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Review: 2016 Kia Sorento offers upscale flavours for a happy meal priceUpscale crossovers seem a dime a dozen these days...
10/20/2015

Review: 2016 Kia Sorento offers upscale flavours for a happy meal price

Upscale crossovers seem a dime a dozen these days. After all, they’re even wearing the names of non-upscale brands like Kia.
On paper, the Kia Sorento sounds like just another mid-size crossover in an already-crowded field, but this actually one surprised us in ways we didn’t expect.

Walkaround: 8.0/10
Kia made the Sorento longer for 2015, making the optional third-row seat more spacious and increasing the car’s utility as a seven-seater. It wears the added size well: the extra length masks its height and gives it the look of a big station wagon in profile.
Interior: 7.8/10
A handsome exterior might make other people think you spent a lot of money on a car, but a nicely-finished interior like this one makes you feel better about the money you’ve spent.
The Sorento starts well below $30,000, but many of the things that made us appreciate our tester only come along once you’re ready to spend half again that much on upgrades.
Still, a driver-configurable gauge cluster is a nice touch, and very well done. The entire dash is well-assembled from quality materials that would not look out of place in a BMW X5 or Audi Q7.
Complaints are few. One however is that, while the second row seat moves out of the way to ease access to the third row, it only does so on the right-hand side; most (if not all) other mid-sized crossovers allow third-row riders to get in through both rear doors.
Tech: 9.0/10
The Sorento’s available tech includes that digital gauge package, but a fully-loaded SX+ version also brings Xenon headlights, power-folding side mirrors, rear-seat air conditioning, navigation, an upgraded stereo, 115-volt power outlet, adaptive cruise control, intelligent keyless entry, power tailgate, heated steering wheel, ventilated front chairs and heated second-row seats, 10-way power driver’s seat, and eight-way power front passenger adjustment. The safety kit includes a 360-degree exterior camera setup, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and front collision warning.
That’s a long list of goodies for a mid-priced crossover.
Driving: 6.3/10
Kia offers three engines in the Sorento, including a 2.4-litre four-cylinder, a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder in mid-range models, and a 3.3-litre V6 that’s limited to higher-end trims. While the V6 is the most powerful of the three, that’s not why we like it. Instead, it appeals for its smooth soundtrack and the seamless way it delivers its power. The turbo (an engine used in a wide range of mid-size Hyundai and Kia models) is strong, but can be a bit peaky. The V6 has a relaxed feel that fits with the rest of the upscale feel Kia has built into high-end versions of the Sorento. Couple that with a six-speed automatic transmission that never missed a beat in a week of driving, and it’s hard to find fault with how this big crossover moves.
The V6 is also the thirstiest engine in the Sorento line though, with ratings of 13.4/9.4 L/100 km (city/highway); my tester averaged 14.7 L/100 km in mostly city driving, in cool early-spring weather. That average was far higher than the 11.7 L/100 km indicated by the car’s on-board computer, which is clearly an optimist.
There’s less of an emphasis on tight handling here than in luxury SUVs built by the Germans or Japanese, but the ride is comfortable, and the Sorento’s cornering abilities are perfectly acceptable in a vehicle that will rarely be tested that way in the wild.
All is not perfect, even for a car facing relatively low performance expectations: the steering is vague, and the lack of feel through the wheel as to what’s happening at pavement level can be a detriment to gauging traction levels in wintry conditions. In a similar vein, the mushy brake pedal doesn’t communicate confidence in the Sorento’s ability to stop safely in a hurry. In reality, the Sorento does stop well, but a nice, firm pedal inspires far more confidence than a soft, spongy one.
Value: 9.5/10
If you want loads of features in a vehicle that can carry your family around in plenty of comfort, the Sorento is a good choice: even an Acura MDX (a vehicle known for strong value among upscale crossovers) can’t touch the Sorento’s value-for-money proposition. The Sorento even rivals the over-the-road refinement of some of the most desirable luxury mid-size utilities. That said, $47,000 is a lot of money, regardless of what you’re getting for it. Among its seven-seater variants, we’d call the EX V6 AWD model (it happens to be the least-expensive three-row Sorento) the sweet spot, for $10,000 less than our SX+ tester. At that price, it won’t have all of the high-tech goodies, but will offer the same pleasant driving experience.
Conclusion
Kia continues to make a point of packing in lots of equipment for the price tag attached to its vehicles, but we’ve reached a point where that’s not the most attractive thing about them, and this latest Sorento is the perfect example of that.
Instead, this Kia is a mid-size crossover that would look just fine parked next to the Acura or BMW crossover in your driveway—or in place of it. Overall Rating: 8.1/10

