Sunday, August 28, 2016

Shameless Self-promotion - Toronto Star Content Update (part 4) - The Final Reviews

2016 Mazda 6 GT in Soul Red. See? Sedans don't have to be boring appliances...

May 27, 2016

You can read my Wheels review of Mazda's 6 sedan in GT trim here. (You can tell that this one sat in the Star's archives for a while. Not much snow in May.)

It's true that I have a fondness for Mazdas, but it's just as true that I'll call a spade a spade. This is no spade. It's a diamond.

Sure, there are some glaring omissions. While heated seats both front and rear are standard, a heated steering wheel isn't available. This is Canada, Mazda. I can get a heated steering wheel in a Kia Forte. Optional engine? Nope. No such luck. You can, however, get a manual gearbox in all three of the 6's trim levels, even if the top GT model's advanced safety and adaptive cruise package is automatic only. If my previous experience is any indication, the manual box would be a joy to use.

How it is that this nicely made, stylish, well-equipped, and fun to drive car gets continuously overlooked in this segment baffles me. Then again, plenty of people bought the previous generation Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger. Maybe midsize sedan buyers just prefer shoddy build quality and crappy dynamics.

2016 Polaris Slingshot. A vehicle so unusual that it deserves two photos...

...because this is where it gets really weird. Yep. It's a trike!

 June 17, 2016

You can read my Wheels review of Polaris' unusual Slingshot roadster trike here.

Many thanks to Dave Todd, owner of Spoiled Sports in Bowmanville, Ontario, for providing the test vehicle. 

Make no mistake, this thing is unconventional. Particularly now, as this vehicle configuration has not been available in Ontario, the level of attention it garners is astounding.

It is simultaneously a blast to drive and tiring - both driver and passenger have to wear a motorcycle helmet (and a full-face type helmet is a very good idea given the low height and lack of a real windshield) - and there's a lot of noise from the belt-drive transfer unit and snowmobile-style exhaust. You have to rethink the car strategy of straddling potholes and bumps, as the central rear wheel will encounter what the front wheels miss, and it doesn't always enjoy it.

While the Slingshot actually is pretty quick, and it handles better than the odd number of tires would suggest possible, this is more of a cruising and socializing vehicle than a three-day, Tail of the Dragon road-tripper. It would do it, no problem. Whether you'd want to is the question.

Just recognize it for the fun, attention-getting toy that it is and enjoy the sunshine. Through your visor.

Ernie Harmer and his 2014 Nissan Sentra, "Stingy" (background), with Nissan's 2016 Sentra SL

 July 22, 2016

Hard to believe, but after over 13 years of proudly providing content for the Toronto Star's Wheels section, this review was my last.

My take on Nissan's refreshed for 2016 Sentra can be found here.

And why is Ernie Harmer in the above photo and my story? You'll have to read it to find out...

I'm a Nissan fan, having not only owned seven of them over the years, but having had one or another as a daily driver since I was a teenager, longer ago than I care to think about. Unfortunately, as happens with every automaker, some models are better than others. Nissan has struck out with this one as far as I'm concerned; I wouldn't own this generation of Sentra, certainly not one with the available CVT, anyway.

A recent Car and Driver 5-way comparo summed up the dead-last ranked, CVT-equipped Sentra thusly: "Faster than walking, shelters you from the elements."

Nissan needs to either start using the Brazillian market Sentra's 2.0 litre engine here, or plunk in a version of the Juke's 1.6 turbo, because the current 1.8 is simply under-equipped to motivate this car with anything approaching enthusiasm. While they're at it, they ought to pull the engineers that designed and tuned the early 90's era Sentra SE-R and NX2000's "B13" chassis out of retirement and get them to do an emergency rework of this one - this Sentra has both zero verve and unimpressive ride quality. Bizarre, because the basic ingredients are good: it's roomy, it offers the latest safety tech, it's well-equipped for the money, and (in the right hands) it can return good mileage. The recipe just needs some serious tweaking.

Stay tuned! While this is the last of my Toronto Star Wheels reviews, there is more Star content for me to share. See you soon.

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