 is styled and engineered very much in the great traditions of grand touring cars old and new and with its affordable price, fills a big gap in a market dominated by exotic, high-priced sports cars with large and complex engines. Lovers of classic GT car features and performance can now enjoy outstanding driving fun for a lot less money with this visually appealing and responsive car.

The car’s classic and well-proven front engine/rear drive layout has at its core an advanced horizontally-opposed four cylinder engine with Subaru origins that takes up minimal space and allows for a very sleek hood line plus a low centre of gravity. In fact, the 86 has a lower centre of gravity than a Porsche Cayman or Nissan GT-R with highly beneficial effects on handling and agility.

A reminder of the unconventional power plant can be found in the 86’s fender side emblems. The emblem features opposed pistons – the key boxer feature – with a central ’86’ logo, which has fascinating origins. The 86 looks back to the FT-86 and AE86 concept cars which pioneered what became the Toyota 86. Also intriguing is the fact that 86 X 86 is the bore and stroke of the 86’s 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre, 200-horsepower engine.

Advanced engine technology boosts fuel economy while stabilizing combustion and aiding high-output performance. The technologically-advanced engine makes for a thrilling drive with zero to 100 km/h times of close to six seconds. It’s also one of those rare cars that feels just as exciting cruising around at the speed limit as it does when driving it on the track. It has a nice throaty growl too.

The 86 can be extensively customized and the driver-focused interior was even designed to be fitted with a rollover bar for competition purposes. Visually appealing and with timeless lines, the 86 offers true sports car enjoyment at a very affordable price and is right in there with the ever-popular Mazda MX-5. 

Buyers can choose either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with manual modes via steering wheel mounted paddles. A well-proven Torsen limited slip differential makes for sharp response characteristics and adds up to enhanced cornering performance with optimal traction.

The design team kept the overall weight of the car below 1,200 kg by using advanced lightweight materials wherever possible. The body is rigid as well as light and aerodynamically efficient. It boasts a drag coefficient of just 0.27, edging out several highly-rated and expensive exotic sports cars. Weight-saving features include an aluminum hood, composite fuel tank, composite intake manifold, hollow camshafts and light alloy wheels. 

Coaxial electric power steering gives the driver outstanding controllability, fast steering inputs and excellent ‘feel’ under all conditions. Ventilated disc brakes with ABS front and rear impart a feeling of solidity and safety, even under demanding conditions of terrain and weather.

  

When the 86 was developed, considerable attention was paid to sound technology as an aspect of driver enjoyment. When cruising around city streets, engine noise is lessened, but under hard acceleration on the highway, the engine note is enhanced to levels that impress the enthusiast driver and solidify the car’s sports car ambiance.

The Toyota 86 packs in lots of thoughtful engineering and advanced technology plus features often found only on more expensive sports cars. It offers an exceptionally high level of performance, handling and safety in a highly attractive package with build quality that sets standards throughout the auto industry.

 

IN SUMMARY…

BODY STYLE: Two-door, 2+2 sports coupe

ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder horizontally opposed

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto

PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx. 6-secs

PRICE: Base MSRP $30,780

REVIEW: 2017 JEEP WRANGLER RUBICON RECON 4X4

You can buy an off-road capable 4X4 for a surprisingly reasonable price if you look around, but when it comes to getting involved in serious trail-bashing activity involving very steep grades, loose rock, ford-crossing and deep sand, the choice begins to narrow to a very few elite off-roaders.

For 2017, Jeep has added to this exclusive club with the Wrangler Rubicon Recon Edition, a rig that comes fully equipped for the worst the exciting world of unexplored back country can throw at it. This Jeep variation doesn’t come cheaply, but the serious off-road crowd will certainly think it worth every nickel.

This is a good place to confirm that this highly capable Jeep will take you to places that shouldn’t be tackled without some experience in the sport, or at least, without taking along someone who does know rugged territory. There’s plenty of good advice around for back country travel and the BC coast has several excellent clubs where experts have advice well worth listening to for the novice off-roader.

But back to this exciting new Jeep. It’s based on either the four or two-door Wrangler like other Jeeps in this range but adds a long list of trail-capable goodies for the most severe terrain. Basic upgrades are a stronger front axle, enhanced rock rails and heavy-duty cast differential covers for better rock resistance. Beefed up components really enhance off road capability and buying them in the aftermarket can be very expensive. This new Jeep is pretty well “ready to go” with very little, if anything, needed to improve it. It also happens to be a great-looking vehicle and a real attention grabber.

Power plant is a 3.6-litre Pentastar VVT V-6 with 260 lb-ft of torque, which is the most important part of the engine spec for off-road work. Buyers can choose from a 6-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed automatic and the Jeep is equipped with Wrangler’s part-time shift-on-the-fly 4X4 system with electronic locking front and rear Dana 44 axles with power sent to each through a Rock-Trac transfer case with a “4-Low ratio of 4:1. Standard equipment is a 4:10 front and rear axle ratio as are the Tru-Lok locking differentials. These features mean very impressive crawl ratios that make climbing obstacles a breeze.

All Wranglers feature body-on-frame architecture, which is the way serious off-roaders like to go. The Recon is raised half an inch compared to other Jeep Wranglers and the chunky 17-inch wheels are painted cast aluminum and clad in BF Goodrich KM off-road tires. Various creative finish highlights combine with “Rubicon” and “Recon” badges to make this Jeep just about as attractive as an off-roader can get. Finishing off the front end with the traditional Jeep grille (which dates back to WW2) are red-finished tow hooks.

All these models come with an eight-speaker speaker system for the audio kit (which includes satellite radio) and the seats are black leather, which are certainly easier to clean dust off than cloth. There’s a choice of soft or hard tops too. On the dash is Jeep’s “Electronic Vehicle Information Centre” with added readouts for this model.

This is certainly one of the most interesting Jeep variants to come along in some time and builds on 75 years of experience in the off-road field. It’ll get you just about anywhere you can take a wheeled vehicle and take you there in great style and safety. The only feature anyone with serious backcountry travel plans could add is a good winch to use if anything does go wrong out in the bush.

 

IN SUMMARY…

BODY STYLE: Four-door with soft or hard tops.

ENGINE: 3.6-litre V-6

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual

TOWING CAPACITY: 3,500 lbs.

PRICE: $47,040 two-door; $49,440 four-door MSRP