Review: 2016 Honda Accord revised with focus on performanceAt one time, the Honda Accord sedan was the go-to choice for ...
10/20/2015

Review: 2016 Honda Accord revised with focus on performance

At one time, the Honda Accord sedan was the go-to choice for performance, room, reliability and even a hint of luxury in a mid-sized car. Indeed, to make Car and Driver’s annual 10-best list 29 times is no small feat. It’s still a popular choice, but has to fight for sales with the Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu and Hyundai Sonata.

But that’s not because the Accord has slipped in quality, it’s because the rest have upped their game. To keep it fresh, Honda has revised both the sedan and coupe versions for 2016 with sharper looks and a focus on technology and performance.

While never being a challenge to BMW, the Accord has a reputation for being a sportier drive, part of the reason why it retains a standard manual transmission. Changes include a lighter aluminum hood on the sedan, larger front brakes, a stiffer chassis and revised dampers and steering that all help to sharpen an edge that was getting dull.

But what Honda is really pushing is that this is the most technologically advanced Accord and, with an eye to the kids, it’s the first Honda to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plug in an iPhone or Android smartphone with the right software and you can access many of its features. A button on the steering wheel calls up Apple’s Siri and you can ask it (her?) to call up music, texts or navigation features.

Beyond the phone apps, the layout and operation of the infotainment system is confusing and difficult. An old-time knob for volume would be more convenient than having to maddeningly push-push-push the touch screen or steering-wheel controls.

But what is a welcome – and more important – change is that the Honda Sensing suite of electronic safety features (including active cruise control, precollision warning and automatic braking and lane-keep assist) can be optioned on the sedan’s base LX and Sport and the coupe’s EX trim levels for $1,000. It’s standard on all other models, though not with a manual gearbox. Other auto makers often bundle these safety features into expensive technology packages that include features you may not want.

The mid-sized car segment may be dwindling, but it has a more competitive selection than ever before. The Accord’s midlife refresh puts the ball squarely back in the competition’s court.

You’ll like this car if ... You think family sedans still haven’t lost their cool.

TECH SPECS

Base price: $24,150; as tested: $35,790
Engine: 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder; 3.5-litre V-6
Transmission: Six-speed manual, CVT, six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): Inline-four: 8.6 city, 6.4 highway; V-6: 11.3 city, 7.0 highway
Alternatives: Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Mazda6, Chrysler 200
RATINGS

Looks: All models get neon-look LED rear lights, while the top-end Touring model gets LED headlamps for a bold, upscale look. The grilles sport a thicker chrome bar reminiscent of the company’s Acura luxury brand.
Interior: The gauges have a new chronometer look, and seats get upgraded material and leatherette. Faux-wood and carbon-fibre trims are available and, for the first time, the Accord has 60:40 folding rear seats. But there’s still too much hard plastic inside, and the seats could use more knee bolstering.
Performance: The ride is firm but comfortable, and the Accord lives up to its sporty nature with sharp steering and solid handling. It’s still no sports car, but it’s engaging.
Technology: Besides the seven-inch infotainment display, the Accord retains its 7.7-inch screen on top of the dash, not just for its rear-view camera (standard on all models) but also a right-side camera that is handy when turning and checking for oncoming bikes.
Cargo: Not only is the trunk a generous size, but its opening is wide and the floor is flat. Up front, there is ample though not class-leading storage, with bottle holders in the doors, a small box between the seats and two compartments in the dash for phones and wallets.

Mercedes-Benz tops list of Canada's best-selling premium brandsIf the current pace holds, Mercedes-Benz will end 2015 as...
10/20/2015

Mercedes-Benz tops list of Canada's best-selling premium brands

If the current pace holds, Mercedes-Benz will end 2015 as Canada’s top-selling premium brand for a second consecutive year.
BMW ended a three-year run atop the luxury leaderboard in 2013, but sales in BMW’s showrooms through the first nine months of 2015 have grown just 7.5per cent. That’s a far greater rate of acceleration than the market as a whole, which is on its way to record heights with more modest 2.5per cent growth. But in comparison with Mercedes-Benz, where non-Sprinter car and SUV sales are up 19.9per cent, BMW’s expansion has proven insufficient so far this year.
BMW sales have risen to 26,314 units through the end of September. With three months remaining on the calendar, Mercedes-Benz was 3,096 units ahead with 29,410 year-to-date sales.
There were occasions earlier this year in which third-ranked Audi made BMW’s position appear temporarily perilous, but Audi’s September performance – sales slid 13 percent – secured BMW’s number two ranking. Audi volume through nine months stood at 20,191 sales, nearly 4,000 sales ahead of fourth-ranked Lexus, the third-fastest-growing auto brand in Canada.
Sources of Strength

Mercedes-Benz is managing to grow so rapidly because of significant gains produced on both sides of the ledger; with cars and SUVs. In a market that’s increasingly wary of traditional cars – Canadian passenger car volume is down five percent in 2015 – Mercedes-Benz’s car division is up 15.3 percent to 16,271 units.
Yet Mercedes-Benz’s utility vehicles, helped along by the addition of the entry-level GLA which wasn’t on sale for much of 2014, reported a 26.1 percent increase in 2015’s first nine months, a gain of 2,716 sales year-over-year.
On their own, even with SUVs/crossovers excluded, Mercedes-Benz’s cars outsell the whole Lexus brand. The company’s 13,138-unit SUV/CUV sales tally exceeds the total volume of a number of premium brands: Cadillac, Infiniti, Lincoln, Land Rover, Porsche, Volvo, and Jaguar.
At BMW, on the other hand, the company’s car division produced a substantial 11.2 percent year-over-year increase in 2015’s first nine months. But against the grain, BMW’s five SAVs are up just 3.2 percent in 2015, dragged down by the X3’s 15.3 percent drop and the X5’s inability to match its record-setting 2014 sales pace.
Cars account for 56 percent of BMW Canada’s sales; 55 percent of the volume produced at Mercedes-Benz, and 51 percent of the sales in Audi showrooms. It speaks volumes about the German trio’s overwhelming dominance in traditional luxury sectors that, as premium utility vehicles become an increasingly major part of the luxury market, these brands continue to generate the majority of their sales with passenger cars.
At Cadillac, six in ten sales are SUV-derived. That figure rises beyond eight in ten at Lincoln. 62 percent of Acura and Lexus sales are produced by utility vehicles; 63 percent at Infiniti; 84 percent at Jaguar-Land Rover; 62 percent at Lexus; 70 percent at Porsche; and 61 percent at Volvo.
Top Sellers

Not surprisingly, the top-selling brands sell the top-selling nameplates. Although BMW’s 3 Series, a perennial leader in Canada, was the top dog in each of the third-quarter’s three months, Mercedes-Benz’s fresher C-Class is up 58 percent to 7,841 sales in 2015; 750 sales ahead of the 3 Series for the year as a whole. (Combined sales of the BMW 3 Series and its 4 Series offspring however are up 10 percent to a C-Class besting 10,968 sales.)
Canada’s top-selling premium brand utility vehicle, meanwhile, is the Audi Q5. Sales of the seven-year-old Q5 declined by less than 1 percent in 2015’s first nine months, but it’s still Canada’s third-best-selling premium brand vehicle overall.
Changing Tastes

Besides the move away from cars and the move toward SUVs and crossovers and pickup trucks, the greatest sign that Canadian vehicular preferences are changing is the overarching luxury arena.
Canada’s 12 core premium brands owned 10 percent of the auto industry’s total volume in the first nine months of 2014, up by more than a full percentage point from 8.9 percent at this stage of 2014, 8.6 percent in 2013’s first three quarters, and 8.5 percent one year earlier.
South

The race for top spot among premium brands is far tighter in the United States than in Canada. BMW leads Mercedes-Benz by only 66 sales heading into October. Lexus, the top challenger, is clearly within striking distance. Although their order is flipped compared with Canada, the 3 Series and C-Class are America’s favourite luxury vehicles, as well.
All of which causes us to question, why do premium automakers want to be high-volume marques? Aren’t exclusivity, individuality, and some form of economic restriction part of the appeal to luxury car buyers?
Sure they are. But then again, so are profits.

Lamborghini Aventador Superveloce ReviewIf quarter of a million pounds for a Lamborghini Aventador doesn’t make enough o...
10/15/2015

Lamborghini Aventador Superveloce Review

If quarter of a million pounds for a Lamborghini Aventador doesn’t make enough of a statement for you, Sant’Agata has just launched the new Aventador Superveloce.

Costing another sixty grand on top, this is available in a limited run of 600 cars.

The headline news is that with this latest SV model, Lambo has wrung another 50bhp from the Aventador’s 6.5-litre V12 engine. But that’s just the start – because while the standard version is a formidable weapon on the track, the newcomer is far better as an everyday driver’s car.

That’s because Lamborghini’s engineers didn’t content themselves with just upping power to 740bhp. They’ve made improvements to the steering, ride and drivetrain that turn what could be an unwilling partner into one of the most enjoyable cars in existence.

Whatever road you choose to tackle, the Aventador will grip like a limpet, at the same time sending you constant clear messages through an improved steering rack whose precision is absolute. The four-wheel drive transmission had been reworked and the new rear spoiler is so effective that at speeds above 125mph those extra fifty horses are required just to counteract the enormous downforce at the back wheels.

None of this is achieved at the expense of ride quality. With new adaptive shocks, the SV smoothes out the road with a supple finesse that needs to be experienced to be believed. It really is that good.

The chassis has a three-way mode selector, with the throttle pedal feeling distinctly reined-back when used in the gentlest Strada mode. At the other end of the scale, Corsa is very much for the track, but the mid-range Sport mode provides perfect entertainment on the road.

You won’t need to go beyond third or even just second to make the most of it on the Queen’s highway, but those gears alone will adorn your face with a smile as big as the SV’s price tag.

Yes, that. The SV is almost three times the price of a Porsche 911 GT3 RS – but if you fancy one of those too, you’ll just buy both. And besides, if you could afford a standard Aventador an extra £60,000 will make not a jot of difference to you.

That being the case, the SV is worth the extra money to an unusually emphatic degree. It’s not just about movie star looks or action hero speed: the standard Aventador has both those things. What this extraordinary new Lamborghini does is make the most of that phenomenal pace – and in doing so, it is one of the most enjoyable cars it will ever be your privilege to drive.

Lamborghini Aventador Superveloce

Price £321,743

Engine V12, 6498cc, petrol

Power 740bhp at 8400rpm

Torque 509lb ft at 5500rpm

Gearbox 7-spd automated manual

Kerb weight 1525kg (dry)

Top speed 217mph

0-62mph 2.8sec

Economy 17.7mpg (combined)

CO2/tax band 370g/km, 37%

Ferrari’s Street Legal F12tdf Is Built for the TrackTHE FERRARI F12BERLINETTA is one of a handful of cars to sport more ...
10/15/2015

Ferrari’s Street Legal F12tdf Is Built for the Track

THE FERRARI F12BERLINETTA is one of a handful of cars to sport more than 700 horsepower. To be precise, 731 rampaging Italian stallions—enough to make driving the $320,000 sports car feel “like having sex in a free-falling elevator.”

To keep things fresh after three and a half years of producing the F12berlinetta, Ferrari is releasing a limited edition version of the car that takes things even further. And because the folks in Maranello love lowercase letters as much as they love over the top driving machines, it’s called the F12tdf. And just 799 units will be made.

Named for the Tour de France endurance road race of the 1950s and ’60s (not the bicycle race), the tdf is a significantly more excellent of an already excellent track car. Oh, and Ferrari’s made it really, really yellow. Why, what did you expect?

Horsepower has been juiced from the original F12’s 731 to 769. Torque is up a bit too, from 509 to 520 foot-pounds, with 80 percent of that available at 2,500 rpm. The car red lines at 8,900, you can get a lot out of that sheik’s stable worth of power. Behind the raw numbers is a lot of fancy engineering like “race-inspired mechanical tappets” and “variable geometry intake trumpets,” cribbed from Ferrari’s Formula One racing cars.

The F12tdf, like most things fatto in Maranello, is street legal, but really bred for the track. And going fast around a circuit means having more than just raw power. You need downforce too, to keep the car stable at the high speeds its engine allows. Ferrari has almost doubled the downforce on the car at 124 mph with reworked aero panels across the whole car, from the front bumper to the rear spoiler.

A ridiculously complicated rear diffuser helps “boost the power of the vortexes and enhance the expansion of the flow in the horizontal plane.” That means that the air moving over the car will help it go way faster through the corners. It also means that it looks way more aggressive than the standard F12berlinetta.

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